Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Japan's Pink Industry

Unlike Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, pink is not my fav-o-rite color… oh, wait a minute… now I recall what the hell he was singing about… that's so naughty!

In Japan, larger than rice… larger than manga or anime… the second-largest industry in Japan is the commercial sex industry (perhaps not surprisingly after automobile production).

On an annual basis, the commercial sex industry takes in over ¥10-trillion (US$85-billion a year).

So what is the 'commercial' sex industry?

Is it the AV (adult video market)? Prostitution? Love Hotels?

No… it is something known as fuzoku or the "pink" industry.

In Japan, pink is their favorite color - those naughty sukebes (perverts). Congratulations, by the way… just when one is about to toss in the proverbial towels and its non-interest in procreation… now I discover why doesn't have the time, or apparently the sperm to make babies.

First off, like most segments of Japan's sex trade, it is controlled by the yakuza. Every place, everywhere in Japan, the yakuza are 'partners' or money lenders or legitimate business associates or protection to businesses in the commercial sex trade.

Examples of the pink industry are:
  • Pink Salons: It's a low-key affair... you sit on a sofa in a booth in this usually one-room place... choose your girl from the menu... she cleans the penis with a warm cloth, oral sex and possible vaginal intercourse is performed, she cleans up, you leave, she takes care of the next customer. Yeah - romantic!;
  • Soaplands (go in, get cleaned by suds, and whatever non-intercourse sexual favors are offered);
  • Fashion Health (called Health, for short), patrons get oral sex (usually, but aside from vaginal intercourse, anything goes... including anal); 
  • Swingers Bar: married or not, it's couples only for shared sex, or perhaps just voyeurism or exhibitionism if that's your thing; 
  • Happening Bar:  like a Swingers Bar, but this allows in single people. Anything goes, but S&M is always popular; 
  • Image Club: Know as Ime-kura (imeji - image) (kurabu - club), rooms have their own theme. Such as the classroom or doctor's office. The school girl fantasy is most popular, followed  by OL (office Lady), nurse, policewoman, too. It is sexual role-playing taken to the obvious conclusion less vaginal intercourse. There is also 'Take-out" where you can take out one of the girls who is already dressed appropriately, where the man can grope her on a public train, for example. I'm not making this stuff up.

What goes on at a pink club?

Drinking, being chatted up by a beautiful woman and everything short of full-on intercourse—at least that's the legal area, but who's kidding whom? Along with discussions on social discourse and conversation lubrication, the customers entering a pink club can reach a financial agreement with a worker to have sexual relations more in-depth than what Bill Clinton thought it mean. The old in and out.  

Now before all you pervs go running out the door to try and get your rocks off at your local pink club, please note that almost every single such club will bar gaijin (foreigners) from entering the premises.

Even if you speak Japanese… it's not go.

The biggest reasons given for such discriminatory behavior—and the owners have a right to admit whomever the heck they want in Japan—is many fold:
  • foreigners do not understand the rules and etiquette of such a club… and there are a lot of particular rules to this type of club;
  • gaijin scare the Japanese customers. Still? I doubt that. I still think it's a bit of xenophobia there… especially the correct stereotype that all gaijin men are trying to steal their Japanese women;
  • gaijin complain too much. Probably…. I didn't think they noticed we complained soooo much;
  • gaijin are unable to communicate effectively with a woman if the woman gets uncomfortable… What? Even if you do speak Japanese fluently? Yes… they assume you are unaware of the nuances of Japanese society - of which they may be correct, but what if you grew up in Japan, but look like a gaijin? It doesn't matter because all…;
  • foreigners could have AIDS.
Holy crap… wan I was in Japan between 1990-1993, this idea that foreigners get AIDS and the Japanese do not was existent.

And yet, I was fully aware of these Japanese sex tours whereby Japanese businessmen would fly out from Japan to Thailand, the men (and only men) would enter a special vehicle, be driven to a specific brothel and could then grab the Thai girl or woman of their choice and screw away.

Now… I'm not implying that Thai brothels are dirty places where no one uses a condom, but like in any country, there are such places where one need not wear a little rubber thing on their John Thomas.

Anyhow, these same businessmen—who may or may not have used a condom, or engaged in various forms of oral sexual stimuli or got the Girlfriend Experience with kissing, then go home and perhaps have sexual relations with their respective wife… and forget AIDS… though a real possibility, there's simple STDs (sexually-transmitted diseases). 

So… I'm just saying this whole gaijin have AIDS stuff is crap. Hey… is it just me, but you don't hear much about AIDS in world news nowadays… it's like the world understands this is a global and personal issue… uh, except Japan, maybe.

Pink Sex
I have already stated that Pink Clubs are probably all affiliated with the yakuza - but that's just me guessing, because I can't imagine a situation in which they wouldn't be involved in Japan's Number 2 money-maker!

Anyhow… most of these Pink Clubs are being run illegally without a real license… because you need one… but I bet the police do not hassle the owners or the girls fearful of possible yakuza reprisals, or perhaps because the police are being bought.

The cops tend to look the other way, however, as long as there isn't full on intercourse in the clubs… and I should have stated so earlier, but I'm sure in most cases full-on intercourse for money at the clubs is rare… take it outside to a love hotel…

But… the Pink Clubs will pretty much offer everything else short of penis to vagina penetration (for money). If you can imagine it, some one else has already conceived of it, and has convinced some Japanese woman to provide said sexual stimulation.

So the Pink Club is not a whorehouse. It just looks like one.

Let's say we were to enter a Pink Club… listed on a menu, are all of the 'services' offered. The house rules, as well as all the prices are written out, so a member can not be ripped off by the female operator.

It's all up front. 

While I am sure there are pink clubs that allow sexual intercourse for money on the premises (here in Toronto, there are gentlemen's strip clubs and filthy sex strip clubs…  there they only care if you brought money, not what your family lineage is… but I'm just saying one need not judge Japan so harshly here), as I said you can pretty much get everything else.

Some examples of Pink Club activities include:

  • "Imprint service"  - the customer paints, with a brush and ink, Japanese calligraphy onto the woman's body. The woman then sits down on Japanese rice paper leaving an imprint… so I would assume you should write your calligraphy backwards so you can read it later, because when she's done imprinting, you get to take it home! I have no idea who you show such wonderful art to, but there you go. Does sperm silage occur? Not sure… perhaps that's extra;
  • "Pantyhose Ripping" - On a a few occasions, I have been with a woman who wore my favorite black medium-hole fishnet stockings knowing what I like, insisting I rip the damn things off her. I need not be asked twice. Now, for the Japanese man not as lucky as myself (admittedly I only got to do this to two Japanese women in Japan, and doing it every time the thrill would get old), there are clubs where this is all they offer. The lucky customer gets to choose what type of pantyhose he wants her to wear: black, beige, sparkly, or fishnet stockings and panties… and then he gets to rip them off her like the savage animal he is. For ¥2000 ($20) more, the man gets to keep the torn pantyhose or other material.
This is just me talking, but when you have a woman dress up in something like this because she wants you to rip them off—that is way more thrilling than having her do it for money. You can't fake lust. I hope.


Apparently I wield a lot of influence on people, so let me just state outright that I am not advising any woman to get into these types of profession.

In Canada, I once had a woman ask me about the ins and outs of prostitution, how they protect themselves, how to set up shop, etc… do you really need to ask? I know plenty about many things. Anyhow, years later I found out that that same woman had become a prostitute. Mea culpa… but really, I thought she was just curious. 

Women in the Pink Club industry can get very rich. They keep about half of the money they take in, though I would imagine about 80% of their profits is spent on purchasing disinfectant soap and mouth wash, with estimates of clearing about $140,000 annually.

Apparently each woman receives a base salary, plus percentages for performing the extra services (usually 50%), plus even a bonus every time they are chosen by a customer… basically the rich get richer.

Like your best friend when you are sneaking around on your spouse (I'm neither and I'm not), many pink clubs provide the women with "Alibi Services".

Despite the money and glamor of working in a club where a grown man will pee on himself and you as you change his diaper, women do not want people to know where they work. Hunh. Go figure.

Anyhow… since most of the women in the industry are unmarried, odds are very good that they are still living at home with their mother and father. They disappear at night to work… the parental units are curious… so they do the obvious and tell them they are waitressing at a restaurant… and if the parents decide to call the establishment because they are confused why their daughter has more money than Satan, if they call the work number she provided, a special Alibi operator will answer it "Denny's!" or whatever place they told them they were at. It apparently works, though I've never seen a Denny's waitress driving a Porsche.

Like any worker who enters the sex industry of their own volition, many enter, few stay longer than a few months.

Yes, the money is good, but you get to deal with a lot of ugly men (both inside and out). Some will stick around in the business, and as long as they are smart enough to not blow it on booze or drugs, they can make lots of money and then get out… and then use their college or university education to get themselves a real job that pays less and has men grab their ass for free. 

I really seem down on Japanese men here…

By the way… you cold probably be a full-blown alcoholic, but as long as you did your job - great.

Drugs? That will get you fired. Drugs in Japan will bring cops nosing around, and no ''mostly legal-sorta illegal" establishment wants cops sniffing around… unless that's what a customer is paying for. 

Anyhow… we're talking about sex and all its various vagaries—excluding intercourse—and Japan's puling of the Pink Club industries, so no one should be hard on (no pun intended) on the Japanese.

Somewhere someone is shaving a sheep while a naked (wearing panties) Little Bo Peep Show smacks him on the bum with her crook,

Andrew Joseph 
PS: I have no idea if that sheep thing exists, but I read that if you can think it, Japan's pink clubs offer it. Remember, when it comes to sheep… shearing time is when the shepherds can finally see them naked.
PPS: Why don't sheep shrink when it rains? Actually they do. If they didn't they'd be the size of Tokyo Dome.
PPPS: I've got a million of 'em. Well, actually that's all folks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Don't F@%k Your Robot

First off, who has such a robot that a warning such as the one in the headline is even necessary?

Apparently plenty of people do, which is what prompts such a warning… a warning that should it be ignored could result in… well… the manufacturer wouldn't, couldn't or did not say.

SoftBank is a Japanese mobile phone company that sells a robot named Pepper - that's the cute bugger at the top.

Pepper, who costs around US$1,640, is a humanoid-looking machine built by French robotics company Aldebaran SA - and sold to curious customers since June of 2015, of which the first shipment of 1,000 units being sold out in minutes.

I am unsure if they were bought by 1,000 different humans or by one person assembling a robotic army, in which case one can only hope that each Pepper unit has been pre-programmed with Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.  
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Pepper, according to Aldeberan, "Pepper is much more than a robot, he’s a companion able to communicate with you through the most intuitive interface we know: voice, touch and emotions.

To be a true social companion Pepper needs to be able to understand your emotions. If you burst out laughing, he will know you are in a good mood. If you frown, Pepper will understand that something is bothering you.

Why yes, Ma'am, I suppose one could affix some sort of power drill attachment…
Pepper can translate what state you are in using his knowledge of universal emotions (joy, surprise, anger, doubt and sadness) and his ability to analyze your facial expression, body language and the words you use. He will guess your mood, and will even adapt to it. For example, he will try to cheer you up by playing your favorite song!

Pepper also can express emotions, and this is what makes him so cute! We can say he has a real personality conveyed by his body language, his funny gestures and his voice."

Prior to the public sale, Pepper was seen as a greeter in various SoftBank stores in Japan, but I guess the little fellow became so popular, people wanted one of their own.

I said feller… as in guy… or male.

Sir… it appears as though the wrist band I tied on you is far too tight. Plus I have completed the calculations as requested—we can now build a neutron bomb out of an old push lawnmower and a beer keg—who are both relatives of mine, I should add.
Anyhow… even before some Pepper master got a sadistic glint in his eye (it's always a guy), Softbank made sure to include in its User Agreement that: 

“The policy owner must not perform any sexual act or other indecent behavior.”

Well… now I'm Ro-curious… but I assume the User Agreement meant the owner should have sex with the robot, and not just have it as a blanket statement meaning you shouldn't have sex at all... anyhow... just what sort of things can Pepper do to spice up the sex department?

Is Pepper a pitcher or a catcher? Does it perform oral sex? Does it only have an anus (I'm assuming no vaginal opening because SoftBank has always referred to Pepper as a male)… and why the hell would you create a buttonhole for Pepper?

They didn't… so is it just going to be utilized for its gripping power? Didn't I see something dangerous like that on The Big Bang Theory?



I hope it's not oral… if that gets you off, then really, you don't need to go near a woman ever again.

I, Robot
Says Aldebaran (I thought it was destroyed?): "Engaging and friendly, Pepper is much more than a robot, he’s a companion able to communicate with you through the most intuitive interface we know: voice, touch and emotions.

"Our goal at Aldebaran is to create robots for the well being of humans, kind robots living with humans as a new artificial species.

“It’s not enough to simply have Pepper working at SoftBank stores. The ultimate goal is for Pepper to live with humans, the stores are just the beginning.”

I have been called a freak (still your, freak), but why would you want to screw Pepper? He looks like he would be cold and unemotional - and dammit, there are plenty of people like that out there. I'm not naming names.

So… how would SoftBank even know if you were to play doctor with Pepper (there's a joke there somewhere)?

Are you going to tell? One would hope not. What happens in Pepper stays in Pepper… you really should clean him out properly before he gets all crusty and develops some sort of oily discharge.

Could Pepper tell any one? Uh-oh… better get Macco to help get the dents out of Pepper's cherry.

When Pepper was first introduced: Wow! That is one hot looking robot!!!! A-ooooga! Wait… what… the one on the right? Shazbot.
 Remember… Aldebaran mentioned something about "gestures and voice".

Hmmm… another line in Pepper's User Agreement prohibits using Pepper to send spam e-mail or to inflict harm on human beings.

So that implies that the little bugger (or is that the User) can send out e-mails… can use it send out a cry for help to SoftBank:

"Help! Grape! Grape!"
Grape?
Sure… if there was a whole bunch of them.

I knew a Pepper in Japan - Trish Pepper… and she was exceedingly fun, attractive, and very White… but Pepper the robot?

I mean, you can dress Pepper up in a French maid's outfit with fishnet stockings, and maybe add a pearl necklace… but he's still not, in my opinion, anything to make one stand up to attention for.

Now… maybe I'm just being naive… because we all know that the next great epidemic is going to come because there's some guy out there right now eyeing a chicken with a heavy degree of lust… so we know that some guys will boink anything.

I'm not one of those guys. Let's get that out there. I like my chicken naked, dead and fried in some sort of seasoned breading and on a plate waiting for me to eat it. Why does everything just sound dirty now? No… I don't need Pepper on it!

Anyhow, there are companies out there that are working on building not only a sex doll, but a robotic sex doll.

Hopefully it won't be too human-like, otherwise it might have a headache for 20 years.

But really… True Companion, for example, is manufacturing a sex bot named Roxxxy (with the Triple X), which one can be sure will look feminine… but sorry… it doesn't look like they are close to having the finished product out any time soon.

Does this whole thing disturb you? You are not alone.

Fearful of men (always men!) seeking to pleasure themselves with some futuristic sex bot, Dr. Kathleen Richardson, a robot ethicist at De Montfort University, in Leicester, England, has launched the Campaign Against Sex Robots. “Sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry and the models that they draw on—how they will look, what roles they would play—are very disturbing indeed.

(Wait... there's a robot ethicist? Riiiight... is that like me creating a business card that reads "Ghost Buster"... but whatever yanks your crank...)

She continues: “We think that the creation of such robots will contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women.”

If one was to design a sex bot, it should look as sexy as possible. While I can not make any positive statements regarding the male version (he/it is far more handsome than me, in my opinion), the female version is smoking, though I doubt she/it still has that new car smell. She has a third boob at the back... for slow dancing.
Dr. Richardson… it doesn't matter if someone builds a sex robot or not. If there is some way for a guy to stick his penis into anything, he will try and fug it.

It could be a vacuum cleaner, a toaster, blender (hmm, plenty of things in the kitchen!) an automobile gas tank, an aquarium filtration system or a knothole in a tree… some guy, some where, will try and have sex with it.

Wouldn't it be better if they had a sex bot?

It would keep them away from human beings—which one would assume to be a good thing.

Wouldn't You Like To Be A Pepper Too?  
I am still unsure why ANYONE needs Pepper for anything.

If its for socializing - why would we subject the poor robot to someone who needs to socialize with it? Should the human be socializing with non-Pinocchio-like humans?

Who purchases Pepper for any other reason that because it sounds like a great idea at the time?

Now what do you do with it? Talk to it? Have him hold the TV remote? Get you a beer from the fridge?

Seriously, Pepper is supposed to be involved in human interactions.... but sex is a human interaction.

Why?

What's in it for Pepper? Are we teaching the robot artificial emotions? Are the robot owners part of some great social experiment?

Are we willing to trust such experimental results based on the social interactions of whomever had the fastest computer and internet connection (remember, 1,000 units were sold out like (snap!) that)?
Nerds and geeks may have the uses, but social interaction has always been the weak point.

I'm a nerd… and even a geek… but not completely… I also like sports and music and once I actually touched a real woman's boob while writing this sentence.

I'm actually all for us having robots for personal use…. but kind of like in the Will Smith movie I, Robot… where they are used as helpers (until they become aware) … but admittedly, I have not spent a great deal of time thinking about such things.

When will we have a robot/AI in our homes?

Hell… I'm still awaiting that JetPack they promised us 40 years ago that we'd be using to fly around. 

Regarding Pepper, the Aldebaran website says (with the misspelling): "Peppers loves to talk with humans, he's very curious about us! As you continue to interact with him Pepper will recognize you and learn new things about your tastes. Capable of both adaptation and self-improvement, he will soon be able to search for new applications to surprise and entertain you!"

Search for new applications to surprise and entertain you? Netflix does that.

By the way... the media has made a huge deal about the fact that Japan is in a negative-growth phase... no immigration, aging population, and apparently its youth aren't interested in getting married or even in sex. Not everyone, of course, but a greater number than before.

Obviously sexually assaulting Pepper is not going to help Japan's population non-movement. I've been waiting to use that joke since we started. Get it? Assaulting Pepper? a-Salting Pepper? Anyone? Anyone? Pepper thought it was funny. 

I have no idea if this is actually a factoid, but I recall reading in a copy of Penthouse some 30 years ago, that pepper was one of the main ingredients in Spanish Fly. Ergo, if you wanted better sexual performance - one should consume more pepper.

Anyhow… even if you are part of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, don't use Pepper (caps) to have sex. 
It doesn't just feel like somebody else, it feels like something else.
Somewhere, if you prick me... do I not leak?
Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 28, 2015

Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife: Magic Carpet Ride

What we've got here, is a failure to communicate. That's the best line of many from the Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke. Watching Luke eat the hard-boiled eggs is one of my favorite movie scenes not involving a naked woman - ever.

I didn't really have that problem regarding communication. Sorry, Lukie-boy.

... except for maybe that first day in Ohtawara-shi. Then... then I had a few issues. Sorry, Boss. Shaking the tree, Boss. Shaking the tree.

This is Chapter 9 of the true adventures of my time on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme beginning in 1990 and officially concluding in 1993. It's a long story, but I know it's worth the extra words. To catch up, you can read the Introduction, Chapter 5 and Chapter 7.

Despite the year, these stories of mine hold up well… by that I mean it could easily be 2015, 2030 or whatever.

Yes, I taught junior high school English at seven schools - one per week, and yes I visited temples and shrines and traveled all over Japan, my stories while providing some description about those events, instead relies heavily on my interactions and internationalization with people. Internationalization… it works both ways.

Here's my first real experience one-on-one with the Japanese… one that shaped my view of Japan for the next three years or whatever year it is that you are reading this:

Chapter 9
Magic Carpet Ride
After that third day of our (dis)orientation in Tokyo (I arrived the night before the orientation started) and after lunch, all the new AETs (Assistant English Teachers) were told to meet again in the hotel’s meeting room before we would be separated by prefecture (province) for bus, train or plane rides to our specific destinations.

While I didn’t get to say goodbye to Kay who was off to live in Shiga-ken about five hours and 500 kilometers away by shinkansen (bullet train), at least I knew I would try and call her.
“Hi Kay! It’s me—Andrew!”
“Who?”
My greatest fear—even more than this whole Japan thing. Obsolescence before being solescent… or whatever the term is.
Us newbies waited outside the Keio Plaza Hotel for the bus to take us to our prefecture—but the heat! We were all dressed to the nines in anticipation of meeting our bosses. I was wearing a then-fashionable double-breasted navy blue suit and tie—and began sweating as soon as I stepped from the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel.
Come to think of it… I don’t think I was dry for my entire stay in Japan.

Ashley chatted beside me on the otherwise nondescript 1-1/2 hour ride north to Tochigi-ken’s capital city of Utsonomiya-shi (shi means city), while I silently repeated her name inside my head to avoid misremembering it (it’s a real word).
After meeting the Prefecture's education big wigs, they called our names out one by one, and were quickly introduced to the people who would essentially be responsible for our welfare over the next year, or should we/they wish us to stay longer, a second and third year.
I will say that we were given a line of Japanese to remember and to say when we met our bosses:
Watashi-no namae-wa Andrew Joseph. Dozo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
It means: ‘My name is Andrew Joseph. Please look after me.’
That last sentence isn’t a direct translation, but basically, in Japan when people meet others for the first time, the hope for each to look after the other is a blanket statement by the Japanese, but I got the feeling that the bosses of all the JETs took it seriously.
During our initiation back in Toronto, I can state that I had been told by the consulate folk (who were Japanese) that the Japanese could be a tad xenophobic (afraid or even hateful of strangers). So, it was with even greater fear and trepidation as a visible minority involved in the JET Programme that I stood up and walked to the front of the auditorium when my name was called. Let me get one thing straight with you all… I don’t usually see myself as a minority. I see myself as Andrew.

Anyhow... nothing untoward happened, except I got to meet the people I respected the most in Japan.
Mr. Hiroshi Hanazaki and Mr. Masahiro Kanemaru (surnames last, in this case... from now on... it's surnames last!) were my supervisors. Both of the men were in their mid-40s, and younger than I am now as I write this, and were far more mature people than I am at any point of my life.
After we all bowed to each other, I repeated a phrase I was told to say: "Dozo yoroshiku onegai shi masu."
More bowing occurred as I said it. It was kind of cool.
 I like this bowing-thing. It denotes respect.
Hanazaki-san and Kanemaru-san (the Japanese call each other by their surname, adding the word san after it, denoting Mr/Mrs/Ms) were office workers at the Ohtawara Kyoiku Iinkai (Ohtawara Board of Education)—a place that I was told I would spend each Friday. It was expected that I would teach the workers there English.
Monday through Thursday I would be an assistant English teacher at one of seven junior high schools in Ohtawara City, visiting one school per week.
 While the students also went to school a half-day on Saturday, I was not expected to teach then, as JET realized that the non-Japanese were lazy buggers and needed two days off per week. It’s difficult to argue with logic.
We drove off in a white panel van… no windows in the back, nor any seats excluding the two at the front for the driver and passenger.
Rather than give me a seat up front, I instead got to sit on my luggage, while Hanazaki-san and Kanemaru-san joined me in the back, opting to squat rather than sit on my junk. I know what I wrote.
The trip was hot, bouncy and I couldn’t see a damn thing of Japan except through the front window—and I was busy trying not to slide around the back of the van while trying to not look freaked out.

In the hour-long drive up north from Utsonomiya-shi to Ohtawara-shi, my two supervisors—though not the older-looking driver—began to chat with me. Hanazaki-san spoke pretty decent English and immediately cracked me up with a dirty joke told in English.

Kanemaru-san chained smoked and was quiet. Too quiet it seemed, as he looked severe and often glared at me through his thin, wire-rimmed glasses. It figured to be a long year if this guy was going to be my boss. But then, it all turned on a 10-yen coin.
Kanemaru-san pulled out a Japanese-English dictionary and sidled close to me and between puffs of his cigarette began to speak looked-up-English-word by looked-up-English-word.
Five painful minutes later, it was over and Kanemaru-san had told his first ever joke in English.

Because of me.

How can you not like a guy who tries to do something like that? It beats me how they knew that I liked a good joke—or a bad joke, even. Sure, both jokes lost a little bit in the translation, but I sure as heck appreciated the effort and I laughed long and hard.
I’m still unsure if that was because I was kissing-up, or rather because I loved the absurdity of the situation. Probably a bit of both. 

Most of the road trip was a complete blur. I occasionally glanced out the front window to peer at the tiny white cars speeding by us on the Tohoku Expressway. Mile after mile (kilometer after kilometer) we passed rice field after rice field.
I once again wondered what the hell I was doing here.

That feeling never did leave me throughout my wonderful stay in Japan. The blurriness, I mean. I think I needed new contact lenses.

Kanemaru-san actually taught me the very first and most important Japanese word I learned I could really make use of in everyday society. That word is jodan, which means ‘joke’ or ‘I am joking’.
Any time I screwed up, whether it was me saying ‘hai’ (pronounced as ‘hi’ and means ‘yes’) rather than ‘ie’ (pronounced as ‘ee-ya or ee-yeah’ depending on the region – it means ‘no’), I could easily squirm out of the shocked face reaction of the Japanese by reacting quickly with a big smile and a “Jodan! And that’s no jodan.
Anyhow, Kanemaru-san, despite his calm demeanor, loved to laugh, and apparently loves physical comedy as he had me howling in pain thanks to his love of back-slapping.
Hmm, maybe that’s why the whole trip in to Ohtawara was such a blur. He must have slapped me so hard my contact lenses fell out.

We finally pulled off the highway and drove past a score more rice fields and according to Hanazaki-san whose face lit up like a birthday cake, we were approaching Ohtawara-shi.

Oh-ta-wara (Big-rice field-field) City. The city so rural they had to call it a field twice.

I quickly learned through Hanazaki-san’s teachings, that Ohtawara-shi had around 50,000 people. There was no McDonald’s or KFC (back then, it was still called Kentucky Fried Chicken, ya youngins!), but there were plenty of bike shops, restaurants, something called a Mosburger and plenty of other neat shops and attractions that I might wish to discover. 

“Zuiko Haitsu! (Zwe-co Hi-tsue),” exclaimed Hanazaki-san like I knew what the heck he was talking about as the van pulled up to a parking lot in front of an apartment building.
Apparently this fancy place had a name—Zuiko Haitsu. Its nickname was Zuiko Mansion. Okaaaaay. This place had almost as many names as me (John Andrew Matthew Stephen Joseph).

Grabbing my seven (yes, seven) pieces of luggage—including an electric keyboard, a clarinet and at least one change of underwear (it cost my dad an extra $400 to get the stuff on the airplane!), we decided not to take the elevator and dragged my stuff up the stairs to apartment 307 on the third floor of the eight-story white-painted building.

Having never lived in anything higher than my parent’s basement in over a decade, the thin air took some getting used to.

My actual apartment jutted out from the main part of the L-shaped complex as a wing—meaning I had no neighbors beside me, just one above and one below.

Expecting to see hunchbacked mice in my new tiny apartment—according to those in the know (???), Japan is crowded and everyone has a tiny living space—I grabbed a deep breath while I could, as Hanazaki-san gave me a door key and bade me to open my apartment.

Unlocking the door, they pushed me in—really, the whole hands on the shoulders-thing… I guess I must have hesitated. Taking a few steps forward, the three of them immediately began screaming at me—oh crap, I thought, they really do hate foreigners here—they’re going to kill me!

Slowly I turned and stared blankly at the ever-smiling face of Hanazaki-san, and the ever-smoking visage of Kanemaru-san, and the bespectacled face of the driver whose name I never managed to learn even though we “worked” together for three years. I know, I know. Pathetic.

Apparently upon entering any Japanese home, whether one is guest or resident, one is expected to take off their dirty shoes and slip into something more uncomfortable—the indoor Japanese slipper.
The indoor Japanese slipper is an interesting product. Invariably made of plastic and available in masculine and feminine colors (blue and pink, respectively), these ugly and uncomfortable cruel shoes are always neatly placed facing inwards to the home by the side of the door when you leave the premises, so one can immediately slip then on and walk unfettered into the place.
As host, you must always ensure the slippers are placed in the proper inward direction, and your now-removed outdoor shoes face the door. You don’t have to, but it is considered good manners. Despite being told this later by a very old Japanese woman, I never saw a homeowner do this themselves, as the shoe-wearer usually self-regulated their footwear direction.
There was another issue with the Japanese slippers, however.
As you may or may not know, the Japanese as a whole are not described as being overly big people.
Hanazaki-san and Kanemaru-san were both about 5’-8” (I think as tall as Gasoline!), while I was a towering 5’-11.25” (around 1.83 meters). As a smaller race, they tend not to sell shoes in Japan larger than a men’s North American size 9 – or what they call a size 26-cm.
I’m a size 10-1/2 aka 30-cm foot—which apparently makes me sound a lot bigger elsewhere, if you know what I mean. My nose, unfortunately.

There were two sets of slippers laid out in front of me—one pair of baby blues and the other in cotton candy pink. Both were a size 5... which I would assume to be a 3 in Women's...

So there we were: two sets of slippers and four people—two Japanese supervisors, a big-foot Canadian, and a Japanese driver of indeterminate name and rank in the apartment.

Who would have to wear the pink slippers and who would dare go without?
Believe it or not, I grabbed the blue slippers—jammed my feet in tight.
Two of the Nihonjin (Japanese people) brought their own—pulled them out from the inside pocket of their jacket.
That left Kanemaru-san, who began taking off his socks after first slapping his forehead in disgust and swearing at what I assumed was himself. He also lit up another cigarette—Golden Bat, I believe. At least it smelled like bat.

No one put on the pink slippers. I liked these guys already.

They all took turns showing me how to put on the tiny slippers—uh, there’s no real Japanese secret to that. But, I think that after my initial gaffe they thought I might be a tad slow.
I slid... skated (thereby affirming my tetched-in-the-head-ness... but really it was to keep my large feet neatly tucked into the too-small slipper) past the linoleum-covered floor that was the bathroom area immediately to my right and straight along a carpeted four-meter hallway into an enormous living room/dining room/kitchen (LDK) open concept area that was easily 10m deep by 5m wide.

At the end of it was a large sliding glass door leading out to a full-sized balcony (facing north).
Alongside the hallway on the left there was a 4m x 4m room that had a small walk-in closet, a writing desk and chair and another balcony (facing west). A second room beside it and accessed through the LDK was the designated bedroom, and a third larger 5m x 5m room that contained what can only be described as a turn-of-the-century German mahogany clothes drawer/liquor cabinet. At least that’s how I used it.

Even though I have no idea what a meter is, I’m pretty sure that this was a really big apartment. I wondered how the other new assistant English teachers (AETs) had fared?

All of the rooms were carpeted in a thin, ugly moss green ply, and had real doorknob-type doors on them, save the middle designated bedroom which was laid with tatami (grass floor mats) and had authentic Japanese sliding doors complete with a beautiful hand-painted landscape on it.

The kitchen area had a nice stove—but no oven, a fridge small enough to satisfy a Brit (1-meter high), a single deep sink, lots of shelf space, and a convection oven with English-language buttons informing me that I could heat up one cup of sake (pronounced sah-kay - rice wine), two cups of sake, or god help us all, three cups of sake. There were also separate buttons for warming milk, and for cooking and defrosting various weights of meat, including beef, veal, pork, chicken, and I kid you not, goat.

The dining room consisted of a small four-seater pine table and chairs and a wooden China hutch (actually a Japan hutch according to two-pack Kanemaru-san) that was filled with four sets of dishware and flatware, as well as various cups and mugs, plastic bottles of spices and a tin of Twinings of London Earl Grey tea.
Hanazaki-san opened up some of the cabinets beside the fridge under the not-so ample counter space and proudly showed me the cooking implements, including what Kanemaru-san’s dictionary said was a rice cooker.
However, since all of us were men, none of us had actually ever cooked a meal, so the cookware was a bit of a mystery for us, although I was able to correctly point out a frying pan. 
As an aside, Hanazaki-san promised to send an office girl or three around to show me how to use the cooking utensils.
They arrived the very next day, but he failed to send one who could speak English or who owned a Japanese-English dictionary. I never did learn how to use a rice cooker. 

The living room contained a three-seat couch and an armchair that were both covered in a soft, luxurious but ugly, moss green fabric that I think was made from left-over carpet. Along with a 24-inch television on a small stand, a 2m-long marble-top table and a book case with a faded avocado green dialer telephone, there was also something called a kotatsu.
My kotatsu was a 30-cm high, dark wood table frame covered by a futon or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sat. As an added bonus, the table can be plugged in to act as a heater with the blanket capturing the heat.
Since it was August and I was sweating with the +30C heat, I couldn’t ever see a need for it. The walls of the apartment were covered in white wallpaper with a light, light, light blue floral pattern that looked nice and not too feminine.

Each room had a 10-foot high ceiling - I hate the Metric system – and had more than its fair share of fluorescent lighting.

Drapes covered every floor-to-ceiling door/window in the place – except for the tatami/bedroom which had a pair of non-decorated Japanese sliding rice paper windows that covered up the 8-inch wide x 12-inch high window.

There. Hopefully you get a pretty good idea of how the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) set me up.
The OBOE were my bosses… the entity that paid my salary, and paid for me (via JET) to fly to (and from) Japan, stay at the hotel, and after that to look after every instance of my general safety and well-being while in Japan.
They were the ones who rented the apartment for me—taking care of any key money where landowners will demand anywhere from three to six months of rent in advance—but damn… this was one fine apartment.
I will tell you that the OBOE also paid for a large chunk of my monthly rent. This place cost around $1,000 a month to rent, but I only paid $327. Keep in mind that others, like Ashley, only paid around $100.
She could save over $200 a month more than me, but I lived in luxury. She... let's just say that my apartment was as welcoming as I was.
I guess the OBOE really wanted to impress on me on how much they wanted me to enjoy my stay in Japan. If I was to compare my situation with any other AET in Tochigi-ken or even Japan, I might actually have had the largest apartment with the most Western amenities.

Oh… and much to the chagrin of Jeff, my bathroom came with a Western-style toilet.

I also had a washer/dryer machine—an important luxury in a country with 200% humidity—as well as an adjustable shower head that could easily accommodate my height. There was also a small gas heater that I had to turn on if I wanted hot water, which was necessary for showers, doing dishes and running the washing machine.

The toilet room—a 1m x 1m (3-foot x 3-foot) cubicle—came with its own set of slippers, a dark green pair with little cartoony frogs sitting on lily pads. Apparently they are only supposed to be worn in the toilet room and woe to the person that doesn’t wear them.

No offense to Hanazaki-san or Kanemaru-san or to the people of Japan, but I never wore any of the slippers ever again in my place. Worse yet, I encouraged others (Japanese or otherwise) not to as well.

By the way, my hosts had hung a banner across the living room: Welcome to Japan Mr. Andrew Joseph.

They had spelled it right and got the order of my names correct, too—something that doesn’t happen often enough back in Canada.

Hanazaki-san then pointed to a large black and white map hung on the wall above the low bookcase holding a telephone.
That map was a local area map of Ohtawara, and while few things were even identified, those that were were written in English, so even I had a good chance of understanding it.
Showing me a small photo in his wallet, Hanazaki-san told me that the map was drawn by my predecessor, Cheryl Menezes, an English woman of Indian descent.

I didn’t think it odd for them to have chosen another person of color to be an AET. I thought it was pretty cool, actually. Cheryl only stayed the one year previous, and had written to me a couple of times back in Toronto to provide a bit of background on Japan and life in Ohtawara and such. Her help was invaluable… or valuable… which one is good? It’s the same? English is stupid! How stupid will the Japanese language be?
Just then, the telephone rang snapping me out of the future when I am writing this.
Picking it up and saying "Moshi Moshi" (hello – for use on the telephone only), Hanazaki-san handed the phone to me.

Monkey see, monkey do, I said "Moshi" just once; a fact that elicited laughter from everyone in my apartment including the person on the phone but me. I soon learned that ‘moshi’ means ‘insect’. So, if you say it twice, shouldn’t it mean insect-insect? Or is that exactly what it’s supposed to mean: "Sorry to bug you…"
Man… Japanese is as weird as English. Who knew?

On the other end of the phone, it was Cheryl wishing me good luck in my stay in Ohtawara. She told me to have fun, because that’s what it’s all about. Life, that is. That and the Hokey-Pokey.

After taking down her phone number—she was back home in the UK (that’s the United Kingdom, not the University of Kentucky – go Wildcats!)— I slapped my two new friends on the back and said “domo arigato” (thank you very much).
In the process I dislodged Kanemaru-san’s lit cigarette onto the floor.

And that’s how I got a new blue carpet in my apartment. Really.


Images below, are builds I did of my apartment in Japan made with LEGO... click to make larger... I hope. I have one million bricks, but it always seems like I never have the exact pieces in the right color required for any build. I know, poor Andrew.

Schematic of my apartment Top view in LEGO.

A real look at my apartment in LEGO, minus the interior wall separating the hallway from the kitchen. You can get more HERE. Yes, I usually had women in my apartment.... telling me to lego, or something like that. I'm in the corner room at my writing desk. It was like the Japanese knew I needed just such a desk.
I constantly refer back to Kanemaru-san telling me a joke at that time to put me more at ease… what a dear, dear, dear man.

Although I wrote to Cheryl and was replied to perhaps three times out of courtesy, I never needed to call her. Japan was brand new to me and I was going to enjoy discovering everything about it, including learning how to speak fluent Japanese during this year. And I was going to do it without any help.

The best laid plans of mice and Andrew...

I kept the titles the same (book, blog and original entry) because it fit perfectly. Plus I like the Steppenwolf song.

Somewhere learning to communicate,
Andrew "What am I doing here?" Joseph

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nintendo Collectors Rejoice

I like Nintendo and write about the company quite often, which may confuse some people when I admit that I am now more of a Sony PlayStation kind guy when it comes to my video games…

But once upon a time…

My son does have a Nintendo 3DS, however, and I still, on occasion will play with my old GameBoy… but I became a Nintendo guy after I purchased my first SuperFamicon in Japan back in 1990 a month or so after I moved into my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

(I'm sure I created quite the splash with the students who were in the small toy store that day, as I plunked down cool hard cash for it, and a game. Here was a gaijin (foreigner) adult who likes what we like.)

The SuperFamicon was the Japanese version (and thus the first version) of the SNES system put out by Nintendo for North America et al.

As you know, I only stayed in Japan for three years, and then returned back home to Toronto, Canada… meaning I had a problem with my video game system.

Electronically, everything was cool… but the North American version cartridges would NOT fit into the slot made for Japanese cartridges. There were also language-differences in the games, meaning I played more generic games in Japan (like Super Mario Bros.) because understanding Japanese wasn't a requirement…

So… it meant I could not play North American games on my Japanese Nintendo system… unless I cracked open the plastic shell casing and then placed the exposed computer board into the cartridge slot on the gaming system.

What can I say… it worked. But how stupid was it that I had to do that?

I kept purchasing Nintendo video game systems until around 2005, when I did switch to Sony's PlayStation II because I wanted to play some of their system specific games. As well, the PlayStation gave me access to Blue Ray capabilities…

See… providing game support IS important in creating needed purchasing decisions for the consumer.

Nintendo offered the Wii… a great little system that offered more gaming control with its wrist controller that provided the gamer with a bit more physical action.

When I'm playing at 2AM, I don't want to move too much… and besides, all of the video games I saw for the Wii looked too kiddie. I wanted more solid graphics, not kiddie, cutsie-pie crap graphics and gameplay. I want to kill ninja that look like real ninja.

I will say that by going after a younger market and marketing itself as a game system that anyone could play (rather than pimply-faced teenage boys (and ex-pimply faced teenage boys), Nintendo was perhaps willing to sacrifice short-term for long-term brand loyalty.    

Who am I to argue with perceived observational logic? Nintendo has been around for over 125 years - read a bit on the company HERE and HERE- and have been in the video game industry since the 1970s.

Now, I'm not one of them—despite my hobby being hobbies—but some people like to collect all things Nintendo.

As a collector, I know how consuming it is as you try and fill the holes in your soul with… stuff. I don't collect for financial gain, however, rather for the sake of possessing… and Buddha help me, I don't know which is worse.

Anyhow… Nintendo collectors…. there's a butt load of stuff for you to collect. Do you have a Love Tester machine (HERE)? How about a tabletop Donkey Kong game that when you hit the Jump button in the right place and at the right situation, you can jump into a secret world where you battle a dinosaur that, except for its color, looks just like Yoshi?

Okay, I'm kidding about that one… but it made you want to have it, right? Quoting Pokemon - you 'gotta catch'em all', right?

But what exactly are you trying to collect. Nintendo, sure… but what?

If only there was some sort of resource that might help a fanatic out…

How about www.NintendoAge.com?     

This is your one-stop shop, with checklists of hardware and software, as well as other fun Nintendo-related collectibles like toys, posters, publications and more.

There's even an active forum, so should you have a collecting question, you'll probably find someone there willing to provide you with the correct answer.

Any Nintendo collectors out there - I'd be curious to learn what sort of things you collect.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above found at http://blog.beforemario.com/2012/09/meet-collectors-2-fabrice-heilig.html

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Deadly Thumbs Of Frog-Fu

The animal kingdom is a strange and wonderful place. I know... I'm a part of it.

While I am a fan of mammals and reptiles and fish, I'm not enamored with amphibians or anything bug-like. In fact, if I wasn't aware of the importance of the food chain and how every little thing is linked to the survival of life on this planet, I would be okay with nuking every insect possessing more than six legs. I'm not afraid of them, they just give me the creeps.

Thanks to Julien, instead of bugs, I get to write about my next level of ickiness.

Meet the Otton Frog—a resident of some of Japan's Ryukyu Islands that actually flicks out a claw from within its thumb.

Snikt!

If you recognize that sound, you are a comic book fan who knows that's the sound Marvel Comics' Wolverine makes when he pops out his bone/adamantium (depends on the era) claws from within his hand. If you really thought about it, it's actually pretty gross, too.

Back to the frog. It doesn't really make that 'snickt!' sound, though it might make a 'brrrrrrrrp' one.

Known as Babina subaspera, the Otton Frog is native to the islands of Amami Ōshima and Kakeromajima in the Ryukyu Islands.

The species is found mostly in subtropical and tropical moist, lowland forests, freshwater marshes, and intermittent freshwater marshes.

The Otton frog is the largest Ranidae (true frogs - numbering 380 species in 23 genera) in Japan, with a body length of 9–14 cm, maturing in three years.

Apparently, both the males and females of this frog have this concealed weapon—a retractable claw that really does shoot out of its thumb when it's in the mood for loving' or fighting'.

All's Fair
While the male's spikes are larger than the females, researchers believe the spike itself was originally something that evolved to help the male grab hold of the female during mating.

What are the two types of honor? Get on 'er and stay on 'er. Sorry, yer honor.
If you didn't know better, you might think this was a monkey's paw... but no, it's the hand of an Otton Frog... pseudo spike splitting the lefthand thumb on the left of the image. I would imagine the photo was taken by Iwai Noriko, but I can't be sure.
I have no idea how frogs mate, but I assume its standard animal mating position, and the thumb spike gets embedded into the female's side.

I would imagine, however, that these frogs get downright dirty when using the pseudo thumb spike when fighting other males… something that I bet only occurs when fighting for females and territory—the age old reason.

The frogs face off wrestling with each other and while in the embrace (think a sumo wrestling lockup), they begin to jab each other with the spike.

We Hardly Knew Ya
The Otton Frog was once considered a source of food for the islanders (tastes like chicken, probably. I've eaten frog legs and didn't care for the slimy meat), but because of deforestation and habitat loss, the frog's population has seen a marked drop-off in recent years. There was also the introduction of 30 Indian mongoose (mongeese?) on the islands in 1979 the habu, a poisonous pit viper native to the island of Amami Oshima.

Of course the mongoose did its job of controlling the snake population, but 2000 estimates show there were around 6,800 mongooses… and that was 15 years ago. 
Anyone else recall Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?
Believe it or not, Japan did try and eradicate the mongoose (what did they do? Introduce King Cobras?), capturing (not killing - I think) some 20,000 through 2011, leaving a population estimated between 40 and 410.    Yes… I read a scientific paper - this one dedicated to the eradication of the mongoose on the island. You can read that HERE.

Whatever… get rid of the mongoose, and I am sure this frog will have a legitimate chance of survival. Apparently some research into the situation pegs the cost to capture even one mongoose to be Y650,000 - according to Japan's Ministry of Environment (circa 2012).

I believe the species is endangered at this point in time. I would imagine that the population is small, however, given the limited areas in which it was found anyway. I did read a research paper by Iwai Noriko, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo—who said she tracked five frogs with radiotelemetry and marked an additional 316 during field examinations.
  • Females: 167; 
  • Males: 145; 
  • Juveniles (undetermined sex): 4.
Gods… I read another scientific article - HERE. (You know me... gotta catch all the information I can find on a topic!) 

What is particularly interesting (to me), is the evolution of the thumb. Most frogs have only four digits per hand, so finding one's with five, like the Otton Frog, is rare.

One might think that if this spike thumb was so great, other species would have evolved one, too…

Here's the really weird part… there is a second frog with a spike…. something called the Hairy Frog (Trichobatrachus robustus) that actually has hair… something that creeps me out far more than the spike.

Anyhow, it's hair-like… and you can research that yourself, as this frog is a denizen of the forests of Central Africa. But it has a spike, too. 

Africa. So very, very far away from Japan.

Somewhere wondering just how desperate a woman would have to be to ever want to kiss a frog,
Andrew "plucking his magic twanger" Joseph
PS: Should you wish, here is a free website where you can play the video game Frogger (フロッガー). It's as annoying as I remember it from 1981. HERE. It was designed by Japan's Konami and distributed in North America by Sega-Gremlin.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife: What's In A Name?

Here's another adventure for you to mull over. It's Day three of my first time in Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in very late July of 1990, and the day after I met the hot Kay West who made me believe that I might actually get laid for the first time ever.

Introduction and Chapter 5 are available for a refresher. Not necessary to read, but both will entertain.

These are re-written, but still true adventures of myself in Japan, as I rewrite things for possible inclusion in a book I will probably complete one day. I do have 24 chapters written so far.

The following story is about a woman very important to me that first year in Japan, as well, dammit, a lot of the second year. I did have to re-edit it, as some of the material makes reference to previous and unpublished chapters.

Chapter 7
Groove Is In The Heart
I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a chowderhead. I have lacked initiative, but have fortunately had it thrust upon me by my parents.
To wit, they forced me into playing community soccer and into learning music with the accordion—everyone woman loves a shy, Brown guy with glasses who can play the accordion… sigh.
I did switch to piano at 16 and even if I may not have appreciated learning to play music, I was able to eventually teach piano and clarinet for money and play and also coach kid's soccer.
Thank goodness my parents forced my to do stuff like this.
Having these coaching and teaching skills directly led me to have skills that JET found valuable when hiring me.
Being a lazy sod, if it were up to me, I’d still be sitting in my parent’s basement watching re-runs of Star Trek while trying not to get the Playmate of the Month pregnant.
After that wonderful night of wandering about Tokyo with just Kay and myself (though I think there may have been a whole gaggle of other gaijin/foreigners there, too), all of us newbie AET (assistant English teacher) wannabees continued with our JET orientation learning about (yawn) and (yawn) and to definitely watch out for (yawnnnn) and to never, ever let oneself be involved with (yawnnnn).
Seriously, the most important thing I got out of that orientation was (yawnnnnnn).
I have no idea what anyone said – though there was one Japanese dude speaking with a Texas drawl – and that threw me enough where I know I spent his entire speech listening to the cadence of his chat, but not actually paying any attention to what he was saying.
And the rest was just - actually, I have no idea if it was boring or not. I was bored, so that’s all I can comment on. I think I was just trying to see if I could see Kay. Hey… if you see Kay, tell her I want her. Heh. I made a swear. You have to say it slowly.
I was/am so not ready for this teaching gig.
After more of the same, it is somehow now the third night of my time in Tokyo. Wow. Time displacement. It must be aliens.
This evening was to be another foreign affair for me – organized by the Tochigi-ken (Tochigi province, where I surmised I might be living) AETs already in place.
We were led to our first Japanese-Japanese restaurant by the stunning Gasoline—an AET returning for her third and final year in Japan. Apparently she was one of the first JETs ever. I did not realize that until I typed this sentence. 
Gasoline is a tall, beautiful blonde Canadian girl given that unfortunate nickname thanks to the inability of the Japanese people to pronounce her real name of Catherine. That’s what she told us, but surely the Japanese pronunciation can’t be that bad, can it?
Matthew from the east and Jeff from the left coast of the U.S. sat around me as we all delicately tried to figure out which end of the chopsticks to use. After copious amounts of beer, Jeff broke first and had to use the washroom. Excusing himself, he plodded off in a general direction—seconds later we heard a splash and a scream.
Hmm, it has always been my understanding that when one uses the bathroom facilities there is first a scream and then a splash.
Not wanting to stop drinking, we ignored the cacophony and waited for Jeff to return.
Featuring the soaker to end all soakers, Jeff explained that he had stepped into the toilet. Wow. How drunk do you have to be to do that?
Apparently three beers are not enough as Jeff explained that the toilet in this place did not have a crapper like what we Westerners sit upon everyday. No… this was a two-foot long by eight-inch wide mostly white porcelain bowl embedded in the ground that one is supposed to squat over.
A bunch of us guys staggered over to where Jeff had come from to take a look for ourselves.
Huh. WTF is that?
We found out later that in order to use said toilet, you need to remove your pants and hang them on the hook on the stall’s door and then squat using those great leg muscles all Japanese have developed since they were three.
I have pretty good leg muscles thanks to all that soccer and accordion playing (mostly just the soccer, though), so I might be able to survive Japan.
Jeff said that in his first attempt to find the washroom he accidentally stumbled into the kitchen and was chased out and into the bathroom—it had no outside door or lights, but he didn’t know that. Fumbling for a light switch, Jeff performed his naval maneuver like a true sea man.
None of us laughed at Jeff—we all knew that any one of us could be the next victim of cultural indifference. Still, it was funny enough for me to take notes on some handy napkins.
My plan was to document everything I came across in Japan... then, I had no idea why.
Back at the table, Jeff, Matt and I became quite inebriated on Japanese beer—so much so that none of us three noticed that there was a cute young lady sitting opposite me who had been keeping up with us in the booze department. Wow. How drunk does a virgin have to be to not notice that?
Apparently seven beers plus will do it.
Since this was a Tochigi-ken JET event, the dinner was paid for by the returnees—which I didn’t realize, so I felt quite badly about that seeing as how I drank a lot of booze. I should make that up to that Catherine chick. Maybe give her a tip much bigger than a dollar. Yeah... she's hot and the more I drink, the better looking I get.
Next on the agenda, Gasoline and the others walked us around Tokyo, showing us the sights and sounds of RoppongiTokyo’s dance club area.
In Toronto, our dance club zone consists of maybe 30+ places and is spread out over the downtown core. But here! Oh my! Roppongi is a clubber’s paradise with quite literally 100’s of bright neon-lit clubs from which to choose, with heavy-bass sounds thumping out from each.
Despite having classical music training and preferring to listen to hard rock and punk music, for some reason I can’t dance. Oh... wait...
Before I left Toronto for Japan, my mother suggested I just move as much of my body as possible and keep the beat—the latter being easy enough to do with my skills playing polka music on the accordion.
Gasoline took us to a club called the Java-Jive where we were told that you could only enter the establishment as a male-female couple.
While I was about to quickly rush forward to stand beside the inviting and waiting Gasoline, a warm hand grabbed hold of my left hand and dragged me happily into the place.
I still had no idea who this pretty brunette with the squinty eyes and Southern drawl to drool for was, but it was the same cutie who was drinking near Jeff and Matt and I at the restaurant.
There were quick introductions. Her name was (alcoholic induced stupor), and she was from Augusta, Georgia – that place in the U.S.—not the one in Europe. Although… that would have been very fine, too. Dasvidaniya, baby!
Quickly going through the coupons for free alcohol that we were given up entering the establishment, she earned my fealty by buying me a couple of those vodka screwdrivers drinks we were both enjoying in copious quantities.
Not only was it hot and humid outside, but it was the same inside the club, more so with the dancing and need for booze in a strange city in a strange country all alone with no friends or family and the booming music and all of a sudden with poorly-written English, (alcoholic induced stupor) and I were now kissing and grabbing at each other like there was no tomorrow.
Japan is effing great!
What the fug is her name? Man… she mentioned her name twice to me but it was like gone with the wind.
Finally able to peel our eyes and our tongues away from each other, we noticed that we were the only two foreigners left in the place—where the hell had the rest of our JETs gone? After we spent several minutes decoding the Japanese numbering system (why are Japanese clocks sorta blurry?), we determined that it was 2:30AM. Actually, their clocks are just like ours (I did learn, however, that less than 150 years ago, that wasn’t the case – more later).
Since I still had that box of matches with me from my Kay adventure– road map, et al—we knew how to get back to our hotel – or rather, we had the name of the hotel written in Japanese letters on it.
Flagging down a cab – which had its rear passenger-side door open up automatically, I handed the driver my matchbook and said “Hotel” to him, and fell back into my fugue state with my new girlfriend… what the hell was her name? Seriously, I had no clue. She knew mine and was using it in every sentence she spoke.
In my pathetic defense, if y’all will recall, at the restaurant I was talking/drinking with Matthew and Jeff, and prior to entering the Java-Jive, I was going to make a failed play for Gasoline.
My new companion had never actually introduced herself to me… and while I am sure I queried her at the club, the song Groove Is In The Heart (released in August of 1990) drowned out her response—probably the only non-Caribbean song they played that night. In their defense, it was a brand new song then.
I’m pretty sure I was able to shake ma groove thing to this song quite adequately, enough so that I didn’t embarrass myself and have her seek out someone more coordinated.
The taxi driver got us back to the hotel in 30 minutes. Glimpsing the meter, I tossed him five ¥10,000 (yen) bills and told him to keep the change. Both he and she nearly had heart attacks at my generosity, as ¥50,000 is about Cdn $630 or US$500. I had thought that the ¥10,000 bills were ¥1,000’s—okay, I really had no idea what the exchange rate was—damn that JET orientation package that I should have read.
Even if (alcoholic induced stupor) hadn’t been there to correct me, the taxi driver would have. Unlike anything else I had ever seen in my limited travels around the world, the people of Japan are excessively honest.
The taxi driver emphatically said, “No, no, no!” (in English!) and handed back my money.
Confused, I asked him: “Free?”
He said something in Japanese, and then began pointing down at my pants and saying dozo (please) – which my female companion quickly translated for my benefit.
Several embarrassing moments later, I figured out that he wanted my wallet and handed it to him. He opened it up and took the appropriate amount out and gave me back some change.
When I tried to tip him, he would have none of it, exited the vehicle, came around and personally opened up the rear door of his car with his white-gloved hands and said in perfect English: “Hello” and bowed to us both. We bowed back.
I knew what he meant, though. Hello new life.
The next day, all of us AETs were forced to go to an orientation meeting. I looked about for that girl I was with the night previous—saving her a seat next to me – not that anyone else wanted to sit near a guy sweating profuse amounts of beer and vodka and orange juice, but since I don’t get hangovers—ever—my tasty sweat did make a nice refreshing hair-of-the-dog break for me.
Matthew and Jeff wisely sat upwind of me and handed me a list of AETs in our prefecture. I asked them, but they didn’t know who the hell I had been snacking on at the club last night either.
I looked at the AET prefecture list for a name that sounded somewhat familiar and southern, but aside from Rhett and Scarlett, I had no idea what a southern U.S. name was.
At the orientation, all of us AETs were wearing stickers on our shirts with our name on it… it’s probably why I was able to figure out which one was Jeff, which one was Matthew and what the hell my name was that morning.
Just as the orientation was ending, my mystery girl popped by my side and sat down smiling at me in what was a smug smile.
Keeping with my luck, she wasn’t wearing her name tag and I was quick to point that out to her.
She smiled and drawled, “At least ya'll know what it is—and that’s all that matters. And besides, (breathy breath) for everyone else I just tell them to think of Gone With The Wind.”
Oh man. Now I can’t even ask her. It’s not Rhett, is it? That’s a boy’s name, I think. But there is that actress! Whatshername! Crap! I’ve never seen the movie—but if I wanted this relationship to work, I was going to have to rent the movie as soon as I got a chance! Am I in a relationship?
Why hasn’t anyone invented the Internet yet?!
We walked around the hotel together—strangely enough, she was little Miss Social Butterfly, as she seemed to know everyone, and everyone seemed to know her.
They seemed to know me too, because I was getting the cold shoulder of indifference. Or maybe it was paranoia.
You might think that I now knew here name, but unfortunately, all of the women were saying: “Hey, girlfriend!” Or the guys: “Darling! Make sure you call me.”
Seriously?! WTF?! I was too confused to be jealous.
Hungry for answers and for lunch, we went to the hotel restaurant. When my unknown companion excused herself to go to the washroom, she left her purse on the table beside me. I’ve never seen a woman do that before. Of course, with my limited dating experience, I hadn’t seen a woman do much of anything before.
Quick as a bunny, I grabbed her purse, opened it up and began looking for some ID. There it was—a driver’s license issued to Ashley B.
Weeks later, she told me that Jeff had earlier told her my conundrum so she had let me off the hook by purposely leaving her purse on the table.
She knew I would go through her purse.
And she was cool with that. Damn.
Oh well. At least I didn’t have to watch Gone With The Wind until years later. It wouldn’t have helped. In the movie (as it was in the past), Ashley is a man’s name. I even know a man with the name Ashley!


Okay... that's the end of that chapter and the full story of how I first met the woman I would fall head over heels in love with.

Who goes to Japan to date an American woman? I did. No, I couldn't ask for another.

All's well that end's well, right?

I'm not a well man,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Picture This

This is actually my third attempt at writing a blog today… I've shut the other two down because I found myself either too preachy or too revealing… and both, for various reasons are not something I feel comfortable in being today.

Heck... not including this blog, those other two encompassed 2,928 words. I guess I'll rework it some other day. Who knows... I have 98 Rife articles in draft form that I began and abandoned.

I'm going to start again...

Let's take a look at something that is Japanese that will make you go - WTF?!

Hmmm… usually when I start writing stuff like that an idea hits me… not this time. I guess I'm just stressed out from all sides.

Lucky me. Long-time fantasy reader Alice just sent me an e-mail showing some spectacular photography. Unfortunately not of her, but rather a web link to images by a photographer in Japan.

I'd rather not swipe the images, so instead, here's a link to see some pretty awesome shots. CLICK

It makes me feel like showing off some of my photography - limited ability and all.

As always… Alice, thank-you for the inspiration.

I still don't know what photo I'm going to use as I write this, but like my time in Japan, discovering things is the best part.

Okay... it's now 10PM... I'm home and just finished watching the Blue Jays beat the NY Yankees in baseball.

Growing up, along with playing the accordion, piano and clarinet, I also taught myself all brass, woodwinds and keyboards, but still managed to find time to play Dungeons and Dragons, live in my parent's basement, and know everything one needs to know about Star Trek without learning Klingon.

I also played sports. I played and coached soccer. I did judo and baseball, but generally speaking, if it was a team sport, I played it. I could catch a football and could kick one, but being a small kid growing up, football wasn't my bag. Neither was basketball or any track and field event except perhaps long jump and long distance running, owing to my soccer skills. I do, however, know damn near everything there is to know about hockey.

In Japan, because I misunderstood a question that very first day of school during a self-introduction: I was asked what sports do I play... I told the Japanese class that I played everything... which was correct.

Not in a league, but you know, in a field with your buds... hacking around... 

In Japan, however, one plays one sport and pretty damn near only one sport.

My answer had the Japanese dub me "Sportsman", even though I did admit to never having played golf, couldn't swim and only did cross-country skiing not downhill.

I thought my answer to be truthful, but clearly I had misunderstood the scope of the question, and even before I had arrived at the second of the seven junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, everyone knew I was some superior man's man who did lots of sports, had musical skills, was a newspaper reporter, had dated three women at once back in Toronto (technically true: a blonde, brunette and redhead, but none would sleep with me) and had photographs of these women as proof (we were told to bring in photos of family and friends to show the kids) - and holy crap a legend was born.

The golden statue of myself atop a solid platinum globe began construction almost immediately.

Statue aside, living in a small city of 50,000 people, everyone soon heard about this foreign specimen of hunkiness, and pretty soon I had the young women of the city going out of their way to meet me. If I had brains enough to learn how to speak Japanese, I would have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to me a whole lot earlier.

It sounds like bragging even to me... and I don't mean it to be (sorry), but the scenario (less the statue) was correct. Add in the fact that I was always joking around and smiling and thus approachable, life in Japan was not only fun, but easy for me.

I'm also a touchy guy... by that I mean I have no problem in placing a hand on someone in a non-sexual or threatening way to convey friendship... even though if you were a woman I probably wanted to make a move on you. Still... I could easily place people at ease - probably easier than I could place myself.

I was also blessed (in a non-religious way) with a great board of education, fellow Japanese teachers, and excellent foreign support mostly from Matthew, but of course also from my girlfriend Ashley.Thank Buddha.

Truly, sometimes you make your own luck. And apparently I did.


Okay, okay... I didn't even take the photograph... still this photo was taken my Mrs. Kanemaru on the 10th day of the 14th month... and it's 1990... back when I was 12. As you can see, even the horse is surprised at how mature I am for a pre-teen.

Okay, ya got me. The white Japanese horse is actually looking surprised that there's a foreigner atop him. I think all forms of Japanese transportation are painted white.

The photo was taken at some local festival that had horse races and horseback kyudo (Japanese archery), and it was where, I believe Mr. Kanemaru-san (my boss) asked both Ashley and myself if we wanted to take up kyudo. It was a sport that Kanemaru-san was particularly good at.

Apparently Ashley said 'yes' and apparently that meant I was doing it to.

For archery, one needs good eyes... and I have astigmatism so my vision sharpness isn't always there, if ever. In three years of practice every Wednesday, I only ever hit a target once, which prompted Kanemaru-san to immediately sign me into a Tochigi-ken (province of Tochigi) kyudo tournament.

I will tell you that at the tournament where I am in full traditional kyudo garb, I hit the target with my first arrow... it just wasn't MY target.

When it was finally time for me to leave Japan, the Ohtawara Board of Education (I only ever thought of calling them the OBOE a few years ago), they presented me with a kyudo bow and arrow set, as well as a target.

While it still sits in its box in my basement, I use it as a reminder that even though I pretty much hated every moment of kyudo over three years, that I still appreciate the overwhelming and unforgettable kindness of the Kanemaru family.

Kanpai,
Andrew "Do I make you shutter" Joseph

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb

So… there is no denying that what happened to the people of Hiroshima (image above) and Nagasaki after the exploding of atomic bombs during WWII was horrifying.

Not only was there instant vaporization - the lucky ones - but there were those with horrific radiation burns that is it did not kill them hours or agonizing days or weeks later, would get them years later via radiation sickness… or possibly with genetic mutations in their offspring.

There was also loss of home, industry… a war… which lead to their Emperor losing his Godhood…

It was bad for Japan.

It was good, however, for the Allied nations fighting against Japan, because Japan had a never surrender attitude, and that meant that if these bombs were not deployed, Allied Troops would have been forced to eventually land on mainland Japan and take the battle to the cities… something that would have prolonged the war, but ultimately would have cost even more Japanese lives, not to mention a score and then some of Allied lives.

One can whine and bitch about the atrocity of the U.S. deploying such an untried weapon on people, but the truth is, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ultimately saved a lot more lives than it cost.

How do I know that Japan wouldn't surrender?

Consider: They had the friction' city of Hiroshima decimated by an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945… U.S. president called on Japan to surrender 16 hours later… and they refused. That first bomb… known as Little Boy… anywhere between 90,000 - 146,000 people died from that bomb. Granted that wasn't immediately, but immediately… the entire city was pretty much blown away.

Japan wouldn't give up - even in the face of this awesome new weapon.

It's why the U.S. dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945… this one only took out between 39,000 - 80,000 over the next few months…

The U.S., wary of Japan's 'never-surrender' attitude, had one more atomic bomb in the pipeline that it was going to drop in a few days time, but this time… this time, Japan surrendered.

That's an additional 80,000 people that would have lived if Japan hadn't been so bloody stubborn after Hiroshima was decimated.

All Japan had to do was go to Hiroshima… see that the city existed only as frames of twisted metal, and say: "Holy crap!" and quit the war.

Holy crap. We've all seen photos of Hiroshima after the bomb. How could Japan possibly think theta could combat the might of the atom?

And yet… despite the awesome nastiness of these two bombs, they are mere firecrackers when compared to the firepower of other nuclear bombs.

Now… the following is not meant to belittle the survivors or victims of those two atomic bombs… it is meant to place into context just what sort of crap we of 2015 should be concerned about. 

A few months ago, the Huffington Post published a chart showing the firepower of the world's most deadly atomic and nuclear bombs. Full story HERE. Check it out if the image I dropped in below doesn't expand when you click on it.

Prepare to be scared… and realize that someone, somewhere, is building a bigger and more dangerous weapon of mass destruction.

Mother do you think they'll drop the bomb?
Andrew Floyd Joseph

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Japan's Love Tester


You may have seen it hiding in a dark corner of your local watering hole... or perhaps it was behind a curtain at a video arcade back in the 1980s... or perhaps you are only familiar with the concept from watching such television shows like The Simpsons...

... but even if you haven't physically seen one, we all know what The Love Tester is.

Go directly to jail if you thought it was one of those godawful quizzes from Cosmopolitan magazines (I actually used to have a subscription to Cosmo, and while I thought those quizzes were the worst piece of editorial garbage I have ever seen in a magazine, I though the rest of the information advice given out in Cosmo was interesting... it's always good to know the friendly enemy).

The Love Tester is a toy... designed by Nintendo in '69 (figures).

Not just for men to prove to other men that they were the Big Kahuna (that's what pissing contests are for), The Love Tester was fun "for young ladies and men", according to original product documentation.

Not men and women. Not ladies and gentlemen. But ladies and men.

The implication being that women using this device were still ladies, but men bragging about their Love Tester scores would certainly not be gentlemen.

This Love Tester was meant to be used by couples... in an electronic way to determine just how much they loved each other.

Hey... I'm pretty sure a machine... and a machine designed by a Japanese dude... would know all about how much a man loves a woman, or how much a woman tolerated a man to allow her to have to go through this fun and possibly damaging testing procedure.

Damaging? Sure.

To work The Love Tester, the man and the lady (sorry, Gays and Lesbians - I didn't write the original copy) grab hold of one of the connected spherical (IE balls) metal sensors with one hand and then hold each other's other hand... then... then The Love Tester goes to work... using its electronic doo-hickeys, it senses how much in love you both are and displays a love score between 1 and 100... I might not be good at math, but I'm afraid this is one time you don't want to be No. 1

Created by lonely boy with a brain—Yokoi Gunpei (横井 軍平 - surname first) Yokoi says he first conceived of The Love Tester as he wondered "if I could somehow use this to get girls to hold my hand… I wound up holding hands with quite a few girls thanks to it. Of course, somewhere along the line I started to feel like I wanted to do more than just hold hands."

Even better, Yokoi says he really "loved explaining that the meter gave better results when people kissed the girl..."

The Love Tester originally sold in Japan for ¥1,800 in 1969.

Okay... I can't find a calculator for this, but if I was to take US $1,800 in 1969 and apply inflation to it for 2015, that would be $10,105.92. That's multiplying the original dollar amount x an Annual inflation rate of 4.19% or a Total Inflation: 561.44%...

... so ¥1800 = $15... now lets take that $15 and multiply it by 561.44%.... and presto, the game would have cost an equivalent US$84.22... which isn't really that much... Of course... I am a way better lover than an effing mathematician.

The Love Tester was marketed outside of Japan as a Love/Lie Detector, and was one of the few products sold outside of Japan by Nintendo during the 1960s.

It was the very first Nintendo product to use real electronic components. I have no idea why that statement had to say 'real', but it did.

Does it work? I suppose it all depends on the score you achieve, doesn't it?

The Love Tester machine has appeared in 11 episodes of The Simpsons TV show.
Somewhere getting a grip,
Andrew "Hot Tamale" Joseph