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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kintsukuroi - Fixing Broken Things


"Kintsugi (金継ぎ - golden joinery)" or "Kintsukuroi" (金継ぎ/金繕い - golden repair) is the art of repairing pottery with a lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum joining the pieces and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. It treats a break and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something that should be disguised with a "clean" repair that you or I might attempt.

Since gold in Japanese is 'kin', I suppose if you were to use silver (gin), the Japanese phrasing would be gintsugi and or gintsukuroi. But maybe there is no other word for the other materials.

Now... if only I could do this with a car or two.

Yes, just before Christmas, my Mazda 6 decided to blow a cylinder in the motor... I've had three replaced earlier this year, but this latest one... well, the mechanics scratched their collective head and said "your car is screwed" meaning it can't be fixed, but that I could try driving it around and see what happens.

So I parked it in my driveway, and used my wife's car for the little odd trips we needed to do over the holiday - like visiting the boy's grandma an hour and a half away. I noticed that the alignment was off in her car - a Ford clone of a Mazda Tribute...

So... yesterday, we decided to take it into the shop to have fixed... but apparently something called a K-frame is rotted out meaning it is either screwed or we can have a new K-frame put in... It can't be driven on the highway, however. Always good news when one just spent three hours on the highway fighting for control.

So we went back to my car, while we figure out when and how much a K-frame costs to have shipped up to Toronto from the U.S.... but my car wouldn't even back-up out of the driveway giving me an expensive piece of art sitting in front of the garage. Zoom-zoom, it ain't.

A 2004 Mazda 6 - you can tell it's not mine, because this one is able to move. Yeah, I like wagons... my favorite car is a 1957 Chevy Nomad... I'd paint mine in Inca Silver.

Now that's a nice rear end. 1957 Chevy Nomad in Inca Silver. I've never seen one in real life, either.
Pity... that car was light and had a lot of V6 horsepower under the hood, but like a horse with a broken leg, you put it out of its misery.

The worst part of my disabled car, is that I just put a full tank of gas in it. At $70 a fill, I'll suck it out if I can stomach it.

So... two cars... screwed... but I bought my first American car, and Oldsmobile, officially making me an old man. On the plus side, this car was only driven by a preacher's wife, and never in the winter. If she was from Pasadena, I would have a nice little rocket of a car...

Still, the Olds needs something fixed - minor and already included in the price, which is actually less expensive than that K-Frame my wife's car needs.

The only problem? The mechanic is out for the next several days - closing for his only vacation of the year, meaning I don't have a car until next week.

And I have to drive a few places to get the necessities... like pills so I can live to write another day, cat food and litter so Freddie doesn't kill one of us in our sleep to feed, and a new modem.

That modem - from Rogers Communication - is the only good news today.

After calling Rogers after learning that my Internet usage went through the roof thanks to my son's new Sony Play Station 4 - all the games MUST be played on-line - plus a new tablet for him, the nice people at Rogers - Dominique - provided me with a nice offer, reducing my over all Telephone, Internet and TV bill by $50 a month, meaning I'll save $600 a year... or, half the cost of my Oldsmobile.

I just need to get a newer, more powerful modem, picking it up for free at a Rogers Plus store... but how to get there?

I guess I could drive my wife's K-Frame plagued car since I don't have to take a highway or any bouncy country roads...

If there is no blog tomorrow, at least you'll know why.

By the way... who the hell fixes a broken bowl with gold, platinum or silver filler they happen to have lying around?

Somewhere with gas,
Andrew 'Carless' Joseph

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sushi Woman Table

I suppose you may have heard of the dinner past-time where guests pick their sushi or sashmi from a table - where the table is a live woman... well, it is considered an artform, one known as Nyotaimori (女体盛り)

I have never done this, nor seen it live because I guess I just don't seem cool enough or goofy enough to warrant an invitation.

I've eaten a lot of weird things in Japan - most of which I have enjoyed... but I really don't see the need for or use of having a live naked female as my dinner table.

As me as a guest - sure... though looking at the image above, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be hungry for more.

Nyotaimori is known as body sushi.

In case there's a naked male dinner table, the Japanese have a name for that, too - Nantaimori (男体盛り.

No lest one think this was something created by the Japanese version of Hugh Hefner (Playboy) or Bob Guccioni (Penthouse), this decadent dinner setting owes it origins to the what I read was the so-called samurai period... but that is pretty damn wide... but let's just say that it's from around 1000 to 500 years old. It was supposed to have been offered as a victory celebration for samurai warriors at a geisha house.

Please note, that at no time is the table obligated to have sex with the diners. In fact, it's just not done, because in the case of Nyotaimori, the living table is just a table. 

By the way, sushi itself isn't a Japanese origin, as it does indeed owe its start to Thailand, where fish was salted and packed in rice to preserve it longer than a couple of days in the time before refrigeration. The Japanese, however, may have perfected the art - or at least if you ask them, they have. I can't argue. Aside from the weak California sushi roll, I've only ever had Japanese-style sushi.

Anyhow...  Nyotaimori.

The living dinner table is NOT restricted to the Japanese model... in fact, nowadays, it is considered to be more upscale to have a gaijin (foreigner) as the table, though the key regardless of table of origin is to have as many flat places as possible in order to place the food upon.

Now... unless truly gauche, the food is placed upon sanitized (washed) leaves, so the food does not touch the flesh of the table.

Prior to all that, of course, the living tableau is required to wash themselves properly with scentless soap and then end with a cool bath  - you want your sushi on a cool platter to better preserve its delicate flavor.

They must also be able to lie very, very still - not talking or interacting with the patrons in any way - and be able to withstand the coldness of the meal served upon them. Again, flatter surfaces are best... so while a 'plate' of food may be placed upon say, a woman's breasts, it would be best for the diners if she didn't have pointy or puffy nipples. At least that's my take on things.

Now, while I don't see the point of having so much fricking money that you need to show off by having a body table - so what the heck do I know - but many people see the whole thing as objectifying the woman or man acting as the table.

There are, of course, two ways of looking at things - which is my specialty in this blog - yes, it objectifies the man or woman doing the table thing.

But, no one is making the person play the part of the table. This is a job, and one that requires a bit of training and self-control. The person is also being paid for the job as living sushi table.

These are generally models, doing the work. And it is work.

We can argue until the cows come home, whether or not a person would need to do this job if Nyotaimori did not exist or whether Nyotaimori would STILL exist if there wasn't anyone willing to play the role of dinner table. The point is, both exist, like it or not.

I am unsure of the rules, but I am pretty sure the dinner guests need not be naked, too. 

I'm not sure how I would react to having a naked woman as my dinner table... but, I'd probably embarrass myself with a boner as I reached over to chopstick some unagi (eel) sushi - my favorite, poking her in the eye and causing the table to upset itself.

Still, while I am unsure of the dining rules of etiquette, I am pretty sure the dinner guests need not be naked, too. 

Somewhere making a point,
Andrew (I'll clear the table) Joseph

 




Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The New 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium

Five months after choosing an Olympics stadium design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and scrapping it afterwards as being too costly, or not aesthetically-pleasing to the surrounding area or not aesthetically-pleasing because it looked like a giant turtle or not aesthetically-pleasing because it was designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, Japan thinks it finally has it right.

The new stadium (see image above) was designed by Japanese architect Kuma Kenga (surname first) and will be built by Taisei Corporation.

During the decision-making, the winning design was known as Proposal A and is considered to be a more traditional-looking design that narrowly beat a bolder, more modern design from Ito Toyo (surname first).
Ito Toyo's failed bid for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium design.
This winning design by Kumai will cost ¥149 billion (US $1,237,837,397.98)- and note that the stadium budget was set at ¥155 billion (US$1,287,679,385.89). So they did save $50-million bucks.

The stadium is supposed to be 49.2 meters (161.1-feet) high or maybe 50 meters (164-feet) - I have heard both numbers... Go with the first, since it doesn't seem rounded up by western media.

The field is below the main surface? It's Japan... they'll make it earthquake-tolerable... right? It's not mentioned, but new Tokyo buildings have to be resistant to earthquakes - to a certain degree.

The new stadium is a combined steel and wood structure with a relatively flat roof with shrubbery (I always like a nice shrubbery) along its outer concourses, and will have the main athletic area sunk below the surface.

Viva la taco! Hey Japan - where's the beef?
The stadium, I am told, seems to be similar to traditional Japanese temple designs, but I don't really see it. Although located near the Jingu Shrine, by using visible wood in the design, along with the hybridization of metal, it was bee-ess-ed that the stadium is an expression of "Japanese harmony".

Harmony?

Like with the stadium design snafu (situation-normal-all-fugged-up) or the 2020 Olympic logo being stolen from a previous existing design and then, after being sold and used, had to be scrapped under much embarrassment?

Now... since I am from the west, when it comes to our stadia, we like to have lots of parking in the design only to discover afterwards that though there may be parking lots, just not many.

From looking at the image at the very top, you'll notice that no parking was designed into the complex... well, for those of you who have ever walked around in Tokyo, land for parking is near non-existent... which is okay, because Tokyo is one of those global cities that has a fantastic subway system made up of some nine train lines and 179 stations and covers 195.1 kilometers.

People will be able to get there.

So... after 2020... what will the stadium be used for? Same thing the 1964 Olympic stadium was used for until it was torn down last year. Track and field events, soccer matches, and hopefully Monster Truck Jams.I saw one - bring ear plugs - and it was one of the most entertaining afternoons I have ever had with my clothes on.

If you want to read more about the old stadium design and Japanese aesthetics, click HERE. Same if you want to read about plagarism and the Olympic logo bugger up - HERE.

Somewhere preferring a burrito over a taco,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Trek Sushi Set

Matthew sent me these images of the ultimate collectible for lovers of Star Trek and Japan... no, it's not George Takei, but the next best thing.

A sushi set.

I don't know what to say, except that it's beautiful set depicting the original Star Trek ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701.

The nacelles hold the wonderful blue plastic chopsticks... the removable lid on the primary hull can hold your soy sauce - and for heaven's sake add the wasabi to it. Plus, the star ship can also be spun around to provide the best possible access for the hungry sushi or sashimi eater.

Product Specifications  
  • A full set of sushi-ware shaped like the U.S.S. Enterprise from the original Star Trek TV series;
  • Includes: Wood sushi plate, chopsticks, and soy sauce dish;
  • Chopsticks look like a warp effect, but slide out of the nacelles for use;
  • Top of saucer section removes to reveal soy sauce dish;
  • Enterprise body rotates, for perfect sauce placement;
  • Officially-licensed Star Trek sushi equipment;
  • A ThinkGeek creation and exclusive!
  • Materials: Wooden base, BPA free chopsticks, stainless steel soy saucer section;
  • Care Instructions: Surface clean only;
  • Not dishwasher or microwave safe;
Dimensions: 
  • Fully Assembled: approx. 14.9" x 3.5" x 4.5"
  • Chopsticks: approx. 0.4" (thickest diameter) x 9.25" long
  • Soy Sauce Dish: approx. 3.3" diameter x 0.4" deep (at its deepest point)
You can order the set from www.thinkgeek.com - HERE.

It costs US $34.99, but is currently on sale for $29.99, which saves you 14%.

Buy yours at warp factor 5 now,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Kanji Of The Year

Every year, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation - a kanji promotion group gets together and reveals at Kiyomizudera (清水寺, literally "Pure Water Temple") in Kyoto, Japan what voters have felt deserves to be the ktoshi no kanji (今年の漢字), literally 'kanji of the year'.

For 2015, on December 15, the kanji that was deemed to best represent the world of Japan is: An (安) which means safety or peaceful.

In the photo above, Mori Seihan (surname first), the chief priest of the Kiyomizu-dera writes the kanji alphabet via shodo, the traditional Japanese form of calligraphy, using a giant calligraphy brush on a sheet of washi (Japanese paper) 1.5 meters (59") high and 1.3 meters (51.2") wide.

When I write MY name in kanji... I use An-doh-ryu, which translates to peaceful-leader-dragon... eschewing the standard 'do', which means earth or ground.

When I was in Japan, the Japanese loved that I used that kanji. I also used an older, more complex kanji for dragon because I was showing off that I could write it. I even had a large hanko (stamping block) made for signing my signature. An old blog of mine from July of 2009 can be seen HERE.

So... this year's 2015 kanji was chosen to counter what King ... er, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) has been acting like... as he tries to allow Japan to have more than a Self-Defense Force... to create an Army, if you will, that was eliminated after WWII as part of Japan's punishment for its part in the war against Asia and the rest of the Allied forces.
Prime Minister Abe holding up a truer version of 'An' and less calligraphy-like.
Voters also thought along a global point if view, as terrorism as in France were dominating news forums.

Of the 129,647 entries received, 'An' garnered 5,632.

The second-place-getter was the kanji "baku (explosive)" with "sen (war)" coming in third.

This was the 21st annual poll since the event began in 1995.

In 2014, "zei (tax)" won because the Japanese thought they were facing heavier financial burdens... but I kindda ripped that concept - see HERE.

A full list of the kanji chosen since 1995 can be found HERE.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Japanese Male AV Star: Ken Shimiken

Born in 1979 in a small village a few hours outside of Tokyo, Sjimizu Ken (surname first 清水健) who goes by the name Shimiken, is THE King of male Japanese AV (adult video) stars.

With an estimated 70 (generous) to 30 (likely) male porno actors in Japan, Shimiken is very much in demand for an industry that films some 4,000 porno flicks a month... which, by his estimates, has him working 21 scenes a week, nine hours a day, seven days a week... all of which earns him ¥50,000 to ¥60,000 ($420 to $505) per shoot.

Taking the 70 men in the industry available for the 4,000 films per week, Shimiken and his 16 cm (6.3") pecker appear in one in every 57.14 of those films every month. Or if there are only 30 male actors, it means he is in 133.33 films a month.

Sorry, come again? Yes... and again and again. That's a lot of sex. 4+ times a day? I think I wish that a week - even by myself. Bucket of ice for Shimiken.

It's a good thing Shimiken likes sex... likes it a lot... likes it more than most Japanese people do, as a matter of fact, given Japan's seemingly lack of desire to copulate. Though given his rate of ejaculation, he likes it more than damn near everyone on the planet.

6.3"? That's a porno king?

Sure it is.

It's all about relative size, with the majority of Japan's female adult video performers being being quite diminutive. His 6.3" on screen looks like 9" when compared to the more familiar western female stars. It's all about perspective.

But surely there are more men clamoring to get into Japanese AV porn women. Imagine trying to have sex with a camera stuck between your legs and a bunch of people around you with lights, sound equipment and juice bottles providing direction on what you need to do or not do next.

"No... not yet... " causing you to have to think of something horrible to shake whatever euphoric feeling you were about to enjoy both physically and mentally. That's ejaculation and orgasm... two different things.

Every guy probably thinks they would like to do it - all that sex... but would you?

Kiss any sort of normal life or relationship bye-bye... in fact, Shimiken, although once married with two daughters tried, he is divorced, with the family living far away from him and his career... he says the kids don't know... and even if he was to go and visit them in Hokkaido, everyone there would know, and soon his kids could be ostracized or teased...

It's ain't easy being king.

Shimiken said that while still relatively new to the pron game and loaded with a fat wallet, finding housing in Japan was nigh impossible, as checks on employment showed him as involved in the porn industry... and despite many, many, many people wishing they were him doing everything to the actresses, his profession was /is still looked down upon.

He got lucky that one woman landlord had no problem renting to him as she was a fan, agreeing to rent to him if he would have dinner with her and a group of her friends. That's it? She could have asked for something else.

Back in high school at the age of 15, Shimiken knew he liked sex and liked it a lot... even acknowledging a few fetishes. He says he used to sneak out onto the school's roof an masturbate down so that his ejaculate would splatter against the window causing his female classmates to grunt in apparent disgust. I say apparent... I have no idea how they felt.

He's not normal. In high school he wrote a film review of the porn version of The Swiss Family Robinson (it translated into the 'poop and pee' Family Robinson... which was refused entry in the school paper, so he put it up on a bulletin board instead.

"Until I saw that movie, I was so ashamed of my own kinks and desires," he says. "Then I saw there is a place where I could live these things out and have fun—a place it's totally acceptable. Maybe there are other people like me, too."

He still managed to get accepted into a private university, but decided against going, deciding instead to get into modeling, while honing his physique into a buff one.

Shimiken has boinked his way into some 7,000 films over the past 18 years he has screwed over 7,500 different female costars, including: a former teen pop singer; Hungarian exchange students; and even a pair of 72-year-old twins. Holy GGILF! I mean the latter, of course.

For his first ever porn shoot, he answered an ad in a newspaper, and found out they wanted him to eat a plate of real feces... so he did. I am unsure from what creature, but we'll assume human.

He was paid ¥15,000 (US$126).

H was sick the next day and after a visit to a doctor was put on antibiotics and billed ¥20,000 ($168). Yes... you win some, you lose breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Is there anything he won't do? He says there was one time he was asked to have sex with an actress after she had finished having sex with a dog. He agreed to the scene only after a rewrite where the dog merely licked butter off the woman. Holy crap! Maybe that exclamation should have been a few paragraphs higher.

For the first year, he did odd jobs and did those university lab experiment tests.

He seems like a nice guy, quirks and all...

Then there was the other stuff.

While still an up and comer in the world of AV, he got a job as a TV personality on a Japanese evening show. If you've ever seen any of these variety shows, they are pretty brutal to damn near everyone on it - host and guest.

While the TV show knew he was an AV star, the mainstream public didn't... so they decided to screw him by telling the viewing pubic, I mean public that he was a AV actor.

Although everyone in his hometown knew, et al, he didn't feel the need to apologize for his line of work, and instead owned up to it, embracing it even saying on-air that he had eaten feces, doing so with a non-apologetic honesty.

He was a hit! An honest pervert?! Sure...

That TV show then began a segment called "Let's Fix Shimiken", where they sent Shimiken out on extreme activities like bungee-jumping and sky-diving to see if it could 'fix' him of his pornographic 'addiction', but it didn't. Instead, more AV jobs came pouring in, because now the mainstream public wanted to see more of him in real action.

The AV folks would have him pick up real women off the street and get them to come back to his house where they would film themselves having sex. In one, his mom walks in unexpectedly asking: "Shimiken? What is going on here?"

I doubt she would have used his last name... still, being caught by his mom having filmed sex (and why was he living with his mother?), he became even more popular as the nasty boy next door.

Nowadays, Shimiken makes around ¥2,800,000 ($23,573) a week, owns five cars (including a Back-To-The-Future DeLorean, without a flux capacitor), and gets to eat at the best restaurants in Tokyo.

So... eventually, Japanese AV did leave a better taste in his mouth.

Sex addicted, Shimiken says he can envision himself doing what he loves doing forever until he dies.

And he get's paid to have sex legally.

On August of 2015, Shimiken, with partners, opened up a 'joke restaurant' in Tokyo called Curry Shop Shimizu... with the specialty of the house being a curry dish that feels like and tastes like poop.'

To get that texture and flavor, the ingredients used are: onion, carrot, minced chicken, bitter gourd, cocoa powder, bitter Japanese green gentian tea and curry powder, as well as kusaya - a sun-dried salted horse mackerel that smells like dog poo. Oh yeah, it is served in a bowl that looks like a traditional Japanese toilet.

My ex-dog, Buster would have eaten it. I had to give him Listerne strips...
Is he making money from the restaurant? No... high costs, a few curious customers, 90% of whom can actually finish a bowl... but it has it's loyal crowd, many of whom come in to see the reactions of other patrons, as well as to do that typical Japanese thing called 'penalties'.

At least there's no corn or peanuts in it.

Dude... to quote Uncle Scrooge McDuck: "A cobbler should always stick to their last." Do what you do best.

Stick to the sex, Shimiken.

Though, they could make a fortune selling gum... 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Okay, that's it for the Japanese porn for this year...

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Because I don't have the cash to send all of my wonderful friends and relatives the presents I wish I could, I instead have this wonderful platform from which to proclaim their immortality - or at least until some nuclear weapon goes off causing a magnetic pulse to take out the Internet.

As such, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good... life.

May we all find a cure for greyness, sadness and illness and words with the word 'ness' in them... oh... sh!t... except for happiness... I forgot about that... and wellness, too.. dammit... forget this last sentence.... no wait... forget that part about words with the word 'ness' in them...

To Matthew & Family, Vince, Alice, FFF, Pat and Julien... who keep reading and being all cool and giving me story ideas or letters of comment that let me know they are out there.

To Mike Rogers and Deb for being the inspiration to keep writing.

To Rob, because he was one of the first people I ever sent a copy of Rife to... and Kevin and Nigel and Steve G.... just because... and to my bud, Doug and my cat Daffy/Daphne who both passed away this year... and to the wife and the boy and to the new cat, Freddy (I like my cats to have a Scooby-Doo link for some reason)...

To my Dad who provided the very first comment to this blog telling me I had made a grammatical mistake or three... I'm consistent at least... and to my brother who should read this blog but hasn't, but he's a good guy anyways. And the same for my aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews and brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and the boy's other grandparents who are too good to my son...

To the folks I have met while coaching soccer (EYSL), baseball (Bloordale) and sorta helping out in hockey at the OPHL... I'm still learning...

And to the long lost but reacquired friends Antoine and Linda...

To the gang at Tuttle Publishing and Stone Bridge Press who seem to like my quirky book reviews!

And to all of you silent readers who read and enjoy and comment politely and anonymously... 2.3-million+ of you and counting. Holy smokes, I'm coming up on 3,000 blogs soon enough in January! With luck that will continue...

Merry Christmas.

It's been a wonderful rife. Mostly.
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Japan's Favorite AV Star - Ria Sakurai


Ria Sakurai, born July 19, 1989, is a retired Japanese AV (adult-video) star who continues to remain one of the most searched for Japanese porn stars on the Internet.

She allegedly retired after the devastating March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami that devastated the north east of Japan.

Blood Type:  AB
Height : 1.52 meters - 5'-0";
Weight - not much:
Bust: 80 cm - 31.5"
Waist: 56 cm - 22"
Hips: 82 cm - 32.3".

Her claim to fame is that she looks like a teenager, which means she is very popular in all forms of Japanese porn, as the schoolgirl/Lolita thing really gets the Japanese horn-dog male going.

Personally, it used to get me going - back when I was in high school - but as an adult, I don't understand this Japanese obsession for getting off on boinking anyone that looks like a kid.

Anyhow... born in Akita-ken, Ria was really affected by the devastation of March 11... and suffered what was described as a nervous breakdown. I would assume she lost some people that day...

I've watched some of her movies in an effort to be a better reporter here, and I can tell you that I can't tell if she's acting, which makes her movies that much more believable. No... I didn't say that with a straight face.

Do you know how tough it was to find unadulterated porn pix of a Japanese porn star?

Consider the photos attached your early Christmas present. For my faith female fans, thank you for being understanding, but just know that I'll do something similar on Boxing Day. Guys, you'll still want to read it, because everything is just information. 

For a bio on another famous Japanese female AV star, Erika Sato, click HERE.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Yo-Kai In The Machine

Being a Star Wars fan (actually, I'm a science-fiction fan - both hard and soft), I am pumped to see the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie.

The fact that I haven't yet seen it is more due to the fact that I'm not so much of a nerd that I have to see things the first day or even week. Sorry Julien :). Look... I didn't even see the first Star Wars flick until a year after it came out.... I think I had soccer or judo or music lesson or something when my traitorous friends all decided to go see it... meaning I had no one go and see it with later.

Back then, kids didn't often go and see a movie multiple times, because being a nerd wasn't as accepted a thing as it is now. After a year of whining, I was finally able to convince a new friend (nyahhh!) to see it with me. I already knew what the movie was about, however, because I had read the comic books (six issues, as well as the two giant treasury editions) from Marvel Comics, as well as a hardcover first print of the novel with some photos of the movie as it was being shot. Yeah... I was ahead of the curve even if I wasn't.

I also have Star Wars dolls, er... action figures out the ying-yang. Okay... they were my brother's, but I have'em and am looking after them. While everything is in kid brother played in condition, I at least have two Millennium Falcon's... one in its box. Whatever... I enjoyed the movies.

In fact... I still enjoy the movies... as does my son, Hudson, who is now 10 and is playing Star Wars Battlefront on his Sony PS4 with a friend as I type this up. One more argument between them and I'll be forced to use my Vader Sith choke grip.

He and I just finished watching all six of the movies as a prep for the new movie, which we'll see sooner than the one year it took me to see Episode Four.

So... popular movie? Yup.

All across the world, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was breaking box office records for its opening weekend and week... everywhere around the world... except Japan.

How the fug can that be? They have Star Wars events at professional baseball games - years before this latest movie was even announced (though, truth be told, I knew back in 1977 that Star Wars author (yes he wrote the book) was always doing a triple trilogy of mine movies.) Japan loves Star Wars.

Yeah... only apparently they love Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2: King Enma and the 5 Stories, Nyan!, the second animated movie in a video game series that is dominating Japan right now.
Yo-Kai Watch is #1 in Japan! Take that American capitalism! Japanese capitalism is the best!
 Yup... Star Wars: The Force Awakens was beaten at the Japanese box office by an animated flick that is a sequel movie based on a video game. Nyan. WTF is 'nyan'? The cat's 'meow' in Japanese? It is?

Well... congratulations Japan... you guys are now, officially, the biggest nerds on the planet... of every planet in this galaxy, at least.

Now... in Japan, they track movie popularity by the number of ticket sales as opposed to dollars/yen taken in... which is a more fair representation or popularity, I think.

Anyhow, in Japan, on this past weekend of Saturday and Sunday, 975,000 tickets were sold for Yo-Kai Watch (Yokai, as far as I can tell, means ghost, but it ties into animism, which is the belief that anything can have a spirit lurking inside... which means humans, your bento box, or even bicycle helmets can have a spark of supernatural life in it), while Star Wars garnered 800,000 sales.

Huh... the force is strong in Yo-Kai Watch.

Now, despite Japan being a manga (comic book) and anime (animated toon)-lovin' country, Yo-Kai Watch's audience was largely non-adult (whew!), so the cheaper tickets means Yo-Kai Watch took in US$8.71-million over those two days, while Star Wars sold more expensive adult tickets helping itself to US$10.3-million.

I suppose kids could be forgiven for not being as interested in Star Wars (yet). Perhaps they haven't been able to see all six of the previous entries and only really have the Yo-Kai Watch video games (super popular and super fun, I hear) as reference.

Yo-Kai Watch is currently the most-popular video game and merchandising thing in Japan... even beating the perennial Pokemon in the box office in 2014.

Because, Star Wars and Star Trek be damned, there is no sound in space, that sound you hear isn't a death star exploding (image at very top), but is, rather, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrahms tongue clicking derisively.

Deus ex Star Wars machina,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Smash Christmas!

There is a movement afoot in Japan that might seem strange on one hand, but perfectly normal on the other. I am talking about the recent phenomenon called 'Smash Christmas'.

On Saturday December 19, 2015, about 20 Japanese men - a Communist-inspired group called "Losers with Women" took to the streets of Tokyo to protest against Christmas.

Don't let the fact that they are a communist-type group bother you, comrade. Rather revel in the fact that they are protesting against Japan's fascination with accepting and rolling over onto its back for Western holidays.

It's not just a group that is against Christmas, but against all forms of commercials via holidays.

Still... I can understand this group's lack of love for Christmas.

Japan is a land of Buddhism and Shintoism... there are very few converts to Christianity there  - and I'm not talking about the foreign contingent.

While there may be up to 3-million Japanese Christians in Japan, Christianity (キリスト教 Kirisuto-kyō) still only makes up about less than one percent of the populations faith.

Surely marketers in the savvy economic world of Japan aren't peppering capitalism with Christianity when it's only such a small percentage of people?>

Japan... like the westerners they sometimes despise but secretly want to be like, has embraced the economic aspect of Christmas.

Blame KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) for the initial love affair with Christmas... thanks to a keen marketing program that goes back several decades (see HERE)... but for Japan, there is no Christ in Christmas... so this is not necessarily a religious holiday (holy day) in Japan, but one fraught with crass commercialism.

What? Someone against the commercialism of Christmas? No... they are actually against the commercialism of Japan by western marketers - despite what other media outlets decry... and for that... I actually applaud this group.

The group does need a better name, however. "Losers with Women."? Does that imply that they are losers who have women, or merely losers with women? It makes a difference.... but since the protest involved some 20 men, I would assume they are just losers with women who don't have a woman.

Well... at least they have each other.

The group of angry young men despise capitalism of Christmas for the fact that it is capitalism, but also because it discriminates against the single man.

Their 'Smash Christmas" banners were on full display as they marched in Tokyo's Shibuya-district where couples and families were shopping - probably for Christmas presents...

"In this world, money is extracted from people in love, and happy people support capitalism," says the group's leader."Christmas is the most symbolic event for this."

He - Mark Water - an alias - says that the rally was to support unloved men.

Heck... yeah... but maybe if you weren't so angry, you might find a nice woman... you know..., buy her something nice to impress upon her your affections... but no... that would mean you are buying into commercialism.

Not surprisingly, the group has also protested against Valentine's Day, though I am unsure why.

In Japan, February 14 is Valentine's Day, but it is the day for a woman to make her romantic intentions know by giving out valentines to the men (or other women, I suppose).

The Japanese men... they sit back on their butts and wait for the women to make the first move, and then after finding out which women would like them to be their valentine, the men reciprocate on March 14 aka White Day. You can read an old blog I did on Valentine's Day's origins and what is done in Japan HERE.

I look at Japan and Valentine's Day and wonder when all the adults became a bunch of pre-teens!

"I like him, does he like me?!"

Holy crap... the only adults I have ever seen give out Valentines are those who are dating or are already married.

There's no frickin' guesswork to determine if 'this is the one'.

Anyhow... I can see why one would protest against the commercialization of Christmas... a time when it is better to give rather than to receive... when we should be helping those less fortunate than ourselves rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on presents for people in our own family sure that they will reciprocate.

I'm guilty of that, but I do give charity when I can... even if it's an old pair of gloves or a couple of bucks. I'm not rich. Sometimes I can't even afford the gas to get to work. I'm not alone in this, either. I sure as heck can't afford a vacation or even a house. But I make sure my family has what it needs. Ask me again why I don't have a cell phone.

And you know what? I don't care. Those idiots in Japan are right about the commercialism of Christmas... but they just aren't right about why.

Now... I don't mean to put a downer on anyone... there's nothing wrong with buying presents if you can afford it... but it's not the true meaning of Christmas. Those guys are right... it shouldn't be about all those Boxing Day sales or Black Friday events... buying stuff you don't really need, but only buy because the things are on sale... but as long as you are, remember that there are many people less fortunate than ourselves who live on the streets for whatever reason... or kids whose single parent can't afford anything but to maybe pay the bills... help them out and rediscover what Christmas is really about.

It's not about commercialism... and it's not about Smash Christmas... it's about being a decent person.

I suppose these Japanese single men would like to be able to do something nice at Christmas... but their protest isn't the real Christmas way to go about doing it.

Sure... smash Christmas and its commercialism if you must, but at least get into the true spirit of what Christmas is really about.

And yeah... I'm guilty of falling into the commercialism of it all, too. And when I think about it like I am now... it doesn't make me overly happy.

Those people who volunteer at the Food Banks, or volunteer for other things.... like coaches and organizers for kid's sports... those who donate because they can... that's great. It doesn't even have to be at Christmas time... I've coached kid's soccer, baseball... and am helping out in hockey... you do what you can... it's not always about the money or the bling... it is the thought that counts, right?

People need a reminder about that every once in a while...

Have a merry Christmas, but give someone else a merry Christmas, too.

Smash Christmas? Sure... if you don't understand what it really means...

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, December 21, 2015

Miss Universe Japan 2015 - Miyamoto Ariana - Updated

Miyamoto Ariana Mamiko (宮本 エリアナ 磨美子, surname first, first name, middle name) was born on May 12, 1994 in Nagasaki, Japan.

Her biggest claim to fame, despite being elected Miss Universe Japan 2015, is that she isn't a full-blooded Japanese (whatever that is).

And that's sad.

She is of mixed-race heritage - a hafu (half Japanese and half-Black), thanks to her Japanese mother loving and marrying a Black American man named Bryant Stanfield, who was stationed at the United States Navy base in Sasebo-shi in Nagasaki-ken.

Not a big deal to most people on the planet, but in 2015 Japan, it was and still IS a big deal to some.

I won't get into that whole hafu (Half) crap thing here, because to me it has no place or bearing on Miyamoto as Miss Universe Japan, regardless of how the country feels. She was chosen to represent Japan because for that competition, she was the best candidate. 'nuff said.

Except that I applaud the Miss Universe Japan committee for having the balls and decency to overlook race, and simply choose the best Miss Universe Japan person they could choose. There's hope for Japan, yet.

Although Ariana-chan went to school in Japan, she left at age 13 to go and live with her father in Jacksonville, Arkansas... which when you think of it, isn't the most cosmopolitan of all the cities in the U.S. I do have a friend - Black dude - who married his White wife and have mixed race kids in Arkansas... and he said to me that although they still get looks from people, it's not as bad as one might suspect. He and his family are quite in love with Arkansas and its people. Amen, brother.

Ariana-chan went to high school there for two years, but did return after that to Japan where - no she didn't go back to high school right away - she worked at odd jobs, including as a bartender... which makes me wonder how old you have to be to work serving drinks in a bar in Japan.

Although endowed with typical Japanese features as black hair and brown eyes, she is tall and lithe at 1.73-meters (5'-8")... and as you can see from the various photos, possesses a... what's the polite way of saying it?... screw it... a big set of cans. I'm a behind guy, so while impressive, her bosom is merely a bosom to me.

Weight, three-sizes (Bust-Waist-Hips): no idea. Blood-type: Really? No idea. I don't believe she has a boyfriend, though.

Ariana-chan, doesn't consider herself to be anything except Japanese... it's where she was born, grew up, speaks the language...

She has been called in the Japanese media as "saishoku kenbi (a woman with intelligence and beauty)"... but dammit, isn't that what all of the Miss Universe contestants, Japanese or otherwise, are?

She is also very good at Japanese calligraphy (書道, shodō), having achieved a rank of 5th degree mastery.

After the bartending gig, she decided to get into modeling... in Japan, believe it or not, on television and in other media, a lot of the female models are biracial. Fug... I hate that term.

Anyhow, she is beautiful... and as such, she was convinced to also try her hand in the beauty pageant biz, and on March 12, 2015, Ariana-chan was named Miss Universe Japan 2015 (Miss Japan 2015).

I don't even know how to say this, except: I don't give a crap if a person is Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Blue (be happy) or Green or take your pick of any of the Pantone colors out there, and I believe the same holds true for the judges at the Miss Universe pageant.

However... for the sake of racial tolerance - and the whole "I-told-you'we needed-a-more-Japanese-looking-Miss-Universe"... I hope Ariana-chan at least makes it mast the Preliminary round or wins one of the ancillary awards. I hope, of course, that she does so on her own merits.

Things haven't been easy for Ariana-chan, growing up in Japan, because of her gaijin 'look'. Here are some of her comments on what it has been like for her:
  • "I was called a nigger by some of my peers. Some of them threw trash and even a blackboard duster at me."
  • "I’m Japanese through and through, but in Japan if you look “foreign” you are often not accepted as Japanese. But I am Japanese – 100 percent."
  • "Skin color bears no relationship to what a person is. It’s just one of the differences like wearing blue clothes or wearing red clothes."
  • "I have no objections against the word ‘hafu’ and I accept myself as being hafu."
  • "With so little multiculturalism in Japan, the term is somehow understandable, although it has made me wonder who I am at times."
I don't agree that she need consider herself as 'hafu'. She need only consider herself to be Ariana.

That type of crap happens to lots of people who don't fit the 'majority' societal 'look'. Me, too, and perhaps, you as well.

I think it's getting better, though sometimes it's not. When you write a blog like this, one gets a few yahoos from time to time who like to anonymously spew their racial hatred... such as this one comment I got last month:

"You are not a "brown skinned Canadian". Canadians are white! You are an east indian parasite that happened to be born in Canada! You will always be indian so don't try to pass yourself off as anything else!"

Wow... I shouldn't even be considered a Canadian because I'm not White. The original Canadians, of course, were/are Brown, so it makes me wonder what the heck that bozo is talking about. You know... the other Indians... feather, not the dot... my band of brothers.

What I love the most about it all, is the fact that this person and his racist taunts is bothering to read a blog about Japan. Oh well... I tracked that person down via the IP address and know who it is and where they live.

For the record, I wasn't even born in Canada, but in England... you know, the mother country of Canada. God save the Queen. I've never even been to India... don't speak the language... and like the food as much as the next person, honestly stating I've eaten such cuisine maybe less than 30 times in my life, and only at the urging of my friends.

And yeah, I get these comments often enough that it almost shakes my faith in humanity... and then I remember it's the Internet where so many people feel brave to voice their angry, racist opinions. I voice an opinion, but I at least put my real name to it. Whatever. Right or wrong, people are allowed to have an opinion.

Miyamoto Ariana... she has a whole country either rooting for her or hoping she fails. That's tough, and I wish her luck in all her endeavors.

You can follow here, if you like via Twitter: at twitter.com/missjapanfans, or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/public/Ariana-Miyamoto.

By the time you read this, the Miss Universe 2015 pageant will be over... it being held December 20, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA... where I got married in 2001. Talk about gambling... my own personal space odyssey.

And... Holy Crap - she got a Top10 finish!!!! She actually came in 10th place out of 80 contestants! Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines was crowned Miss Universe 2015. Congrats!

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Yes... I should have done this biography back in March when she was first elected Miss Universe Japan 2015. But she's worth the wait, eh?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Japan Railways Build Turtle Tunnels

I love animals… and depending on what they are, as pets or as food. Never both, though I understand that it can be for some people.

Human beings have been killing, usually cooking, and eating animals since we became uprights. Before that, I am unsure if we were classified as human-proper.

If you are a vegetarian - good for you. Just make sure you get some sun. I'm an omnivore, and eat damn well anything that gets within arm-reach.

Now, despite my predilection for consuming animals, it doesn't mean that I enjoy seeing animals die needlessly. Again, if they are dying to feed me and others of my ilk, that is not 'needlessly'.

I think that there should be preserves (not jam) for animals, where they are safe from human slaughter. I think there should be methods developed that will allow the wild to better survive alongside man and its continual quest for expansion.

As populations continue to grow (except for Japan - but it's doing its best economically) over the past several centuries, mankind has cut down forests, plowed over ponds, rerouted rivers and buried them to flow under our cities via pipes, etc… and until recently, done so without any kind of an environmental assessment.

We've plopped down towns and villages right in the midst of animal migratory tracks…. we've pushed the wild to places it doesn't want or even know how to go to…

Sometimes nature fights back… when deer invade towns, or bears come nosing around.

Sometimes nature loses… when a plethora of frogs crossing a street south of Guelph gets run over by cars (it was awful… all that crunching). I swear, I didn't even see them until I was already atop them at 1AM… oh, the un-humanity.

Anyone who's ever driven along a stretch of highway outside the city has probably seen warning signs for deer or moose crossings. Sometimes, despite the signs, cars hit and get hit by deer, elk, moose, etc.

Well… in Japan… they are apparently trying to do something about the turtles crossing paths with man…

Because there seemed to be an inordinate number of turtles causing havoc or getting crushed by train wheels in the Kobe area (I think), the West Japan Railway Company and the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe got together to develop and install turtle tunnels.

Yes… should some lucky turtle happen to stumble across the entranceway to one of these tunnels, they will be able to use it to travel under the steel rails.

Yes… check out the photo below… cool huh?
Help me, Gamara!
Look again… isn't that turtle on the far right upside down?

It's just like the worst nightmare in the Chunnel between England and France! Chaos! Anarchy! Soup!

Okay… I understand that this was a staged photograph, but of the three people there (We see two different sets of shoes - plus the photographer), didn't at least one of them know that turtles move on the flat side?

What was the solution? Place one flat-side down and one flat-side up, and see which one is able to better traverse the rails of death turtle subway?!

Look… I think this is a good idea… but really… how does a turtle find it without some brainiac human picking it up and having a 50% chance of placing it right-side up?

Now look at the image at the very top… you can see the turtle (within the red circle of doom), who has maneuvered itself in the wrong direction and now finds itself in an area where it could be crushed by the frog - the place where the track moves when changing lines…

That's pretty bad… What do ya think? Did the photographers place this poor turtle there for the photo opportunity?

Regardless… this brings me to my next point… since these turtles will still require some skill to get into the tunnel (should they be able to find it)… they will need some turtle power to hoist their petard out of that tunnel once they reach the other side.

What's to stop them from accidentally turning left or right and placing themselves on the railway ties et al?

Or… what about a small turtle… could it hoist itself up the exit side?

Is that what happened to the upside-down turtle? Did it try and climb the wall of the tunnel only to fall upon its shell… upside down… with only idiotic gawking humans to save him?

Yeah… a turtle could starve in here.

I've heard that turtles are sort of smart… not let-me-do-your-taxes smart, but smart enough to learn where these turtle tunnels are and to use them.

I'm not sure I believe that… but I'm willing to admit it is a possibility.

Can a turtle find this tunnel without any human intervention? Probably… I would assume it was placed along a known turtle path.

I would assume it could get into the tunnel… and hopefully it could get out the other side if it was strong enough or big enough to do so.

I remain unconvinced that it (turtle tunnel) will save every turtle that enters it, however… I really do hope that no human placed the critter upside down, so I can only assume it had flipped on its side while trying to scale the tunnel walls…

Still… it is a better option than the no-option present before.

And while I am adept here at pointing out the foibles of this turtle tunnel, I am not really offering a solution.

If it didn't undermine the structural integrity of the rails, perhaps flipping the turtle tunnel upside down like the turtle pictured above, so that it could travel on a dirt path, have overhead protection from the stone ballast alongside the rails, and not have any obstacle to the entrance or exit of the tunnel.

Now… was the ceiling kept open because we were afraid animals might utilize it as a cave/den/warren, etc.? It would be troublesome if the tunnel became the home of ferrets or snakes or killer bunnies.

So… does anyone have a better solution to help troubled traveling train turtles?

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: The one and only time I had turtle soup was in Japan. I bought a can at the U.S. Army store - I think I was in Tokyo… took it back to my place in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, cracked it open, heated it up and found two nickel (coin)-sized, nickel-thick pieces of turtle in this flavorful broth.
It was chewy, and a complete disappointment considering it cost be the equivalent price of $5… and this was 24 years ago.
I must have bought the mock turtle soup.
PPS: Original story and photos found at http://www.boredpanda.com/turtle-tunnel-train-track-safety-japan-railways/.
It's hardly a story. It merely hints at one. And yet, it gets 135,000 effing hits.WTF, people?!
It tells me that people want to be entertained, but not enough where they learn anything.Or perhaps they were all fooled by the sappiness of the headline - ooooh, I love turtles! You know what I mean.
Seriously? More information! What type of effing turtles are in the photo… there's at least two different ones… did no one notice the upside down turtle? Did they only take two photographs? Who funded the tunnel? What percentage? Is there a turtle toll? How many turtles die each year along that stretch of track? Why are the turtles crossing the road? There's no chicken there! What is the tunnel made off? Why is there a barrier at the turtle entrance/exits? How often does the turtle cross the road?
Instead… the bored panda article author was too bored (or stoned on eucalyptus leaves) to provide a real story, leaving me to create one in my own head. That's dangerous. But still… those questions above remain unanswered.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Andrew's First Enkai

Here's a fun re-written chapter of my life... written when I was getting something like 400 hits a month on this blog... and now, thanks to all the sex-related blogs I have populated Rife with, I now get something like... well... a lot... I get 400 hits sometimes in one hour... or sometimes over eight hours... I can't effing figure out this whole blogging interweeb thing.

Did you know, that I often write the best funny stuff when I'm not feeling funny? Total oxymoronic stuff, but whatever. It's like some part of me wants to be funny, but another part of me says to stifle myself, Edith. I don't know when my life became a sitcom.

No... waitaminute... I do know.

Submitted for your approval, here's a revised rendition of Andrew's First Enkai in Japan.

And should you be wondering how the hell anything that follows could have possibly happened if I was as 'confused' as I purport to be, all I know is that I maintain my memory when having a few drinks... with only one time ever where I had some memory loss. This isn't that time.

And, if it makes you all hate me even more... I never get hangovers. Ever. I might puke, or barf, and even vomit, and get the spins... but I never awaken with a hangover. As such, I never learn my lesson.


Lesson Plan:
It's Friday, September 1, 1990. I still haven't taught a lick of English yet - but I have been told I am expected to teach the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) members some English.
Hell, no. I haven't even taught the kids yet, and I get to do that with a Japanese Teacher of English--but to teach at the OBOE, oy gevalt! Aside from Hanazaki-san, my next best student is Kanemaru-san... and he's the fastest man in the Far East with a dictionary.
However, because I am anxious to make a favorable impression of Canadians on the Japanese, I agree. There is much celebrating. OBO(Y)E.
At lunch, my class of seven anxious OBOE women and two men (my bosses) stare at me with rapt attention. I have no idea how to teach or even what to teach. I ask Hanazaki-san if there is anything they would like to learn. The men say: bad-o words. The women giggle. I wink at the men and say, dame ("da-may" = no way). I give them the basic conversational: "Hello. My name is. - " and "What is your name?" stuff. They are surprisingly good and after 60 minutes are able to say: "Herro. Mayonaise is add your name-o hee-ya. Whato izu yo-a name-o?"
Better than any Japanese I know.
After class Hanazaki-san tells me that they are having an enkai (party) in my honor tonight, and ask if I can attend. I didn't have the guts to create a joke answer.
After work, Kanemaru-san drives me to my apartment throwing my bike in the back of his van. It's NOT a white van, and that confuses me.
I get dressed and we drive over to the Ohtawara Banquet Hall a mere two minutes away from the OBOE.
If you've seen one banquet hall, you've seen them all... they all sort of have this crappy Italian look to them. Fake. I'm not saying Italian architecture is fake or crappy... I'm just saying that the hall is crappy. Inside, all the walls are covered in gold wallpaper, but not real gold, because that would me getting kicked out of Japan for theft. The carpeting is red. And it's all quite jarring to my foreign eyes.
Along the far wall is a lectern sitting atop a two-inch high stage that I discover after tripping over it. On the wall behind the stage is a Canadian flag on the left, a Japanese flag on the right, and a poster with Japanese kanji (one of three alphabets) that I hope welcomes me—who knows, though. The Japanese, as I have been quick to discover, have a delicious sense of humor.
The people at the enkai are the OBOE, plus a whole bunch of people I think might be English teachers from the schools I would teach at.
I think.
I don’t know about you, but I get lost when meeting new people.
You walk in some place, they introduce everyone to you… they all know who you are, but because you have to memorize 47 other names, you pretty much just say “Hey!” or “Hi!”, never making things personal.
Well… now add in the fact that my introductions were done in Japanese… and then when they did introduce themselves in English, they spoke their name IN JAPANESE. And they did it quickly.
Like anyone who has no aptitude for languages, I had no idea who I was listening to, and, as such, did not learn their names.
While this would change over my stay, the names of the non-English teachers would invariably remain an elusive mystery.
It sucks, but it 75% of the time it’s true in 96% of the cases.
Anyhow… although I am not required to sing my national anthem to get this party started (I have a nice voice, just not a nice singing voice), Hanazaki-san (I only recently learned he used to be a junior high school science teacher) stepped up to the microphone and gave a short introductory speech in English.
“Welcome Andrew-sensei...”
... and then pointed to me and with two fingers mimed walking and then pointed to the two-inch high stage, pointed at the microphone and said his next sentence:
“Please.”
I have to say that in what would eventually become three years in Japan, this was one of the few times I was NOT surprised to learn I had to do something. As I began speaking – in English, I was surprised, however, when Shibata-sensei of Ohtawara Junior High School began translating my words into Japanese.
Remember, pretty much everybody there was an English teacher and could speak and understand English, right?
No… they wouldn’t need the translation… I'm sure it was translated for my few fellow OBOE staff who came out to celebrate my inaugural meeting with the city's middle school English teachers. Excluding those that I met a couple of weeks earlier in a drunken stupor during Obon. Of course, many of the people I met at that time were also in a drunken stupor, so it's likely no one remembers our first meeting.
Turns out I was mostly correct. I was drunk and couldn't remember anything. My Japanese counterparts (IE teachers... at this time, I still considered them my equals—ah, ignorant foreigner)—they knew who I was.
The speech was fine. I apparently said all the right things, and did not have to apologize to anybody. Bottles of wonderful Kirin Lager beer were opened up, toasts were made (in Japan, rather than 'cheers' or 'salute' the Japanese say 'kanpai' which is pronounced: kahn-pie), and food was served.
I had a great time meeting the English teachers—and I must say it was a fantastic idea of the OBOE to even think about doing something like that. Sure, any excuse for an enkai, but still, the OBOE really looked after me.
By 10PM, it was over. I didn't realize it at the time, but all of the good little English teachers had to head home and get some sleep because they had school the next day (Saturday). I had no idea. I had the day off because that is what Westerners do.
Anyhow some of the bad little English teachers and various members of the OBOE said we should hit the local bars.
Someone drove us to the drinking area of Ohtawara, which as it turns out is a three-minute walk or 11-minute stagger from my apartment. I recall Kanemaru-san buying me a bowl of hot ramen noodles and beer before we staggered off to a karaoke bar... which doesn't translate well for karaoke...which you might not know means, drunken idiots trying hard to sound as loud as possible.
I really do have a decent, powerful voice and a face made for radio—but that mot to sing crappy songs.
I probably had enough to drink  about seven beers prior we got to the place—who knows how much I had, as they kept topping up my glass as I drank it down!)—and I knew I had to stick around because it's my party and I'll die if I want to. Plus I wanted to fit in. Doing one’s best to fit into life in Japan is how best to have a successful time in Japan. There… hopefully I didn’t spoil the end of the book or anything. At some point after the bar, and before the karaoke, Kanemaru-san, Hanazaki-san and a few of the English teachers (Tomura-sensei had smartly packed it when the original party broke up, but Shibata-sensei and Inoue-sensei of Ohtawara Junior High) were definitely there. The place only had three karaoke songs in English: Country Roads, Love Me Tender, and My Way.
I'm not partial to country or western music or Sinatra but I do love Elvis, so I was going to sing his Love Me Tender. Unfortunately the Japanese teachers of English teachers decided to show off and got up on stage to butcher Elvis in English, whereby if he wasn't dead, he would have killed himself.
It's not their fault... but the voices that stood out were the ones who were either the most drunk or the ones who had a heavier Japanese accent when speaking English. Love Me Tender when sung that night became one of my favorite memories—such as they are—of Japan. Spoiler – here’s the origin of the book title and my blog: The inability of many Japanese to say the letter "L" and transform it into an "R" and the letter "V" into a "B" turned the song into Rub Me Tender.
I was on the floor and rolling under the table either very drunk or howling with laughter. Still, when they finished I bought each of them a drink.
It was then my turn. I have always liked The Sex Pistols. I had always imagined myself as kind of a suburban punk, which is why I dressed normal and sang My Way as though I was Sid Vicious, late of… well… everything. I did all of his patented leg kicks, lip snarls, and even the cracking of the voice, just as he did when he covered this Sinatra song. I was superb, and even Sid’s squeeze Nancy would have been hard-pressed to tell us apart – especially if she was nodding on some black tar heroin.
Let's just say that when I finished and staggered back to my stool, the applause from everyone was genuinely mild as almost everyone had passed out from alcohol poisoning.
At that moment, for some reason Kanemaru-san's wife came into the karaoke bar.
I thought he had left. Oh yeah… there he is right beside me with his arm around my shoulder pouring more beer into my lap and a bit into my glass.
That was my fault. I shouldn’t have held the glass over my lap like that. If I don’t die tonight, I’ll never… what was I thinking about?
So… Kanemaru-san’s wife… what was she doing there? She wasn’t at my party… no spouses, eh… still… she came in, said something… and everyone said something back and everyone bowed to each other.
She then put an arm around her husband and dragged him out into a waiting van (this one was white!)… and as I said bye-bye and bowed to them, Kanemaru–san grabbed me and said “Home” and pulled me into the van.
Too drunk to care if I was being taken home or had somehow agreed to some sort of MMF sexcapade, before I could think of something coherent to say the van stopped with a jerk and I got out.
More like poured myself out.
Mrs. Kanemaru stood in front of me, bowed and said her first English words to me "Sayanora" (which sounds a lot like Japanese for 'good bye') and drove away as the sun rose. It was 4AM.
Thank goodness there was an elevator… but I staggered over to the stairs and walked up instead. I fumbled with my keys, dropped them, nearly peeded myself as I bent to pick them up, continued with my Foster Brooks impression (look him up) and somehow got inside… I kept my shoes on as I staggered to the washroom and smartly sat down, because standing would have been a messy option when I awoke from my coma in a few days…
Sid Vicious… what was I thinking? Then again… they may never invite me out for karaoke again. Win.

-30-


Okay... what I did learn from this true tale, however, is that I really like the Japanese... Also, everyone's English gets better when they are drunk.

Somewhere doing it my way,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bugs Bunny Does Japan

I've been a Bugs Bunny cartoon fan for more decades than I care to discuss, suffice to say that when I was a kid, the Grand Island, NY television station we could pick up in Toronto (Channel 29 via UHF) would play Bugs and Porky and Daffy cartoons out the ying-yang... stuff from the 1930s and 1940s.

They didn't play any of the more racy stuff like Inky or the Bugs and Daffy toons where they embarrass the Japanese and Germans. But... they played all the other early stuff... and man was it funny.

That comedic genius continued through the late 1950s until such time that television truly came into its own, and then cartoons went, for the most part into decline... The Flintstones, Jetsons and Scooby-Doo first season being the exceptions.

Cartoons, to be perfectly blunt, sucked donkeys from the 1960 on up until 1990 or so. The younger generation who swear that the Thundercats and He-Man and Transformers were great are deluding themselves. Poor animation along with story lines that were re-used... rare was the moment that a plot device was original. It's why I hold that era up to such ridicule.

Come the 1990s... The Simpsons... Batman Adventures... Backyardigans... Roly Poly Oly... heck even Thomas the Tank Engine... Dinosaur Train...Teen Titans Go!... Family Guy... American Dad... Archer... the list goes on and on... there are so many great animated programs on television nowadays that it boggles the mind.

As for Bugs Bunny et al... they did come up with a couple of good reboots in the 1990s - Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs (not a reboot, but good new characters done in classic Warner Bros.-style humor), and The Looney Tunes Show, the last one being driven by more adult-related jokes, as the characters had girlfriends and jobs in the real world.
But, with the new 2015 show wabbit... all lowercase... we get to see Bugs Bunny at his wacky and newest best.

For the very first time in ages... Bugs Bunny is the star... with no other characters daring to steal his limelight.

Bugs is, however, partnered up with the squirrel-talk-speaking Squeaks the squirrel. The Bugs Bunny show is designated as 'wabbit' as an homage to the 1940's and 1950's cartoons depicting the human being and hunter Elmer Fudd's, whose speech impediment causes him to replace his 'R' and 'L''s with "W's".

wabbit debuted in the U.S. back in September of 2015, and about one month later in Canada, and already it is one of my favorite cartoons... with the writers and animators managing to capture that special flavor that initially made Bugs Bunny great.

He's not a pest this time... nor is a cross-dressing, man-kissing male rabbit. No... he's a wabbit... a wabbit that watches sports, drinks from a glass, and can't stand bullies...

And the world of wabbit always seems to filled with bullies for Bugs to teach a lesson to in a funny way.

Like I said... smart writing. And... there are Japan references.

The very first and second cartoons on the very first episode of wabbit featured full-blown elements of Japan.

Cartoon #1 - Buddha Bugs

After Yosemite Sam robs a Buddhist temple, he searches for the greatest of riches after encountering a monk version of Bugs Bunny.

Cartoon #2 - Now And Zen

Bugs and Squeaks face off with ninja after inadvertently disturbing their peace while gathering acorns.


Cartoon #26 - The Spy Who Bugged Me

Bugs is sightseeing in Washington D.C., while a female spy is after Bugs' green messenger bag. Hunh... a redheaded fox with a nice tail wearing a short black dress... not that I enjoy dabbling in water colors. That's a Who Framed Roger Rabbit joke, by the way.
What's the Japanese connection in each?

Well... Buddha and Buddhism help bring peace and harmony to the town... there's the ninja that look like daruma prayer dolls (modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism) battling in a bamboo forest... and finally a nice scene of Washington, DC with those nice cheery trees donated to the U.S. capital by Japan.

Also... how do I know the writers are smart? Because, rather than follow traditional ninja designs, they went a way I never saw before... with daruma-style ninja who lack both arms and legs, but still fight with much verve. wabbit is kewl.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jimmy Horio - Baseball Player

Ask anybody in 2015 North America who Jimmy Horio is, and you'll get a blank stare... but this Hawaiian baseball player still holds a Japanese baseball record that set in 1936 that I doubt will ever be broken.

Yeah, yeah... I know many of you readers either don't understand or don't like baseball - but I do. So bear with me... read it anyway, because it will give you a taste of what it was like to be a visible minority of Japanese descent in America... a wee taste.

Although playing for a number of minor league baseball clubs in North America, Horio was a pretty decent player in Japan, playing against the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig when a team of U.S. Major League All-Stars came to visit and play ball.

Here's the basics:

Fumito Jimmy Horio (surname last- he's an American or rather a Hawaiian, so the order of names is correct) was born in Maui, Hawaii on March 15, 1907, and died on December 11, 1949.

The Horio family was originally from Japan, but moved to Hawaii for work, then back to Japan - Hiroshima - in 1913, and returned to Hawaii in 1919.

As a youth, Jimmy played in the plantation baseball leagues... but when his father returned to Japan in 1928 for good, Jimmy stayed back because he wanted to try and make it to the Big leagues.

He played for the Los Angeles Nippons, a semipro team, in 1930, which toured Japan in 1931, winning 20 of the 25 games they played.

Jimmy stuck around with the LA team for four years before signing with the Sioux Falls Canaries in the Nebraska State League, and as you might suspect, was the only person of Japanese decent.

It's the 1930s in the US of A, and as such Jimmy had racist taunts thrown at him by some of the fans. (It still happens every once in a while in sports, but it seems to rear its ugly head more often in soccer and ice hockey than it does in baseball... but that's just my opinion.) In 110 games, Jimmy batted .264, with a .383 OBA, garnering 60 runs... I'm assuming that's runs scored and not RBIs... I'm not sure, though. The data isn't as clear as it could be.

In the fall of 1934, he heard that Babe Ruth and a bunch of U.S. All Stars were traveling to Japan in the off-season to play some baseball against an as yet undecided upon Japanese roster.

Jimmy figured he had a shot, so without an invite, he sent a newspaper article of himself to Miyake Daisuke (surname first), the All-Nippon (All-Japan) manager, which was enough to get a chance to workout with the team... and then enough to gain a spot on the team.

How did he do against the All-American heroes? Well, Jimmy scored All-Nippon's first run of the tournament.

Joe Cascarella pitched and hit him, awarding him 1B. Jimmy then stole 2B. Took 3B on a Frankie Hayes error. Scored on a sacrifice fly by Yamashita Minoru (surname first). He scored without Japan managing a single hit.

Later on in the tourney (another game), Jimmy managed to smash a three-run home run off Earl Whitehill.

An outfielder, Jimmy finished the tourney: 8 hits for 41 at bats, with 1HR (home run); 4RS (runs scored); 4W (walks).

That eight hits for 41 at bats, by the way, translates into a .195 batting average... which was middle of the pack for the entire Japanese team... but certainly not good enough to garner interest from any MLB to sign him.

The Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Club was formed in December of 1934 (pretty much all these same Japanese players), and Horio signed with them... as they became the first professional sports team in Japan.

In fact, Jimmy became the first American to play professional baseball in Japan when he joined that team (that team later became the Tokyo Giants), touring with them in 1935 through the U.S. and Canada, with Jimmy hitting much better: .275 batting average; 40 steals; 78 RS (runs scored) in 109 games abroad.

The Dai Nippon Baseball Club in 1935. Back row (left to right) – Shigeru Mizuhara 3B, Eiji Sawamura RHP, Toshihide Hatafuku RHP, Daiske Miyake COACH, Nobuo Kura C, Tadao Ichioka MGR, Sotaro Suzuki General Manager, Takeo Tabe 2B, Kenichi Aoshiba RHP, Hisanori Karita SS, Fujio Nagasawa 1B, Jimmy Horio CF. Front row (left to right) – Victor Starffin RHP, Yukio Eguchi UT, Usaburo Shintomi OF, Shiro Tsuda 3B, Kumeyasu Yajima OF, Tamotsu Uchibori C, Takeshi Nakayama C, Ellichiro Yamamoto UT.  Not shown – Nobuaki Nidegawa OF. Victor Starffin and Eiji Sawamura would end up with Hall of Fame careers in Japan. [Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 99-4753, photographer Stuart Thomas]

While not MLB, the Pacific Coast League's Sacramento Solons offered him a contract. Not bad... the Pacific Coast League was considered the top minor baseball league in the U.S.

Jimmy excelled... hitting a nice .291 batting average until late July... and then in August, his wife was in a car accident that eventually killed her.

Jimmy returned to the team after some mourning, but he slumped and finished the last 20 games with error-free defense, but finished with an overall batting average of .250.

As an FYI, three of the other outfielders Jimmy played with on the Sacramento team all played in the MLB eventually.

For the 1936 season, Jimmy tried out for the Seattle Indians of the Pacific Coast League, but didn't make the team, so he took off back to Japan and joined their brand new Japanese Professional Baseball League, playing for Hankyu (no nickname until 1947, when it became the Hankyu Braves, and later still the Orix Blue Wave).

The Japan baseball league had two seasons: a Spring season and a Fall baseball season, with the two champions going against each other.

Anyhow... his wife's death must have shook Jimmy up, because he hit .108 in nine games in the Spring and .179 in the Fall.

Now... although those numbers suck, no matter how one looks at it, it is possible to suggest that amongst his peers, Jimmy's batting wasn't all that bad.

In that Fall season, Jimmy was tied for 7th in RBI (runs batted in) with 17; tied for second with three triples (one behind the leader); tied for fifth with 10 steals; tied for third with 17 strikeouts... which I assume was low... but I believe it was spread out over nine games...      

Jimmy's three triples, by the way, occurred in three straight innings in a November 14, 1936 game, which is still a Nippon Professional Baseball (日本野球機構 Nippon Yakyū Kikō) record for triples in a game.

So he was actually merely adequate at his baseball job as a hitter, as it seems like the pitchers dominated the game.  

In 1937, Jimmy hit .244 and .253 in the two seasons, and again in the Fall season he was sixth with 19 doubles; sixth with 3HR. 

In 1938, he hit .289 in the Spring season, coming in 11th for batting average; third for triples; eight in steals. Then he stunk in the Fall season hitting .244. His saving grace, was that for the entire year - 56 games - he did not commit any errors in the outfield.  

For 1939 and on, Japan went to one full season, but Jimmy was signed by the Osaka Hanshin Tigers, hitting .247 batting average, 30 steals; 61 runs scored; 57 RBIs (runs-batted-in) in 96 games, committing two errors.

Despite the low batting average, he was tied for fourth in runs scored; eight with 98 hits (and he hit .247??!!); third in home runs; third in RBI and lead the league with five hit-by-pitches.

In 1940, Jimmy hit .241, scored 55 runs, 29 steals in 98 games, and was seventh in hits with 95, fourth with 22 doubles; sixth with three home runs; and fourth in stolen bases.

In 1941, he hit .202 in just 28 games, as you might realize that Japan itself was also abuzz with war... and since Jimmy was afraid of being drafted by the Japanese Imperial Army... and he wanted to avoid the war... he left...

... moving to Hawaii. D'oh! Pearl Harbor.

Despite being born in the United States, and having a cool American name like Jimmy, and being a professional baseball player (I bet he liked hot dogs and apple pie, too), after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, he set fire to his Japanese-language books and to the portrait he had of the Japanese Emperor.

If he hadn't, he felt that the optics of having such Japanese things would look pretty bad to White America.

To show his patriotism, Jimmy got a job at Pearl Harbor painting boats.

Although not talked about in the articles I read, I am assuming that Jimmy was eventually forced to relocate to an internment camp until the war ended because of fears that he could be a Japanese sympathizer.

His brother did die during the war... in Japan... in the first ever atomic blast on Hiroshima.
Jimmy Horio (close-up) from the 1935 Dai Nippon team that toured Vancouver.
Jimmy himself died in 1949 of bone cancer.

I'm assuming that because of his ability to be a consistent (for the era) hitter, Jimmy was known as the Ty Cobb of Japan, and not because he hated Blacks. Ty Cobb, enshrined in the MLB Hall of Shame, I mean Fame, was a notorious racist, a dirty player, but one hell of a hitter, who held the careers hits mark until surpassed by Pete Rose... who was and is still banned for betting on baseball games while a manager. At first it was thought he never bet on games where his own team was involved, then it turned out he did, though he says only to win. He never bet against them.

It is possible for any gambler, however, to note that when Pete didn't bet, they should bet against his baseball team. At least that's what I think. Great hitter, dumb person.

Ty Cobb... he also has the highest career MLB batting average of .366... which means that excluding walks and hit by pitches, he gets a hit 36.6% of the time.

Jimmy.... not so much... so I wonder why he was nicknamed as the Ty Cobb of Japan? His hitting exploits fall far short of Cobb's.

There was a set of baseball cards from that 1934 All Stars vs Japan tour, with the largest called the JBR 48, which contains 20 cards – 10 Americans and 10 Japanese, but sadly not one of Jimmy Horio! The other two sets lack a Horio card, as well... so he never got an official baseball card.

Okay - that's it for baseball - perhaps for the year. No... I didn't do this blog to be bunny... that's what tomorrow's blog is for.

Somewhere out of the old ball game,
Andrew "No pepper games" Joseph