Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Monday, February 29, 2016

Glover House - Nagasaki

Above is a photograph of my mother sitting front of Glover House in Nagasaki, back in 1991, three years before she died.

She is, in that photo, the same age I will be by the end of this year... so it's more than a little spooky for me, as my short-term goal is to make it past her age. Really... I actually think about stuff like that.

I've thought about it for 20+ years.

Anyhow... Glover House in Nagasaki.

As you might have suspected, Glover is not a Japanese surname. In this case, it is named after Thomas Glover, a Scot who helped form the way Japan looks during the Meiji Restoration of 1868 when the ruling Shogun and samurai class was eliminated from ruling power.

Thomas Blake Glove was the first foreigner ever decorated by the Japanese government, awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (second class) in 1908.

Glover House was completed in 1863, and was his long-time home - the first Western-style building in the country. Despite the name, Glover actually called it Ipponmatsu, which means 'single pine tree'.

An 1863 of Ipponmatsu, showing why it was called Single Pine Tree. The tree was taken down in the early 1900s.
Born on June 6, 1838, in Fraserburgh in the Scottish county of Aberdeenshire, to an English coastguard father and a Scottish mother, the fifth of seven children, Glover was posted to Shanghai in 1859 during that country's second Opium War. This battle was something Great Britain had engineered against China to open that country up to free trade, ,mostly so it could sell and impregnate the market with the opium it was producing in the Indian Empire. Yes, it is as despicable as it sounds.

Glover did his part in Chain, for two years selling opium to local Shanghai middlemen, while also trading in silk, tea and guns.

When U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry and his Black Ships forced (they really did) Japan to open up its borders for trade in 1853, Glover joined the other Shanghai traders and moved to Japan.

Arriving in Nagasaki in 1859 at the age of 21, Glover was given a place to stay in the concession's area known as Dejima, where he would built a mini-empire of real estate.

In 1861, he founded Glover Trading Co. (Guraba-Shokei) to deal illegally with enemies of the Japanese Shogun, with by selling ships and guns to that Satsuma and Chosu clans in Kyushu, and to the Tosa clan from Shikoku, who didn't care for how the Shogun was running things.

Basically, however, Glover played off both sides, and thus managed to survive and thrive well enough.

For Great Britain, the role Glover played with the rebellious factions was to hopefully garner favor for the country after the disposal of the shogunate.

Glover never attempted to introduce opium to Japan, but did sell guns et al to numerous Japanese samurai clans to protect each other from each other, as well as to over throw the Shogun, but also weapons to Japan to help it fend off possible advances against by foreign powers.

Glover was a black market pirate playing everybody.

Thomas Blake Glover
In 1863, after the British navy attacked Kyushu, and in 1864 when it also attacked the port of Shimonoseki near Nagasaki - and also after a few samurai were killed by armed British citizens, the Japanese finally understood that it needed modern weaponry to retaliate and to survive.

Glover could provide them with pistols, rifles, machine guns, and warships, and became the Kyushu area's biggest arms dealer. This also help set up Kyushu as one of the country's most dangerous political regions... ensuring that rebel clans need not listen to the essentially powerless Emperor in Kyoto, or the Shogun in Edo (now Tokyo).

Naturally, when in 1868 the Shogun was over-thown by the rebellious clans he had helped arm, and the Emperor was restored to the position of highest respect and power, Glover was seen by those around him as a major reason why.

Ya can't win a war without guns, and Glover had the guns.

Despite this, by 1870, the market for more weapons and ships for the new Meiji Emperor was flooded, and Glover over-extended himself to the point of bankruptcy after becoming involved in Japan's first coal mine on Takashima Island in Kyushu.

His career was changed in 1874, when Iwasaki Yataro (surname first), the son of a Tosa-clan samurai family, asked for his help in their just set-up ship-building business.

This business, was just the previous year named Mitsubishi - yes, that Mitsubishi - and asked for Glover's knowledge and investment money.

What helped Mitsubishi greatly, was the fact that both Glover and Iwasaki both had and maintained relationships with many of the Meiji Emperor samurai who had been given top posts as a means to placate the former samurai class upon the dissolution of the shogunate.

The same ex-shogun cronies were not adverse to pass along government contracts, including those for warships to Mitsubishi, as a way of saying thanks for the help during the rebellious years.

In the land of sake, beer wasn't all that available... but Glover became involved with the fledgling Japan Brewery Co. that eventually became the Kirin Brewery Co... and... well... you know that iconic image of the mythological kirin creature on the bottles:

Well, considering the original sketch was done by his daughter Hana, that mustache on the creature was, and indeed is, representative of Glover's own 'stache. Hana was the daughter of Glover and Japanese Tsuru Awajiya (surname first), though they were not married, but common-law.

To be fair, some say the mustache/kirin thing is true, others and urban legend.

Thomas Glover posing for the Kirin label... myth or real?

Glover continued to work, mostly acting as business mediary between Japan and foreign businesses looking for contracts... and yet still... thanks to Glover's machinations in parlaying weapons and warships, Japan was able to defeat its first global super, defeating Russia in the 1904-05 war.

Love him or hate him, Glover helped propel Japan and the Meiji government along... turning the isolated country with a fascination of all things Western, into a country that now wanted a larger slice of the global pie... with Russia as its first victim.

And while Great Britain was also worried that Japan might try and take up arms against it, Glover had, back in 1865 helped convince Great Britain not to interfere with the rebellious Japanese clans of Satsuma and Choshu and their over thrown of the Shogun... and then in 1902, after dealing with Lord Charles Spencer - yes, of the same Lady nee Princess Diana mother of the UK's Prince William, the future King of England... anyhow, Glover made sure that Japan and Great Britain signed the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance... which meant that Japan would be on the 'good guy' side of Great Britain when it went to battle during the Great War of 1914 - 1918. now known as World War I.

Thomas Glover died on December 16, 1911 at his home in Tokyo, but was buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.

Glover House in Nagasaki is a museum/tourist attraction that for whatever reason still attracts some two-million people annually.

Personally, I think it's weird that my mother would travel to Japan to look at 150-year-old western style house.

My own house is now 70, the previous one I owned will be 115... oh well... I guess Japan sure loves its black market profiteers who, I suppose, helped remake Japan into a western powerhouse.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Really, I was just going to post the damn photo... but then I wondered who the fug was Glover and why would anyone visit it? Oh well... I suppose everything is answered.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Knitting, Kids, Nagasaki & Women

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today.

My son got his first shutout playing as a hockey goalie for the third time, and I was thinking about how excited my mother would have been to have seen it.

My mother died back in September of 1994... one year after I got back from Japan and 11 years before Hudson was born.

My mother, Lynda, being an inquisitive sort, traveled to Japan to visit me in the summer of 1991.

My mother, being an adventurous sort, traveled around Japan by herself, seeing more of the country over a two-week period than I had done in the entire year previous... then again... I lacked the money to do so, having spent every cent I had previously earned on enjoying myself within the friendly confines of Tochigi-ken, and spending money on my girlfriend every chance I got.

Before taking off all by her lonesome, and without a wit (sp. whit) of Japanese language understanding or speaking ability, I did mention that she visited me.

She got the chance to meet my more or less still current-maybe ex-girlfriend Ashley, and a redheaded newcomer to Japan on the JET Programme that I had befriended a couple of weeks earlier... a young Canuck named Karen who had taken quite the shine to me and my mother.

It was weird to see Ashley pushed to the side either by choice or by Karen and my mother, but I must say that I was never ever so freaked out in my life when I came home from a day at the Ohtawara Board of Education Office to see my mother and Karen sitting on my ugly green couch happily knitting whatever the fug it was that they were each knitting.

Talking-knit one-purl one-chatting about me-purl one-knit one-laughing together-purl one-knit one-looking at me and smiling together-knit one-purl one.

I don't know crap about knitting, but I do know that when a woman you might have tried to get it on with a few weeks earlier shows up at your apartment and hangs around with your mom without you knowing it... well... no one is into knitting that much.

Nesting it is.

Since I never dated much before going to Japan... maybe only ever having one girlfriend about four years previous... if it wasn't for her finding those stacks of porno mags I hid inbetween copies of The Coin News and the incredible Kleenex bills, my mother might have been concerned she would never get any grandchildren from me.

At least when she knew I had Ashley as a girlfriend and was buying and shipping all those boxes of condoms for me that there was a chance... but after meeting the very shy Ashley, and perhaps being tarnished by the occasional letter from myself describing our on-again-off-again relationship, she saw a better grandchild opportunity with Karen.

I just wanted to get laid. Not have kids. I was only 26-years-old... and while I am quite aware that many of you dear readers may have been long married or at least long-time parents, as my parents were at that age... I'll remind you that just one year previous before going to Japan, I had only ever had one other girlfriend... a summer romance... an awesome one at that... with a beautiful and brilliant and funny young woman named Bryndis.

I should have married her just to pi$$ off her racist grandparents. Her parents and brother were cool, by the way.

Whatever... she was 18 and I was 22 and lived 200 kilometers from my house. Dating, had she ever wanted to continue it, would have been difficult. She didn't. And for the record, no... we never slept together.

Anyhow... knit-wit Karen cosying up to my mother... maybe to get to me and to push Ashley away... Karen, who had only arrived in Japan a couple of weeks earlier... who had her own losses to cope with... holy crap... lovely girl, but I'm no red cap. I can't help with one's baggage.

This photograph up above was taken by my mother in August of 1991.

It is a view of Nagasaki Bay, taken from the grounds of Glover House. You'll notice there are storm clouds in the background... it rained for nearly every day of her trip.

I was known as Ame Otoko in Japan - the Rain Man. Guess it must run in the family.

She was wrong about me and Japan, however. She did really enjoy talking to Noboko on the phone a few times.

My mother, in true mother form, wondered why such a beautiful woman as Noboko would want to date me. Ha-ha. Very droll.

Yes... I am pretty damn sure she would have exalted in Hudson's triumph this past Saturday.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Obviously, a lot of who I am is due to influence and genetics from my mother. I'll post another photo tomorrow - this time of my mother... I've got homework, a hockey banquet, TV to watch and a blog or two to complete.
PPS: Sorry for being late. I hadn't planned on writing anything but the description my mother wrote in the photo album. Damn context.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Japan's Population Drops By 1-Million

Well, d'uh…

According to the Internal Affairs Ministry of Japan, data released on February 26, 2016 shows that Japan's population has shrunk by 947,000 over the past five years.

It is the first decline since the first survey was undertaken back in 1920.

It is quite significant when you think of all the loses the country suffered in the years preceding and including WWII, with it's antagonistic war first with China, and then the U.S. and the rest of the Allied nations.

Just the two atomic bombs alone one would think would play a huge role in an overall decrease in population - but no.

It is Japan's apparent refusal to have procreational sex. I assume that someone is still having sex over there that isn't a gaijin.

Couple the lack of procreational sex with the fact that about 27 percent of the country's population is over the age of 65, and you can see why Japan is facing a negative population growth.

Okay… that and the fact that it doesn't get an influx of immigrants looking to jump start their lives in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I tried, oh, how I tried, to do my part, but apparently you can't please everyone. Or anyone.

But waitaminute! Germany, France and Italy are also under the gun with about a 20 percent population base over the 65-year hurdle.

According to Japan's Internal Affairs Ministry, the country's population is at 127.1-million… which is down by 0.7 percent from the 2010 data when there were 128.1-million Japanese.

The census is taken every five years.

Not every part of Japan is experiencing a decline in population. Tokyo, for example, had an increase in population over the past five years - probably because people travel there for all the cool universities, and more jobs are available there, too. Bright lights. Big City. (Good book! Written in the 2nd person.)

Let's see… there were eight prefectures out of 47 that had an increase in population between 2014 and 2015.

The biggest was in Okinawa, followed by Tokyo (though it has the highest population at 13.5-million). Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa also experienced population growth.

I should point out that in those last three prefectures plus Tokyo, there was a combined increase of only 119,357 people.

Growth:
Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba, Aichi, Fukuoka, Osaka and Okinawa

The biggest drop in population was experienced by the lovely island/prefecture of Hokkaido, which had a net decrease of 8,862.

Surprisingly (in my opinion), are those prefectures that were decimated in the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake and tsunami (and multiple near-nuclear reactor meltdowns).

Miyagi had a total net decrease of 76 - the first time in four years that it went down.

Iwate and Fukushima saw net drops of 4,122 and 2,395, respectively.

Y'know, Japan... usually the terms "going down" and "sex" have happier results.

Japan - have responsible sex without condoms,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nissan's Intelligent Parking Chair


Inspired by Nissan's Parking Assist technology and Wi-Fi, now it's no biggie whenever one has to make everything neat again in the office or school.

Clap one's hands (or do the one-hand clap), and wheeled office-type chairs will park themselves in the appropriate place under the desk.

Boardrooms, university classrooms (high school or under, kids would be wheeling themselves everywhere… come to thin of it… maybe just university grad students), the office… clap your hands and the place is neat and tidy… except for your desk, of course… and the fact that someone might be coming later to vacuum the place, so they still have to pull all the chairs out again… but what luck, one clap and they can all move back into place under the desk.

So… will a chair move if there is someone in it? I'm guessing no… but who knows if the technology goes bad via SkyNet? Death and pancakes, baby - plus automatic termination.

What if the chairs are scattered around the side of a office… if you clap will the chairs move back into place, fighting other chairs for the ideal spot, or does each chair have a pre-programmed spot to enter?

Let's see:


Hmm… it appears to be pre-programmed… and there is no jockeying for position, rather a first come-first served chair parking mentality.

Very cool.

Is it necessary? No… of course not. But yes, it could save someone a bit of time when it comes to tidying up.

Could these chair be modified to do racing down the corridors? Could humans bet on them? Could we eventually see hotlines for chair racing addicts?

In case you haven'y guessed, the video and the chairs was made to show off the Parking Assist technology for the Nissan automobile.

Will you be able to purchase these chairs for your office? Maybe one day… but again, that's not what the video is about.

Thanks for the story, Julien!

Clap for the Wolfman,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Not sure who wrote the song Clap For The Wolfman? Guess Who…

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Safes Sold Out In Japan

Is it better to be safe than sorry?

Well… at least it's a better option than sticking it inside a mattress.

Right now, the majority of the Japanese populace isn't spending any of its hard-earned money.

Nothing wrong with saving money—or so I hear… never really done that - just always lived and enjoyed while I can… but when money remains stagnant and isn't moved throughout the economy, the economy takes it up the butt.

On January 29, 2016, The Bank of Japan—in a surprise move—joined the negative interest rate club to true and force consumers to spend some of that money they were saving.   

What is a negative interest rate? Well… you know how when you put money in a bank and hope to earn a pittance of interest?

Well… with a negative interest rate, the customer pays the bank to hold onto their cash.

However… economists have found that rather than taking their money out to spend it and help stimulate the greater Japanese economy by purchasing more porn-related items, foods and booze, the Japanese are hoarding it.

Now… where does one keep all one's money when it's not in a bank?

Myself, it's all in my wallet… all $13.47 - and I get to survive on that until Friday… of course,… with my car blowing something in the starter engine last Saturday, I still have to pay my mechanic $400+. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. It's actually quite amusing… because what else can one do, but laugh?

The Bank of Japan isn't laughing however, because the Japanese aren't spending their just-removed bank money, nor are they storing it in fat wallets - no… they are purchasing safes/vaults… to store their hoards of yen.

In fact… there has been a surge in Japan's economy… but only for the sale of safes.

Shimachu Co.—a Japanese chain store retailer that sells hardware and home products—said on February 22, 2016 that the sale of safes in the week that ended Sunday were 2.5x higher than in the same period a year earlier.

Maybe I'm just ignorant, but I would like to know HOW MANY safes are sold during any given week in Japan. Five? 10? 50? $1,000?

This is the best way to gauge if there really is a run on safes at home. There's a baseball analogy in there, somewhere.

For example, although Shimachi Co. says that one brand of $700 safe is sold out and they won't be getting any more in for a month - If 1,000 safes was the normal number of safes sold, and there was an uptick to 2.5x the number of safes sold…

… that means that 2,500 safes were sold.

Okay… out of how many Japanese people?

There are, as of July 2015, some 127.3 million Japanese people.

That would imply that there was one safe purchased for every 50,920 people.

Let's assume for the sake of argument, that the average Japanese family size (per www.oecd.org -the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is 2.71 people per household  (a lot of Japanese families will also have older members living with them, which helps offset the low birth rate the country has experienced over the past 10+ years).

50,920 divided by 2.71 =  18,790 (rounded up) - which would be per household… so one out of every

One out of every 18,790 Japanese households have purchased a safe recently?

Of course not.

There is no way in hell that Japan has seen safe sales of 1,000 per month.

For one thing, not every one can afford such an extravagance. Not everyone sees the need for a safe.

Not everyone has even thought about purchasing a safe. And maybe not everyone has thought about removing money from the bank, despite the negative interest rates.

To be honest, here in Canada… we have a hidden negative interest rate.

Money is in the bank… maybe we get 3% interest on it. Now… despite what you mighty have heard, many people in Canada do live from paycheck to paycheck (interesting that we don't say 'paycheque', even though Canadians write 'cheque' rather than 'check')… now, supposing one can maintain a positive balance, Canadians use their ATM/Debit (Automated Teller Machine/Debit) card to pay for a lot of their purchases or to pull money out from an ATM to pay in cash.

There are charges for such transactions - if you can find and use an ATM machine from your bank, you are charged regular monthly rates. If you use another bank's machine, you get charged a surcharge.

I wonder… if we were to add up all of the usual monthly bank charges, would it be greater than or equal to or less than the interest we earn on he money we have placed with in our bank's savings/chequing accounts?

I have no idea, but perhaps one of you smart people has a legitimate answer that can be explained without a lot of double-talk to an ignorant mass such as myself.

Anyhow… despite media jumping on the band wagon regarding Japan's negative interest rate causing the sales of safes to increase and not much else, I just wanted to temper that fear-mongering by the media - including the Wall Street Journal - that it's hardly the collapse of the Roman Empire (which took decades, by the way).

It's an amusing little story.

Yes… sales of safes in Japan have gone up - and gone up a lot… but it's hardly such a huge number… does any news report provide you with a figure of safe sales per capita that would make one think that Japan's economy is anything but safe?

Yeah… Japan's economy is in the toilet. So are a lot of countries. 

The story, however, is really about how the Bank of Japan's idea to force consumer spending via negative bank interest rates has been stymied.    

Considering most Japanese tend to utilize the humble futon as their bed, perhaps safes and vaults can beam the de facto hoarding solution as mattresses are not all that common.

Or, you could follow the sage advice from a Japanese man quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article:     

“I am a bit worried about what will happen next,” said Kazuo Matsumoto, a customer at one of the Shimachu stores in Tokyo. While he didn’t buy a safe, the 64-year-old said he might turn some of his cash into gold and keep it inside a safe-deposit box he rents.

That… is actually a pretty smart idea.

By the way... according to the OECD, as of 2014, Japan's annual household disposable income was negative, with a -0.92 annual growth rate. So... despite the Bank of Japan wanting the populace to spend more money, they have less of it available to spend—even before factoring in the cost for a new safe which can be used to keep that shrinking pile of cash.  

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Japan's Non-Curt Kōban Police Boxes

While there are indeed police stations in Japan - plenty of them - there are also the kōban (交番).

The kōban is a small neighborhood station… sometimes as small as the exterior of Doctor Who's tardis (though it is not larger on the inside), where the police work performed is community police work.

All kōban police stations are written in the kanji 交番, since the the time I was in Japan between 1990-1993, many have the romaji word written out as "koban" - a pretend English word.

Okay, I exaggerate when I say the kōban is as small as a telephone booth (though, come to think of it, that is something most young people have no concept of), as they are usually a two-story building with two rooms that can house anywhere from one to 10 police officers.

Inside a typical kōban... it's horribly, horribly grey! Image by Nesnad found on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dban#/media/File:Typical-small-koban-nearkitasenjustation-april17-2015.jpg
Basically, these guys aren't about solving the crime as they are about maintaining the community peace.

They do the whole neighborhood watch thing by:
  • patrolling; will respond to emergencies (There's a fire at old man Suzuki's place at no name avenue and the street with no name!); 
  • handle lost and found (Lost, one gaijin… please return to the Ohtawara Board if Education for a reward of thanks, and to check results to see if you were the winner in the "Where oh where can our gaijin have gotten lost to this time); 
  • Crime reports for property crimes like theft and burglary (Uh no, ma'am-san, we don't handle cases for stolen virginity) (Uh… I never had such trouble, by the way… never could find a virgin except for my self those first 30 days in Japan); 
  • will provide directions (I entered a tiny kōban and asked for directions once when I was lost in Osaka - to which they police officer did his best to convey to me in broken English that I was really lost, because this was apparently Kobe); 
And really, because they are a part of the community, they are seen not as something secretive, but as real people.

Think about this as something from an old black and white 1930s movie, where the Irish cop is walking down the street, twirling his baton, accepting the kind gift of an apple from a fruit vendor, as everyone says hello to Officer O'Malley.

You kids might want to hook up grandpa's old VCR and watch one of those old Betamax videos he has lining the basement wall.

Japan's community police force is kind of like that, but without the food theft, Irish cop, and baton twirling. Oh... Japan is also not in black and white any more.

Kōban does kindda mean 'police box', but, as mentioned, it is not a police box… at least not any longer.

The earliest such kōban was constructed in 1874, and it was a box for the policemen to be found within a community. Kōban is derived from two Japanese terms: tachiban (立番, standing watch) and kōtai (交替, in rotation)…  Kōban = standing watch in rotation.
Kōban (police box) from Sudo-cho, originally located at the foot of the Mansei Bridge in Kanda, Tokyo. Estimated to have been built during the late Meiji period (1878-1912), it closed down in 1943. Now reconstructed at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. Photo by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dban#/media/File:Koban_%28police_box%29_from_Sudo-cho.jpg
By 1881, the standing watch in rotation boxes were enlarged to become a local police station for up to six police officer. This new such community police station was known officially as hashutsujo (派出所), but because it is Japan where acceptance of change is often quite slow, the term kōban was used by the general populace.

In fact… it wasn't until after I left (a coincidence, I assure you) Japan, that in 1994 the official term of hashutsujo was changed back to kōban.

I guess that Japan figured that if, after 113 years the term hashutsujo hadn't caught on, then maybe it should go back to the more familiar term of kōban.

Should you be so inclined to find a kōban and you have a map - a large 'X' is used to designate a kōban. Really… X marks the spot.

By the way… should you have an emergency and need to call for emergency services, in Japan (and Korea) you call 119 - and NOT the North American standard of 911.

I wonder if that's because they read from right to left?

But wait!

You only dial 119 when you need the services of the Ambulance or Fire Department!

When you need a police officer, you dial 110.

Photographer: User:Canley
A police box outside Earl's Court tube station in London, built in 1996 and based on the 1929 Gilbert Mackenzie Trench design. It's positively Doctor Who-like. Or the reverse is true.
And because you should know… while Great Britain's (United Kingdom) London was the first city in 1937 to set up a short number to get emergency help - 999.

According to Wikipedia, the Southern California Telephone Co. began using 116 as an emergency line for Los Angeles, California in 1946, while 999 was adopted in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959 probably because we always liked to follow the British way of doing things, what with the whole King/Queen of Canada thing going on.

Alabama was the first to go to 911 in 1968. I know… blows me away, too, but good for them.

On February 16, 1968, the first-ever 9-1-1 call was placed by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, from Haleyville City Hall, to U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill, at the city's police station. I'm guessing it was a prank call or some sort of ceremonial thing.

While Winnipeg went the 911 way in 1972, it took until the 1980s—when VCRs were still in vogue as was the rock group Big Country and their bagpipe sound—when all other cities in North America saw the 911 flashing red light.

By the way… think about London in 1937 and the 999. That was difficult to call in an emergency. We (you mean YOU, Great-grandpa) only had dial-phones then… so it was quite the long, finger dial involved in getting a 9-click-click-click-click, 9-click-click-click-click, 9-click-click-click-click.

Lastly… in Japan… and I missed it… January 10 (First month, tenth day = 110) is National Dial 110 Day. No... really. I don't make stuff up when I'm trying to edumacate you.

This is the day that the police urge the citizens of Japan to properly use the 110 emergency police number… to urge its citizens to NOT waste time with prank calls, wrong numbers (how do you urge people not to call a wrong number?!); and not to seek advice (IE seeking information like where can one find adult diapers).

Wow… I wonder if Japan's Fire and Ambulance personnel require a special day (January 19 or November 9 - based on 119) to encourage people to make sure they are on fire before calling, or if the gaijin can walk it off after being hit by a car (I was hit by a car twice in one week whilst riding my bike. I walked it off, though one driver did drive me to the police station and not a kōban).

I'm getting silly here, but I do think it odd that there are two different emergency phone numbers and that there has to be a special day to encourage people to use the number effectively.

Okay, up against the wall and spread'em. You know what I mean,
Officer Joseph

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Man In The High Castle

I have just finished watching the first episode of a Amazon Studios' television program called The Man In The High Castle.

The show, set in 1962, is a look at what the world would look like had Germany and Japan won WWII.

Based on a 1963 novel by Phillip K. Dick, who also wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel that was remade into the movie Blade Runner, The Man In The White Castle television show appears to be a very exciting and suspenseful work of art.

It's not surprising, really - the novel by Dick won the 1963 Hugo award for Best Novel in a science fiction or fantasy genre.

In the television show - I haven't read the novel in 40 years and admit to not recalling much of it as I was a pre-teen then - Japan has control over the western part of the U.S. as the Japanese Pacific States (see image of its flag above), there's a rocky mountain neutral zone, while the east is under Nazi Germany rule.

So far, 10 episodes of Season 1 were released in 2015, with one episode (so far) having been aired in 2016 - aka Season 2.

As guessed, Amazon Studios is a part of www.Amazon.com - a division that develops television shows, movies and comics from online submissions and crowd-sourced feedback - getting its start back in 2010.

It is distributed through Amazon Video, Amazon’s digital video streaming service, and likes to consider itself as a competitor to both Netflix and Hulu - but truthfully, it has a long ways to go.

The Man In The High Castle is, I believe, the first major hit for Amazon Studios, despite the other programs it has produced garnering decent reviews.

Amazon Video is currently only available to residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Austria. Customers of Amazon Video can stream on the web using an HTML5 player supported in the Chrome, IE11 and Microsoft Edge browsers, or using Microsoft Silverlight in Firefox.

Use on various TVs, Blu-ray players and consoles (including Panasonic, LG, Samsung and other TVs) requires a broadband connection. Amazon Video is also available on recent PlayStation, Xbox, Wii and Wii U video game consoles.

I am purposely not saying too much about what The Man In The High Castle is about, but what the hell... I already told you what it was about.

One episode in, and I am hooked.

If you are able, give it a watch... and thank your lucky stars you don't have to speak German or Japanese in North America.

Kanpai,
Jo-se-fu An-do-ryu

Monday, February 22, 2016

Japanese Beer

Beer! Glorious beer!

Even before sloshing back beer in Japan through numerous 'kanpai! (cheers!)' or the weirdly funny 'chin-chin' (in Japanese, this Italian cheer is slang for 'penis'), I had enjoyed partaking of the nectar of the gods back in Toronto (pre-1990).. though not as much as the poor Japanese business man in the photo above. I always knew when and when not to keep my pants on. Thank goodness he listened to his mama-san and wore clean underwear that day in the subway. He looks comfortable. Not.

In Toronto, my friends and I would go to a downtown bar (how the hell did we get back?) where they offered beers from around the world.

My thing was to try all the beers with a religious connotation to the brand: Bishop's Tipple; Pope's 1880; St. Pauli Girl; El Diablo… you get the drift…

St. Pauli Girl Katarina van Derham makes me thirsty... like Holy sh!% - there's the real religious theme. Pants off with plenty of panting.
As such, my taste buds were opened up to a world of flavors and possibilities.

In Japan, I was lucky enough to find an American PX in Tokyo where I could purchase global beers, getting the opportunity to sample many a Belgian brew of dubious alcohol content, and even one American beer that was infused with a red hot chili pepper - something stupid of me to have tried because I hated such hot and spicy things - much to the chagrin of my Indian heritage, as I have always sought to distance myself from such things while living in Canada.Nowadays, I don't mind the heat - but not in my alcohol.

Belgium's Trompe la Mort beer was one of the best beers I ever had.
In Japan, I tried to keep an open mind about all things, and when it came to alcohol - I kept an open throat.

Beer… or bīru (ビール) in Japanese is quite popular. I pretty much went with the Coors Light/Molson Canadian/Labatt's Blue common beer—Kirin Lager—as my favorite, but I would drink whatever beer was put down in front of me.

In 2012, Japan consumed about 5.55-million kiloliters of beer, but I should note it also includes low and no-malt type beers, which ain't really beer in my blog. Back when Matthew and I were in Japan, I'm pretty sure the beer consumption numbers were higher.

But in real beer drinking, Japan is 40th globally in beer consumption as of 2012 with 43.5 liters per person.

I was writing about this for another article, but: according to 2012 compiled data, globally the Czech Republic is the hands-down leading consumer of beer with 148.6 liters per capita, and Austria a distant second at 107.8 liters followed closely by Germany at 106.1 liters per person.
Beer drinking in Japan can get sloppy, so it's always good to make sure everyone has a bandana. Poor Melissa somehow put up with me that evening as a drinking companion only. Melissa and I are in focus, though apparently the photographer wasn't. Man... look at that tan line... and I'd only been in Japan for three days...
For comparison, Canada was ranked 25th overall globally just three spots behind Great Britain, but well back of the 14th-ranked U.S. Australia is #11, New Zealand #27. The Irish are #6. Look HERE, if you want the top 50.

Not that anyone cares, but my favorite types of beers nowadays are dark beers a la Irish dry stout Guinness, and white beers like Blanche De Chambly - a Belgian-style white beer from Chambly, Quebec, Canada, and, of course, Boddington's Pub Ale, a creamy, golden pale ale. Oh... and 12 Minutes To Destiny, a hibiscus pale lager from Barrie, Ontario, Canada's Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery - great people there and some excellent beers, to boot. My one Flying Monkeys beer glass is a treasured item!

No IPA in my choices... but a great deal of flavor variance.

Anyhow… when I was in Japan in the early 1990s (excluding Coca-Cola, o-cha/green tea, milk, Twinning's teas and sake), it was pretty much just beer from the four main breweries, as craft beers had yet to take off.I think I got my water from all those other non-milk drinks. Those main Japanese breweries are:
  • Asahi Breweries, Ltd.
  • Kirin Brewery Company
  • Sapporo Breweries Limited
  • Suntory
Drink responsibly, or you could end up married to a Japanese high school music teacher wearing a baby blue silk track suit. Wearing an earring in the left ear means you're 'cool' right? Or is it the opposite in Japan??!! I'm missing my shoes and drinking bandana.
As of January 2014, Asahi, with a 38% market share, was the largest of the four major beer producers in Japan, followed by Kirin Beer with 35% and Suntory with 15%. Not mentioned, but one would suspect that Sapporo also has a percentage - 12%, I assume... which is weird, because I saw more Sapporo beer than Suntory beer - then again... that was 23 years ago. There were no craft breweries of any kind in Japan at that time... or if there were, they must have had pretty limited distribution.

Here's a good site for examples of Japan's beers: https://japanbeer.wordpress.com/ or here for where to find good beers in Japan: http://beerinjapan.com/bij/910/japan-wide-listings/.

Kirin Brewery Company

Kirin (キリン株式会社 Kirin Kabushiki-gaisha) was originally known as The Japan Brewery Company, Limited, and was established in 1885 after it took over the assets of the Spring Valley Brewery.

Spring Valley Brewery was established in Yokohama in 1869 by Norwegian-American brewer William Copeland.

The Kirin Brewery Company was made a separate entity in 1907 after it purchased the assets of Japan Brewery.

Kirin Brewery continued the traditions of the Japan Brewery… which means it followed the tradition of using malted grains and hops from Germany, and using German brewers for overseas production.

Kirin Lager was first brewed in 1888, and is one of Japan's oldest beers. It is also one of the most popular. For kicks, look for the three Japanese alphabets of キリン "ki", "ri" and "n" hidden within the mythical beast on the label. Always a fun game when you are already buzzed and can't remember where you last saw it even though the position never changes.
Find the kirin within the kirin logo.
In Japanese, "kirin" can refer to giraffes, or to Qilin, the mythical Chinese creature. Kirin Brewery is named after the latter.

Kirin Premium - a very tasty brewski.
Its next most-popular beer is Kirin Premium. My taste buds aren't good enough to say which was which, suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed guzzling down both Lager and Premium brands in beer - which is why I have listed this company first.

Other beers from Kirin include: Kirin Akiaji; Kirin Ichiban Shibori - Nagoya-Zukuri, Grand Kirin; Grand Kirini Fukoro no Mori; Kirin Heartland Beer; Kirin Fukkoku Lager and Kirin Tanrei (happoshu - low-malt beer). Some of these beers are seasonal.

Asahi Breweries, Ltd.

Asahi (アサヒビール株式会社 Asahi Bīru Kabushiki Gaisha) was founded in 1889 as the Osaka Beer Company (大阪麦酒会社 Ōsaka Bakushu Kaisha).

The main Asahi beer was Asahi Draft - first produced in 1892 - until the 1950s, when Asahi Gold - first produced in 1957 - took over until around 1988.

So… between 1889 and 1892… what were they brewing? Anyone know? Probably something called (and I'm guessing here) Osaka Beer.

It was in 1987 that Asahi Super Dry - a damn fine beer - was introduced… a beer that changed the whole beer industry. The Asahi Super Dry (you pretty much always say the full name) is a lager without the heavy malt flavors, possessing a dry taste similar to German beers.

Kirin was the acknowledged leader at this time, but the demand for Asahi Super Dry kicked everyone's butt and became the moset popular beer in Japan. 

I used to drink Asahi Super Dry then and after I got back home to Canada, Canadian versions of dry beers. Good luck finding one nowadays.Fads, eh... but still... the Asahi Super Dry really was a grea-tasting beer.

What's the popular beer right now - at least in Canada where every brewery and craft brewery is cooking up a storm of...? It's IPA. India Pale Ale… which, in my honest opinion, is the suckiest sucking type of beer ever. It tastes great in your mouth… but when you swallow - bleeeeech. Yes, I am aware there's a dirty joke in there. Who do you think I am?

One of Japan's most recognized buildings, is the Asahi headquarters…

This is the Flamme d'Or, by Philippe Stark, Asahi Super Dry Hall, Asakusa, Tokyo... or ...

Yes… the golden sperm building. See joke above.

Aside from Asahi Super Dry, other Asahi brands include: Asahi Premium Beer Jukusen; Asahi Dry Black; Asahi Dry PremiumAsahi Hon-nama (happoshu - low-malt beer); Asahi Dry Premium: Hatsu-Jikomi Premium; Asahi Premium Jukusen; Asahi Dry Premium: Kaori no Kohaku; Asahi The Craftsmanship Christmas Beer: Eve Amber; Asahi The Craftsmanship Christmas Beer: Merry Gold. Some of these beers are seasonal.

Sapporo Breweries Limited

Sapporo Breweries Limited (サッポロビール株式会社 Sapporo Bīru Kabushiki-gaisha) is a Japanese brewery founded in 1876 in Sapporo. Originally called the Kaitakushi Brewery thanks to the Hokkaido Development Commission, but when privatized in 1888, its name was changed to Sapporo Beer Company.

Sapporo Lager was its first beer, and was brewed in 1876 by the German-trained brewer Nakagawa Seibei (surname first). Nowadays, its global headquarters are in Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo. The company purchased the Canadian company Sleeman Breweries in 2006.

I like Sapporo (the beer and the place), but I no longer get an freebies when I talk with Sleeman (still the best origin story of a Canadian brewery… or at least, the only one I am aware of, because they play it up wonderfully). Coupons… like what Molson and Labatt's offer. Yeah... those are always nice freebies.
  
Nowadays, Sapporo produces 616,374 kiloliters of beer annually, which, if I still drank beer, would still seem like a lot.    

When the Japan Beer Brewery Company began producing Yebisu Beer in 1890, there was some pretty good competition brewing between it and Sapporo Beer Company... so...

Sapporo, Japan Beer Brewery and other Osaka breweries merged in 1906 to form Dai-Nippon Beer Company, Ltd.… basically calling itself the Big Japan Beer Company. Limited.

They held a near monopoly on Japanese beer until after WWII, when in 1949 Dai-Nippon split to become Nippon Breweries and Asahi Breweries.

In 1956, Nippon Breweries began to create its Sapporo brand again, eventually changing its name back to Sapporo Breweries in 1964.

Although Sapporo beer is produced in Sapporo, Japan, it is also produced in Chiba, Shizuoka and Kyushu, while if you've drunk it in Canada, it comes from the Sleeman brewery in Guelph, Ont., just west of Toronto; or with U.S. Sapporo brand beer coming from La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Look Raoul! Stars!
Although no different in taste from the Sapporo Lager, Sapporo did create Space Barley beer from barley seeds that had spent five months aboard (but not being grown) the ISS (International Space Station) back in 2006. It was approximately US $100 or ¥10,000 for a six-pack, and was sold via a lottery system.

Aside from Space Barley and Sapporo Lager, other Asahi brands include: Yebisu; Sapporo Black Label; Sapporo Classic; Yeibisu Black; Yebisu - The Hop; and Hokkaido Nama-shibori (happoshu - low malt beer); Sapporo Mugi to Hop The Gold Extra Malt; Sapporo Lager's High Hanayaka Hop. Some of these beers are seasonal.

Suntory

Lastly, the Osaka-headquartered Suntory.

The only reason Suntory makes this list, in my opinion, is because it is one of the largest producers of distilled beverages in the world. It produces the Malt's (and Premium Malt's brand) and Suntory brands, and as you can see from the image above, the Premium Malt's beer is considered to be a very, very good beer.

Suntory is attempting to market the Premium Malt's as something worthy of its efforts to create "the world's greatest beer".

It doesn't say it has created the world's greatest beer… nor do they claim that it is the world's greatest TASTING beer, but it is a multiple award winner, so maybe Suntory has something. To be fair, Suntory is excellent at distilled beverages, so I would think it would want a beer to maintain that company branding.

Anyhow, Suntory the beverage maker debuted in 1899, and while they have been manufacturing beer for a long time, it is hardly a core business, despite having decent in-roads into the Japanese beer market.

Suntory Beer debuted in 1963 via sister company Musashino Beer Factory. Premium Malt's in 2012… and Malt's - I have no idea when... pre 2012...

It's a distinct flavor that many people enjoy - it wasn't bad, but it wasn't my favorite, either. The label has changed a lot since I left Japan.
Old-school Suntory Malt's branding.
Total types of Suntory beers include: Suntory Draft; Suntory Malt's, Suntory Premium Malt's, Super Magnum Dry (happoshu - low-malt beer); and Suntory Kinmugi Kuro no Hitotoki. Some of these beers are seasonal.

If anyone has any genuine information on the Suntory Beer operations, please pass it on.

Somewhere looking for a drinking bandana... musta been a wedding... and it ran off with some other head-covering.
I will say that while I preferred Kirin Lager and Kirin Premium, I also loved Asahi Super Dry. The rest of the main beers I also tried and enjoyed... though some more than others. Apparently the beers get tastier the more you imbibe them.

For now...

Kanpai!
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Working As A Gaijin Ski Instructor In Japan


My good friend Matthew had recently sent me a tweet regarding snowshoeing in Japan… which had me wondering just what the heck the boy is reading in the tremendous amount of free time he has… when I know he should be filling his own blog to entertain the ages.

Now… since I am a much faster writer than Matthew will ever be, I had some free time, and decided to try and find data to back up a story I was writing on a newspaper article detailing a huge Tokyo fire in 1892.

I Googled 'Tokyo Fire 1892" - and found absolutely nothing… but for some reason there were pages and pages of stuff about other fires in 1892 - notably one in Canada.

And while I was able to get a couple of great stories from some ukiyo-e I found re: firefighters, there were also other Google suggestions re: architecture and destruction, fire department helicopters… and something about what it is like working as a ski instructor in Japan.

I looked at it several times, skipped over it, went back to the headline, skipped over it, went back… and then opened it up.

It was pretty interesting.

I'm not a downhill skier. I like cross-country. I think I was always afraid of screwing up my knees and having to limp around… and didn't want to do so as an old man.

Naturally, I buggered up that scenario by doing Taekwondo and tore the never-healing meniscus in my knee. It's okay… as long as I don't play soccer or jog for long periods of time, the knee has promised not to cause me trouble. I could still kick butt, however.

But despite my well-placed cowardice, I do enjoy watching down hill schussing on television… whipping down a mountain in Kitzbühel with human hand-held cow bells clanging in the background.

This blog needs more cow bell.

Anyhow… I'm sure they won't mind too much, but I'm going to provide a link to the website where I saw the article on being a ski instructor in Japan, and I'm going to re-present it below because I know many people simply dislike clicking onto sites other than this and ones related to porn.

So… from the www.seasonworkers.com website - click HERE - enjoy a lighthearted look at what a different type of teaching job is like for the gaijin in Japan.

From May 9, 2014 comes:

What's it like working as a ski instructor in Japan?

JAPAN – DO THEY EVEN HAVE SNOW THERE?
That’s what people will ask when you tell them you’ve booked the trip of a lifetime. Here are 7 reasons why Japan is the best place in the world to be a seasonnaire.

1. BABY POWDER“The best snow in the world” you’ll reply. They weren’t lying when they told you that. Don’t go to Japan for the sunshine; expect 2 weeks of insane ‘J-pow’ days in every month with peaks finely dusted with a mere 4 metres of the white stuff. From waist-deep piste to epic treelines, you might be better off bringing a surfboard.

2. TOKYO ANTICS
What the hell happened in Tokyo? (According to photos) all us interns met for unlimited food and drinks, all paid for by EA, before wandering the busiest streets in the world. What better icebreaker? Just be careful what nickname you acquire here – you’ll be stuck with it all season. Oh and try not to wake up barefooted in a Japanese man’s kitchen.

3. TOUCHING THE FISH
A sushi chef must spend 5 years scrubbing chopping boards before they are even allowed to touch the fish and in many ways, becoming a ski instructor is the same. Except in Japan, qualifications are not compulsory and so you can teach to any level of skiing or boarding that you are capable of. This means you’ll have plenty of days off the bunny hill, shredding the pow on black runs with clients – something we call a ‘touching the fish’ lesson.

4. “I’M A SKI INSTRUCTOR”
Okay it’s not as big as Val D’Isere or Whistler, but the towns in Japan are full of lively bars and a true seasonnaire vibe. Sing karaoke until your throat is sore and drink until it’s better, as long as you can still teach wedge turns in the morning! The Japanese hide away after 9:00 and the town becomes 90% Australian – “I’m a ski instructor” is the only chat-up line you’ll ever need again and the best part is you can ride with them the next day, if you remember their name.

5. GIANT CRABS AND OCTOPUS GOO
Japan is alien to all EA interns, and so is a lot of the stuff in supermarkets by the looks of things. Here in Nozawa, we are completely self-catered and have the pleasure of venturing aisle 6; the aisle where nobody knows what anything is for. The question is, on a scale of McDonalds to Octopus Goo, how brave will you be with your cooking?

6. FIRE, MONKEYS AND HOT SPRINGS
Ever been in a flaming moshpit? Not a Metallica concert, I mean the Nozawa Fire Festival. Wherever you land in Japan, make the trip over for this battle inferno and stand as close as you dare as locals literally smash burning branches over you. Just one of the many surprising gems each resort has to offer, along with playing with snow monkeys and onsen parties.

7. MAD LIBS
You fill in the blanks! Japan is an amazing country and a season here is an experience you’ll probably never have again. It really does come down to what you make of it – whether you’re looking to build up certification to open doors to a skiing career or escaping your desk job for a lifestyle that keeps you smiling. Saying ‘yes’ is what keeps life exciting.

Japan is quickly becoming one of the world's most popular ski destinations, and reading this update you can see why! Japan really does have the best snow in the world, so if you are keen to get your share, get in touch with the team at EA at www.easkiandsnowboard.com to find out more.

 -30-

There ya go!

I like that they played up the boozing and the food… but really… the selling point is the four meters deep snow!

Being a Mad Magazine fan (What me worry?), I enjoyed the Mad Libs headline. As well, using the Touching The Fish headline shows these folks know a bit about Japan for real, bro!

However, they did not play up the Japanese babes, but that's what I am here for.

Hot chick at the top - that's my ex, Noboko before we met, but smoking hot with that long hair.

Looking back, it seems strange now, that during our relationship, my hair was longer than hers.

Hopefully options for being a ski instructor in Japan are still available, and since we are pretty late for this winter, maybe it's something you might consider for the next one.

Banzai!
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Japanese Fireman Ukiyo-e - 1876

Say what you will about Japan, but they sure seem to tart their firemen with a heck of a lot of respect.

I am of the same opinion, and that goes for the ambulance and police personnel, too…

when everyone else is running away, these guys are running to the trouble. Whatever it is they are being paid, it's never going to be enough.

No… I don't personally know anyone in those professions… except for high school buds: Scott Powers who, as far as I know, was an ambulance drive, and Dave Kasperski who was a police officer. Dave isn't anymore, and I've lost track of Scott and I'm not huge with Facebook because, to be honest, I pretty much do much of my talking here in this blog.

I'm also not huge on taking photos of myself - just because it's ego inflating… but hey, more power to all you self shooters. Also… photos of food? Unless you are doing a blog or website on critiquing food, restaurants et al… all you are doing is making me hungry. I think I eat when I'm down. Man… I'm always hungry.

See… there's a selfie. Not pretty is it? LOL!

Or maybe it's because I work, I go home, I play with the kid, teach him stuff like baseball and hockey, watch TV, and write these blogs… I have a boring life with boring food. I did have Eggs Benedict with lobster this past weekend. Very good, but I needed more. I think that was the second time I've been in a restaurant since 2014. The other, funnily enough was just a few weeks earlier and I had beer-battered fish and chips. Meh.

I did not feel the urge to take photos of the meals.

Rescue me.

Anyhow… in Japan… firemen are very well respected. Here's a story I wrote back in 2012 about a chance meeting with a volunteer fireman. Click HERE. Read it - it's interesting.

The one thing I did not ask him - and I kick myself for not - is how the hell the fire department knows where they are going, as there are no street names - especially in rural Japan?

So… the reason why I am writing today… the Japanese artwork - an ukiyo-e piece… one of 10 from a set by Oju Yoshitoshi and published by Okura Magobei in October of 1876.

The ukiyo-e set is entitled Ohoono haiku matoi… which apparently means A Mirror of Fireman's Standards in Each of the Precincts of Tokyo. Since I don't see Tokyo in the Japanese phrase, I doubt it's a true translation… but I'm guessing it is a reliable English translation for our purposes.

Although… I wonder if instead of 'mirror', we used 'reflection'… as in 'a look back at'… maybe that would be better?

This Tokyo fireman's standard's set of ukiyo-e is apparently difficult to find…

Apparently firemen were (even in the 1890s) as well-respected as sumo-san (sumo wrestlers) and kabuki actors were.

Surely if they were so popular, there would be more prints from this ukiyo-e series available.

Or… maybe they remain popular - just that few people are offering them for sale.

A lovely image, despite the slovenly look, we see the precinct's fireman standard… and I suppose there is some background story about that precinct's firemen or maybe it's history.

The ukiyo-e shows the clothing worn by the firemen… thick and bulky… and though not evident in the picture, a fireman's clothes would be heavily doused in water before attempting to battle it.

Somewhere hoping you don't need to see your local fire department in action,
Andrew Joseph
PS: The firemen have visited my current house a few times… once to try and save my mother after a heart attack, and once when I was a kid when my dad was doing some work with a blow torch inside the walls and though he might have set the fiberglass insulation on fire… and once at my own house about eight years ago when an electrical outlet started a fire inside the walls, raging for hours before I finally figured it out. It was just me and Spek the cat home at that time. I saved the cat. The firemen somehow saved the house, and more importantly my comic book collection without any smoke or water damage, even though I lost a butt-load of Japanese souvenirs.
PPS: Re: photos of food and the non-food blogger... someone needed to tell you... and I'm just sorry it wasn't someone else brave enough to do so. It's always effing Andrew.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tokyo Adds Helicopters To Fight High-Rise Fires

Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's actually a helicopter. D'uh.

Starting at the beginning of 2016, the Tokyo Fire Department debuted its new helicopter unit to help it fight high-rise building fires.

The Air Fire Rescue Task Forces (yes, plural) was created after the near-doubling of high-rise fires in Tokyo and the increased number of buildings higher than 11 floors.

The task forces, also known as Air Hyper Rescue, uses the Airbus H225 Super Puma, formerly known as the Eurocopter EC225.


The original EC225 was a long-range passenger transport helicopter developed by Eurocopter as the next generation of the civilian Super Puma family. It is a twin-engined aircraft and can carry up to 24 passengers along with two crew and a cabin attendant, dependent on customer configuration.

But, the helicopter has been reconfigured for the Tokyo fire department (and other fire departments around the world).

These Tokyo helicopters are equipped with Simplex Aerospace’s Model 516 High Rise Firefighting System after Simplex received FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), European and Japanese aviation certification of that model, code-named SkyCannon in November of 2015.


Japan Aerospace delivered the system designed to shoot water and foam more than 38 meters (~125 feet) from the helicopter through a 7.32-meter (24-foot) boom that can be rotated to the left or right of the centerline.

The helicopters have a full glass cockpit featuring active-matric liquid crystal displays, including:
  • four 15.24-centimeter x 20.32-centimeter (6-inch x 8-inch) multi-functional displays as the predominant instrumentation for key flight information;
  • two 10.16-centimeter x 12.7-centimeter (4-inch x 5-inch) monitors for displaying aircraft parameters, and;
  • a 7.62-centimeter (3-inch) screen for backup.
The Advanced Helicopter Cockpit and Avionics System is described as serving to reduce pilot and crew workload, being used to display flight management and sub-systems information and is complete with a four-axis digital autopilot.

During a typical flight, the pilot programs the route into the aircraft and then monitors it, as opposed to direct continuous control of the flight; the need for paper charts has been eliminated by these systems.

Under autopilot, the automatic flight control system acts to prevent pilot actions from exceeding the established flight envelope; the helicopter remains flyable with all automatic systems disabled. From initiating the startup sequence to being ready to takeoff only takes three minutes

The Tokyo Fire Department helicopter will be equipped to carry a 10-person rescue gondola. So… if you are person number 11 needing to be rescued during a high-rise fire, keep that in mind and act accordingly.

Photo courtesy of Mamo.

Somewhere wetting a kerchief and placing it over his mouth and staying low to the ground - and definitely not in a skyscraper,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Female Guards Of Chiyoda Palace


Above, is an ukiyo-e print from artist Chikanobu Toyohara (1838 - 1912), from 1892. The oban triptych (large three panel ukiyo-e) depicts, according to the title of the artwork - The Retreat (Otachinoki), we see the Guard Ladies of the Chiyoda Palace.

Say wha - ?

Guard Ladies - as in female guards?

Well... apparently Chiyoda Palace is the inner palace of Edo-jo (Edo Castle), and whenever there is a something akin to a disturbance or, in the case of the image above, a fire, the women of Edo Castle are responsible for protecting the palace residents.

The six women are identically dressed in heavy black robes and headgear designed to protect them against the fire. They are not meant to fight the fire, but are there to protect the elite, and are considered to be elite guards of the Inner Palace, and all the women would have come from families whose father, brothers, and uncles were from a samurai background.

So, yes... these women were doing work that could easily have been given to men. It's remarkable only because Japan is still heavily dominated by men, and this is from the 19th century

These three prints are in total 37-centimeters (14.56-inches) high by 75-centimeters wide (29.53-inches), and was published by Akiyama Buemon (Kokkeido).

The information and print was found at www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com. Check'em out if you are looking for some really cool artwork.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Unknown Tokyo Fire Of 1892




Here’s a tasty tidbit from the past – from the April 30, 1892 news from The Wheeling Register of West Virginia. I have, for fun added an 1892 map of Tokyo. Shinjuku and Shibuya - two current urban hot spots in the city nowadays, are pretty much barren in 1892 - over on the west part of the city.

The article from The Wheeling Register has an interesting subhead which made me want to read the whole thing – and then I find out it was deceiving. Okay… I have no idea if it’s because it’s missing some of the news, or if the news was trimmed just prior to going to print because space was required for something else. You’ll see.

NEWS FROM JAPAN.

Fires, Mine Explosions, Election Riots, Smallpox and Things.

SAN FRANCISCO, April 20.-The steamer Helgic arrived to-day. She brings details of a great fire at Tokio, Japan on April 10th. The fire started early in the morning in the house of a small restaurant keeper from a candle left burning.

It spread in three directions through densely populated districts. The fire was extinguished by noon after consuming five thousand houses on the twenty streets, including warehouses, police stations, schools and other buildings.

The details of loss of life are meager. It is variously estimated that seventeen to forty-five persons perished.

The steamer Raiden Marou was sunk by floating ice in Kushiro harbor and forty drowned.

There was an election riot in Shoragun April 9th, in which twenty-four persons were seriously wounded.

A native paper states that the Emperor is likely to visit the World’s Fair.


-30-
So – where’s the smallpox? The mine explosions?
There was no World’s Fair in 1892, by the way… it was held in 1893 and was called the World's Columbian Exposition (the official shortened name for the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition,) but also known as the The Chicago World's Fair and Chicago Columbian Exposition. It was meant to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492.
You’ll notice I did not say his discovery of America… mostly because he never actually touched it. And besides… he certainly wasn’t the first to arrive in North America.

About some 500 years earlier… or so the story goes, an Icelandic Viking trader named Thorfinn Karlsefni set off from the west coast of Greenland with three ships and a band of Norse to explore a newly discovered land that promised fabulous riches. Following the route that had been pioneered some seven years before by Leif Eriksson, Thorfinn sailed up Greenland’s coast, traversed the Davis Strait and turned south past Baffin Island to Newfoundland—and perhaps beyond. Snorri, the son of Thorfinn and his wife, Gudrid, is thought to be the first European baby born in North America.

Of course, that means that seven years previous, Leif Erickson, according to the Sagas of Icelanders, landed and established a Norse settlement at Vinland, tentatively identified with the Norse L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada. That settlement is still in existence, by the way, should you decide to travel to Canada for a look-see. 

For the record... I have no idea where Shoragun is where the paper reported a riot. The problem is that even some 50 years after Japan opened up its borders to the rest of the world, there was still some confusion as to how to spell city names et al. Tokyo, for example, is how we spell the capital city - not Tokio... something that was in existence through the 1940s... if I am to believe my old comic books. In fact... to say Tokyo, it's best to note that it is only TWO syllables, not three. 

Kushiro where the boat sank, is (釧路市) Kushiro-shi, up north in Hokkaido

And... despite the severity of the reported Tokyo fire, I can't find anything about it on-line. We are talking about the destruction of 5,000 houses, after all. It seems like a big deal to me. But I suppose we will just have to go with newspaper accounts like the one from The Wheeling Register for our historical information.

Okay – enough of the travelogue for now. See the world.
Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Thanks to Vinnie for the heads up on the story from the Readex "America's Historical Newspapers" database. Click HERE for more on Readex, an important library of historical knowledge the rest of the world has no clue about.