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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Female Samurai Photo - Who's That Girl?

Unless I am going squirrely, the above photo is a woman dressed up in Japanese samurai armor. It’s not a pretty man, right?

The image is circa 1860, and is from Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images.

So… this is obviously a photograph of someone of some financial means.

My thought is that photography and photographers in Japan were still not all that common in 1860, and as such, to have one’s portrait photographed would be relatively expensive.

For reference, I found that in 1870s Japan, a portrait photograph usually cost half a ryō "per head", which was about a month's pay for an artisan.

So… expensive, but perhaps not if you were a samurai or an aristocrat.

But… a female samurai?

We’ve gone through this previously.

I don’t believe there were really ever any female samurai.

Do I believe that Japanese women would fight alongside their men? Sure.

Would they wear armor? Sure.

Would they have their own armor? Maybe... but no woman would be considered to be a samurai.

But I’m talking from pragmatism 150 years removed, and without the benefit or hindrance of Japanese thought.

I decided to check and see if there was any reason for a woman to have a suit of armor in Japan circa 1860… and while there were skirmishes in the Osaka area throughout the 1860s… there was no big battle or civil war going on at the beginning of the era.

The problem with saying that the photo is a curiosity souvenir of 1860, is that the photograph is merely attributed as being from ‘circa’ 1860. Not an exact date.

I’m sure someone with better Japanese research skills could make an exact determination of when the photograph was taken, who took it, and perhaps even who the subject might have been.

People kept journals and records… and visiting a photographer for a portrait would have been a big deal circa 1860.

Also, perhaps there’s a way of determining a range of years by the armor-style?

As for who - maybe not an exact name, but surely by examining the crest on her torso, a family name could be discerned… and since Japan has exacting family birth records (I go back as far as my grandparents - so not far at all), perhaps the woman in the photograph could be determined re: an age determination against the known women in the family clan at the time…

Whatever.

I’m just saying that there’s probably a way find stuff out if you ask the right questions in the correct language.

Enjoy the photo… she certainly looks striking and fetching all at the same time.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, April 29, 2016

All Aboard The New Kyoto Train Museum

I like trains. I always have. I was born in London, England and used to stand mesmerized atop an arched stone bridge not breathing as clouds of smoke poured from the smokestacks of a goods train or passenger train barreling through the countryside.

Being three years of age or younger, that may well be an idealized memory, but I loved trains so much back then that my dad got me an old O-scale set for me to play with.

I had finally built my own model railway set-up featuring a small 1950s-era town, and a coal mine in a corner, and some 12 switches to other tracks built up in my house - finished it the day before actually - when a fire struck my place about nine years ago.

That 100+ year-old house with the solarium that held my trainsets, and eight aquariums was badly damaged during the fire, but the most damage occurred from smoke damage to the wood I had used to build the train table. The fish survived, the trains survived, but the train table did not.

Oh, I also lost a lot of souvenirs brought back from Japan. I had a lot of stuff… still do, but I had a lot more.

In Japan - it was such a thrill for me to ride the intra-city trains, the Tokyo subway loops (no one ever tried to push me into a train car! LOL!), and stare out the window as the countryside disappeared while I rode in a shinkansen bullet train.

Anyhow, here in Toronto - as a four-year-old, a TTC employee allowed me to stand beside him in the driver’s compartment and work the throttle with him as we brought the train in from Royal York to Islington station, at that time the last stop on the line west. Kids can't do that nowadays - at least not without someone getting fired.

Nowadays… nothing… I have gone to a rail museum out near Guelph… but really, despite having a 10-year-old who has no interest in such cool nerdiness, my trains, track, buildings et al sit in corrugated boxes in my basement.

But I still get that itch, whenever I see a train…

On April 29, 2016, the Kyoto Railway Museum has its grand opening - a 20-minute walk west of Kyoto-eki (Kyoto Station).

The museum covers 30,000 square meters of floorspace on what was once the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum, and holds 53 trains that covers Japan’s history of rail travel… everything in there from steam chuffers to shinkansen.

Not just a resting place for rusting out locomotives, the trains are well-restored and all nice and shiny. The museum provides visitors with a good history of the railway in Japan, with its interactive exhibits and artifacts.

If Kyoto is too far away for some of you, there are two alternatives:
  1. Railway Museum in Saitama north of Tokyo. The Railway Museum is located just beside Tetsudo Hakubutsukan Station, which is reached in a three minute ride from Omiya Station by the New Shuttle (¥190  one way). The New Shuttle ride is not covered by any JR passes except the JR Tokyo Wide Pass.
  2. SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya. SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is a few steps from Kinjofuto Station, the terminal stop on the Aonami Line. The one way trip between Nagoya and Kinjofuto stations takes about 25 minutes, costs ¥350, and is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Trains depart approximately every 15 minutes.
Image above taken from www.japan-guide.com, who have lots of great photos from their pre-opening visit there.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What I Hate About You

I can dislike some things about Japan, despite being one of those people who is rah-rah about the country et al.

But, despite the attention grabbing headline (I hope), hate is such a strong word.

For me—and others—there are several things about Japan that are irksome, but to use irksome in a headline would remove that Romantics vibe I was reverse paraphrasing. It's a rock song.     

So, enough fence sitting, let's take a look at some of the things that baffle foreigners who visit Japan:

1) Gaijin.
A different kind of Foreigner...
The word 'gaijin' means 'outsider' or foreigner, and I think that nowadays with few exceptions, when a foreigner hears the word uttered by a Japanese person it is said to mean 'foreigner'. The Japanese have this 'thing' where they like to emphasize how Japanese something is, and reinforce that by noting when things or people are non-Japanese. Hence 'gaijin'. It can be upsetting for many foreigners who have lived in a community for a while to hear themselves referred to as an 'outsider/foreigner'—and I dig that—because most of us who have lived in Japan do our best to fit in. My advice is not take exception to it unless you see actual signs prohibiting entrance to gaijin into bars or dance clubs. Then that's just racism rearing its ugly head. I understand that in a free society every shopkeeper has the right to not serve whomever they wish, but I don't like it. It's like some shop in the U.S. denying service to someone because they are gay. Oh wait... that sort of stuff still happens. Stone. Glass houses.

2) No soap or paper towels or toilet paper in public washrooms.

If they did that in Canada or the U.S., people with pee or poop on their hands would simply walk out not caring if anyone else touches that stuff. We HAVE soap and paper towels available and still we have jerks who don't wash up. And I'm talking about where I work. Despite the no toilet paper thing at public washrooms, many companies hand out promotional items of small paper tissue packs that the recipient can use to clean their dirty butts and after washing their hands with soapless water, can now dry them.
I would never dry my hands on a paper tissue, because it would invariably fall apart and leave paper tissue crud all over my gaijin fingers and hands. If you saw me exit a public rest room (say at a restaurant), odds are you'd notice a dark stain going down the thigh area of my jeans. Classy hotels will always have paper towels, soap and toilet paper, by the way, but I would imagine you'd have to be a hotel guest to use. Maybe. Just walk in and act like you belong. As far as soaps... I never received any free samples, but I would bet some promotional items exist. If you must use a public restroom, there are no doors leading into it, so you won't have to worry about touching a door handle where someone may have soiled it. Anyhow, after a short while, I refused to use a public washroom (except at a school - and there they had toilet paper). It’s also why I didn’t make it home in time and crapped my pants after a night of heavy drinking. Really. I just tossed the pants out in the garbage… or was it recycling. Yes, I drank a lot in Japan, but not everyday. Usually just Friday and Saturday nights.

3) Individually-wrapped fruit & veggies.
Japanese pears aren't even pear-shaped.... but they do come with their own individual bandana.
I work in the packaging industry, but I didn’t know this - I saw individually wrapped fruit, but I assumed somewhere one could buy a bag of oranges if they wanted to. Still, My bad. I’m pretty sure I recall buying packaged trays of mushrooms… hmm… never had corn in three years… and apples, oranges and pears were the size of softballs, so no one purchased a dozen of them… and besides, most home fridges were tiny… which I think encourages people to purchase food on a daily basis… I rarely had food go bad at my place… I could only shop and store food for about three days. Tiny fridge. Perhaps the size of the individual fruits would preclude them being available in a multipack... the weight alone to lift would kill tiny Japanese housewives.

4) Bread.

Japanese bread is stupid. Not only can one find bread that looks like a baby’s arm. But ‘regular’ bread… when you put two slices of bread atop each other (flat)… the damn things are three to four inches high. That’s a lot of bread. Can’t the Japanese create sliced bread that is thinner? Oh well... in Japan bread isn't eaten as often as rice, where rice can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even as a snack should you go to a 7-11 or whatever for some onigiri—love that make-it-yourself riceball with dried seaweed and a tuna and mayo center! Anyhow, I would buy a loaf of bread and get maybe eight slices out of it. Since I'm the two sandwich for lunch kindda guy, I would be out in two days... which is fine, because Japanese fridges are so tiny one can only place enough goods in a Japanese fridge for about two or three days worth of meals. Still... no one needs that much bread... it's like I ate eight slices of North American-sliced bread in one sitting. Ugh.


5) Toilet slippers.
Now available in multiple colors, mine was green and had cartoony frogs on them sitting upon a water lilly in a pond... with the world as their proverbial toilet. Being a slightly larger-than-average gaijin, my feet would not fit into the slippers. Since I never peed on the floor, I had no problem in going in slipperless. I also did my own laundry—which surprised all the Japanese men—so even if I did step in something wet, I could always take the socks off and wash them at my convenience. A much better solution than semi-private shaming from having to wear stupid plastic green froggy slippers.
Look, I appreciate that you don’t want me to wear my dirty outside shoes into your clean Japanese home. I’m good with that. I’m also good with the fact that the Japanese offer slippers for me to wear while I visit their home. Thank-you. But toilet slippers? Plastic, green or blue toilet slippers? With stupid cartoony frogs, or angelic silhouettes of children or happy, over-dressed couples as graphically depicted above?
Look… you don’t want me to get your nice clean indoor slippers dirty from me peeing on them, or crapping on them… but perhaps you should be more concerned with the fact that I’m peeing and crapping all over the place. Apparently there is precedent for me doing that up above. Dammit… I’m not helping my argument.

6) Cheese is scarce.
Image from http://en.rocketnews24.com, who know all about cheese. Excellent website. This is all the cheese in Japan.
Apparently some bloggers believe cheese to be scare. Cheese is not scarce. Or at least it wasn't when I was there 20 years ago. I used to build five cheese lasagne when I lived in Japan. While I did not make my own pasta, I did build my own lasagne. Five cheeses… and I could have used more, but why should I make a $70 lasagne for my dinner? Irksome if true about the scarcity, but certainly not a hateful thing. Anyhow, cheese is very popular in Japan, so this is a bogus hate-on.

7) No street signs.
This is apparently
East Fuji Five Lakes Road, a 2-laned toll road linking Yamanashi Prefecture and Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan. What is interesting is that there are no street signs indicating that at the corners, where one would expect to see one. Image fromsnipview.com
As a stranger in a strange land, even if there were street signs, I wouldn't be able to read them any ways. But there are very few (if any) street signs anywhere in Japan. It's pretty much learn where you need to go or don't go. I thought Japan learned from the west during the Meiji era beginning in 1868 when it tried to become less Japanese and more global. Street signs. Europe and North America have street signs. Japan… this is the place U2 sang about. Whenever I traveled in Japan, my Ohtawara Board of Education office would take bets not on whether or not I would get lost, but rather how badly I would get lost. I once tried to get to the east coast for a beach party and ended up three hours west in the mountains. One of my bosses was the closest, suggesting I would end up in Korea. I learned that I should travel everywhere in Japan with a woman. If she couldn't figure out where we were, at least I could be lost and have a shot at getting laid later. I really did think like this.

8) Smoking in public spaces.

Smoking in restaurants is still allowed in Japan. Looking back to the 1990s when I was in Japan, what was worse were the nurses and doctors at the local hospital, who all had lit smokes dangling from their lower lip as they tried to describe to me that me crapping my pants was due to some gastro ailment rather than someone playing a practical joke on me. I once found a pack of menthol smokes in the cigarette vending machine below my apartment... how drunk do you have to be to not pick up the smokes you just paid for? Anyhow... I had a lighter in my pocket that I used for lighting candles in my ambience-heavy apartment... so I lit up a smoke... just as a strong wind blew, throwing the flame into the side of my face. Coincidentally, I then began to grow a beard for the first time ever. The scars healed - at least the physical ones - but damn... I looked good with that beard that had no grey in it. Anyhow, smoking in Japan is decreasing... no, really.

9) White cars.
Not every car in Japan is white, but as you can see, it's the most popular. Image from classes.soe.ucsc.edu
I wonder if this is still such a big deal, but let's assume it is. For as long as anyone can recall, the Japanese have preferred their cars to be white in color. Why? The reason quoted to me is that white cars are easier to see in the dark. Yes... but if headlights are being used, one kinda has an idea where a car is. The real reason I was told by many others, however, is that white is a color of purity, and the Japanese like the concept of being 'pure' - even when leaving their mistress behind to head back home to the wife and kids at 2AM. When I arrived in Japan, I received much credit from the Japanese because I owned a white Mazda 323. For the record, my current car is black with gold dual pin-striping. It looks beautiful even when it dies in a live lane on the highway as it did last Thursday.

10) Green Tea.
Drinking green tea is the cat's meow in Japan. Image from en.rocketnews24.com
Gaijin, both foreigners and outsiders, can get a little piqued about the amount of green tea they are offered during the day by the Japanese, who can't get enough of the stuff. First... despite the high incidence of smoking, I only saw one person who had a smoker's cough while I was in Japan... and he was a gaijin. On the other hand, the Japanese drink a lot of the healthy green tea known as o-cha. On a slow day I might be offered about six cups, but I've ingested over 14 a few times. This is when one wishes Japan's restrooms had soap and paper towels handy. Again... this isn't really an irksome or even a hateful thing. It's the Japanese being courteous and offering you a free cup of steaming hot green tea. True or not, even when the humidity makes the temperature feel like its 44C, a hot drink is supposed to cool you down. Me? I drank it for the caffeine, and to combat the dry throat after a night of real drinking. Where did my pants go? Still, not everyone likes green tea. I could take it or leave it. If you are that way, always take it so as to not disappoint your Japanese hosts. As long as you sip about half of it down, no one could ever take insult.

11) Stupid English Words.
My words can do this no justice...
Japlish is a thing. Japan seems to love having English words on their clothing or bags, photo albums, binders, rulers... whatever... The problem, however, is that whoever is manufacturing these products for the Japanese either doesn't know much about English, or doesn't care enough to give the Japanese a product where the English words aren't gibberish. Hey... anyone can make a mistake when translating to another language... but for Japanese clothing or accessories, it's like someone sees an open page in a book, photographs it, and then crops the middle of that image and sticks it on the back of someone's leather jacket.

12) Pantyhose.
Japanese flight attendants wearing pantyhose. I can't see anything wrong with this, however... I'm not making my point here.
I have nothing personal against pantyhose. It can look very sexy. Man that photograph above is hot.  But Japan can be quite hot and humid in the summer, and seeing women wear pantyhose in the steamy hot weather makes ME uncomfortable. I enjoy seeing a naked leg... but even my Japanese girlfriend would wear pantyhose in the middle of a heat wave. To be fair, she was coming back from teaching at a school, and at a junior high school there are a lot of perverts running around—and I'm just talking about the teachers. Since she knew of my disdain for the hose when unnecessary, she would slyly remove them in her car in my apartment's parking lot before knocking my socks off when she arrived at my door. Man... just thinking about that now makes me want to use the washroom.

13) Closed Windows.
A telephone card of my old school Nozaki Chu Gakko - where pantyhose wearing (sometimes) Noboko was a teacher.
I know that weather is different all over the country of Japan, but where I was, it was very humid. But even when the temperature got very hot, the Japanese would keep the windows down. Conversely, when it was very cold, they would open up the windows to let the fresh air in. For those that use a kerosene heater in the winter to warm up a room, one MUST keep a window or door open so that the gas vapors can dissipate. Failure to do that can lead to death or in my case a severe talking to from my bosses who then got me a wall-mounted heating/AC unit just in case I was too stupid a gaijin to obey simple Japanese rules. Yeah... I was stupid like a gaijin. Ha.

14) Tiny Roads.
This is an example of the narrow roads that ran through the City of Ohtawara where I lived. In many places, the roads were even narrower.
I lived in the rural part of Japan where roads would cut a path through rice paddies... roads that were/are at best 1-1/2 car widths wide... which presents a problem for you, the gaijin, on the bicycle who now has two cars trying to pass one another (oh yeah, and you) on a pathway that would make a mountain goat nervous. Apparently, some people believe in ladies first, rather than who arrived first, but that's not all of Japan. Just back off and let the cars fight off who is going to gain the right of way. Sometimes it can be fun to watch.

15) The Missing Sidewalk Block.
Okay... see the photo I took in Point #14... over to the left and right of the road... the grey blocks that look like sidewalks, but really aren't, but are considered to actually be a sidewalk.... that's what I'm talking about...
Japan has sidewalks alongside some of its many streets and goat paths. The sidewalks are rarely raised (except in the big cities). In the smaller cities, towns and villages, the sidewalk is actually a stone tile that covers a water drainage system. Sometimes one or more tiles go missing or are broken. Sometimes when you are riding your bicycle late in the morning (say 3AM), and you are drunk and it's really difficult to ride with the light grinding away at the tire, and you really don't want to crap your pants... it is very easy to suddenly plummet down about 10 inches into the open sewer system. I have no idea if it's a sewer system... but it's never dry. No, neither are my pants. But that's probably for another reason.
Anyhow.. because I had a difficult time finding an image on the 'net... maybe it ain't a thing anymore. Hunh.

That's it for now... do you have any quirks about Japan that irk you? 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: By the way... when I went to the Internet to confirm that The Romantics did indeed sing "What I Like About You" which allowed me to paraphrase my blog title - I also discovered there was a 2002 American television show by the same name. Here's what its about:
When Holly's father is transferred to Japan, she is sent to live with Valerie, her big sister, in New York City, and turns Valerie's life upside-down. It stars Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth.
Japan pokes its head out once again. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Japan’s WWII Atomic Weapons Program

There’s a TV program on now about a “What if?” scenario where, what if Germany and Japan had defeated the Allies in WWII—a show called The Man In The High Castle. (Image above is of the Allied atomic bomb blast on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.)

In the comic books, DC owns the rights to The Freedom Fighters, a bunch of individual characters previous owned by Quality Comics, that DC put together back in 1973, where this Earth-X superhero team lived and fought in a world where Nazi Germany won a very long WWII due to a Japanese invasion of California and the Nazi-development of nuclear weapons.

Anyhow… no one seems to have ever come up with a concept where what would have happened if Japan had an atomic bomb...

Did you know that the Japanese actually had an atomic weapons program during WWII?

Yes. They did.

Did the Japanese have a working atomic bomb? No.

They needed more time… time they no longer had after Germany’s defeat at the hands of the Allies in May 8, 1945, that then allowed the Allies to squarely concentrate their efforts on taking down Japan.

Come along Sherman, step into Mr. Peabrain’s Wayback (WAYBAC - aka Wavelength Acceleration Bidirectional Asynchronous Controller) machine and let’s try not to step on any butterflies back in 1934… because butterflies are nice…. even Japanese butterflies of Imperial Japan.

Tadayoshi Hikosaka (surname first) was a professor at Tohoku University, who in 1934 released his ‘atomic physics theory, whereby he describes the:
  1. large amounts of energy contained by nuclei and;
  2. the possibility that both nuclear power generation and weapons could be created.
To be clear, I can't find any information at all on Tadayoshi, which is weird if he's supposed to be someone who was a big deal in Japan thinking it could create nuclear weapons...    
Four years later, German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann reported that they had been able to detect barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons.

This information made its way to Lise Meitner and her nephew Robert Frisch who said this was nuclear fission, with Frisch confirming the results on January 13, 1939 with his own experiment.

With this, scientists proved that nuclear chain reactions could be produced artificially, and soon enough governments everywhere learned that it was now truly possible to develop nuclear weapons.

(Make no mistake… atomic weapons are nuclear weapons - it’s just nomenclature.)

In Japan, leading physicist Nishina Yoshio (surname first) was keen on utilizing nuclear fission as a military weapon, but was also justifiably concerned that other countries like the U.S., were also trying to create a nuclear weapon.
Does anyone else think Nishina Yoshio should have someone look at that mole under his eye?
Nishina had previously co-authored the Klein-Nishina formula which I’m not enough of an egghead to properly get (it gives the differential cross section of photons scattered from a single free electron in lowest order of quantum electrodynamics, according to Wikipedia) - see?

He was friendly with Einstein and Neils Bohr, the great Dane physicist, a guy every fan of the show The Big Bang Theory should be pontificating to because of his huge contributions to the understanding of atomic structure and quantum theory.

Nishina had previously established his own Nuclear Research Laboratory to study high-energy physics in 1931 at RIKEN Institute (the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research), which had been established in 1917 in Tokyo to promote basic research.

In 1936 Nishina constructed a 26-inch (660 mm) cyclotron, and a 60-inch (1,500 mm), 220-ton cyclotron in 1937.

In 1938 Japan also purchased a cyclotron from the University of California, Berkeley.

Really, U of C Berkley? You didn’t see Japan as being dicks to the rest of Asia before that? You just wanted the money, right? Or was it just the false belief that there was no way a government would ever try and pervert science for their own use? (Melancholy sigh)

Nishina (right) at work at teh RIKEN Institute trying to make his cyclotron separate atoms... any atom...


It was in 1939 that Nishina worried that the U.S. might be trying to create a nuclear weapon, and depending on when in 1939, he was either paranoid or correct, as U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt wondered behind closed doors if the U.S. could or should develop its own nuclear weaponry.

Becoming the well-known (now) Manhattan Project, the University of California, Berkley lab that sold Japan a cyclotron became the place to be if you were involved in U.S. nuclear weapons research.

After meeting Japanese director of Japan’s Army Aeronautical Department's Technical Research Institute, lieutenant-general Yasuda Takeo (surname first), Nishina told him about the possibility of Japan building its own nuclear weapon’s arsenal.

That meeting was not coincidental. Have you ever met a General on train? Would you ever be discussing state secrets and military strategy on such a vehicle?

It is important to note, that this was an Army plan.

In April of 1941, Army Minister Tojo Hideki (yeah, that Tojo - surname first) ordered Yasuda to look further into the possibility of Japan being able to create nuclear weapons. Yasuda then passed the order down to viscount Ōkōchi Masatoshi director of the RIKEN Institute, who then passed the order down to Nishina.

By this time, Nishina had over 100 nuclear researchers.

Navy Time Japan’s Army and Navy were always in competition with one another, so perhaps it would come as no surprise that the Imperial Japanese Navy's Technology Research Institute had been looking in to the possibility of creating nuclear weapons, too.

They had been in talks with scientists from the Imperial University in Tokyo, for advice on constructing and possible use of nuclear weapons. This resulted in the formation of the Committee on Research in the Application of Nuclear Physics, chaired by Nishina, that met 10 times between July 1942 and March 1943.

It concluded in a report that while an atomic bomb was, in principle, feasible, "it would probably be difficult even for the United States to realize the application of atomic power during the war.”

Well… if the U.S. couldn’t do it, why should the Japanese Navy bother?

Rather than worry about nuclear weapons, the Navy focused its attention on radar.

Ni-Go Project But the Army still thought the awesome might of a split atom would be just dandy to use, that same Committee on Research in the Application of Nuclear Physics worked with the Army and set up the Ni-Go Project at the RIKEN complex.

1929, RIKEN welcomed Dr. W. Heisenberg (fourth left) and Dr. P.A.M. Dirac (sixth from left). Japanese Scientists: From left to right - Dr. Y. Nishina, Dr. M. Katsuyama, Dr. M. Okouchi, Dr. N. Nagaoka, Dr. K. Honda, and Dr. Y, Sugiura. Image from http://www.rarf.riken.go.jp/old/riken/history/history.html

If you glance at the photo immediately above, you Breaking Bad fans will see the original Heisenberg.

Via the Ni-Go Project, scientists were TRYING to separate uranium-235 by thermal diffusion. The other methods to do so include: electromagnetic separation, gaseous diffusion, and centrifugal separation.

It took until February 1945, but at the RIKEN complex, scientists separated a small amount of some radioactive material… but it was not uranium-235.

The attempt to separate the U-235 ended two months later after U.S. bombing fire-damaged the facility.

Japan’s biggest problem in attempting to create nuclear fission was its inability to procure enough uranium for experiments. The Japanese Navy and Army did conduct searches for uranium ore, looking in Fukushima-ken, of all places, as well as in conquered territories in Burma, Korea and China.

The Japanese did try and get some from Axis ally Germany, with some 1,230 pounds (560 kilograms) of unprocessed uranium oxide sent via German submarine U-234 (interesting name).

It was the U-234’s first and only mission into enemy territory, but on May 14, 1945 it was told to surface and surrender by German Admiral Admiral Dönitz, as Germany was offering its unconditional surrender.

F-Go Project
But, there was another Japanese plan for nuclear weapons going on at the same time as Ni-Go Project… this one called F-Go Project… though I assume there was a real Japanese translation.

F-Go was a Navy program - another one, taking place at Kyoto’s Imperial University under the auspices of Arakatsu Bunsaku (surname first), who as the then-current No. 1 Japanese physicist had studied at Cambridge under Ernest Rutherford and at the Berlin University under Albert Einstein.

Arakatsu Bunsaku looking all aglow with his nice suit and hot haircut and mustache.
Rutherford, in case you are wondering, was the guy who gave us the model of what an atom looks like inside and out… you know, electrons, protons, neutrons. A New Zealander, he did a lot of his work at Canada’s McGill University in Montreal, where he was the one who figured out radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the nuclear transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation. Einstein… I believe he was a very smart alien from outer space.

Anyhow, a commander Kitagawa who was the head of the Japanese Navy’s Research Institute chemical department wanted Arakatsu to continue with trying to separate uranium-235.

By the time WWII concluded for Japan, he had designed and was constructing an ultracentrifuge that could spin at 60,000 rpm (rotations per minute) - current ultracentrifuge’s can spin at a speed of 1,000,000 g’s, which is approximately 9,800 kilometers per second squared, which is effing fast.

We spin stuff in a centrifuge to try and cause the atoms to separate into smaller and smaller and smaller components. The trick to achieve even greater speeds is to continue to lightweight the rotor… and hopefully avoid a fire caused by friction.

Anyhow… no uranium-235 separated by the ultracentrifuge for Japan at that time.

After the U.S. used two of its three available atomic bombs (see HERE for more about the 3rd Atomic Bomb and its possible targets), the Atomic Bomb Mission of the Manhattan Project was sent to Japan to see what it had wrought, and discovered that Japan’s F-Go Project had received some 20 grams a month of heavy water from electrolytic ammonia plants in Korea and Kyushu.

Japanese industrialist Noguchi Jun had created a heavy water program back in 1926 via his Korean Hydro Electric Company in what is now Hungnam, Korea.

However, despite the availability of heavy water for nuclear research, the Japanese had not realized—and did not proceed—with using heavy water to help control nuclear fission.

So… despite some stories on the Internet claiming Japan having nuclear weapons capabilities, or having actually tested an ‘atomic’ bomb in Korea towards the end of WWII, there is no actual proof that the Japanese nuclear weapons program had proceeded far enough at the time of its surrender.

Even if Germany had held out longer on its surrender, Japan’s nuclear weapons studies seem to prove that its processes were not what we today would call the best processes for the end result.

Banzai,
Andrew "I think I just accidentally stepped on myself" Joseph

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Fake Toenail Stockings

I don’t believe I know a woman who thinks that the latest Japanese invention for female beauty care is a good thing—at least I hope not.

At first glance at the image above, we see an attractive set of toes adorned with some fancy nail polish application providing what is, in my opinion, a sexy look.

But wait… look at the leg above the ankle… is that a shimmer?

Now look at the area of the actual toes… that’s not a natural look, is it?

No… welcome to Japan where woman can stick their legs down a pair of hosiery that comes with pre-painted toenail polish on the OUTSIDE.

Look… I have previously gone on the record as stating that many women already fool men a lot with their fakery. But this is ridiculous.





I have no problem with a bit of make-up deftly applied to accentuate a woman’s appearance… a bit of blush, some lipstick, even eyeliner and eyeshadow. Heck, even some perfume (but definitely deodorant), if you don’t think it’ll make my wife suspicious.

Men, when looking for a woman, use smell to detect pheromones… and when we find a pheromone scent that is appealing to us, the individual, there is an attraction. Yes… perfume masks that woman’s true pheromone scent… but eventually that real scent comes out in the wash.

Women have hair color, cosmetics, fake boobs… there’s a lot of subterfuge going on… I think that sometimes confuses the baser instincts of men.

Conversely, men have cologne, hair dye… and usually that’s all, though I know some have permanent eye-liner, where bronzer… but really, men aren’t often masking their pheremones with falsehood. Unless you wear a lot of Axe products.

Anyhow… for the Japanese—to go along with the fake camel toe panties (Really, if you are interested in showing off such a thing, you are already pretty slutty so just go without panties and leave your phone number with me in an e-mail that simply says when and where)—we have the Belle Maison stockings.

Belle Maison - I’m not that good with the French language except to know enough to get slapped nine times out of 10 (but that tenth time is magic!), but I’m pretty sure that company name translates to Beautiful House.

Beautiful House… okay… whatever. I’m here to poke holes in their toe jam stockings.

The stockings for the lazy Japanese woman who has nothing, come in a wide variety of colors and designs, a sea motif called the Mermaid; something with a feather and pearls called the Flamingo; Lime Candy which looks like something you could suck on—which I would, but this ain’t a real toe; Sunny Shower which looks like… I don’t know what it looks like - an apple; and Tile Flower, which offers two toe covered in a floral appliqué, and the remaining three in a slate grey tile appearance.

There’s Disney brands, too, including Rapunzel; Chip n/ Dale; Tinkerbell; and Donald Duck, who I can only assume is there because he doesn’t wear pants.


Hell, there’s even a Parisienne look with an Eiffel Tower making an appearance on the big toe, and stars and hearts on the others, because Japan still thinks that Paris is romantic—which it may very well be, but wearing fake nail polish is no way to express romance. 

Want to see the whole line-up of stockings? Go HERE.

Anyhow… to each their own.

I know Japanese women tend to wear stockings pretty much all the time, but having dated a few Japanese women who knew the power of their skin on a man, all I can say is that I have always appreciated the time and effort put in. Period.

My thanks to Alice, who sent me this lead, and a woman who takes the time to provide real sex appeal rather than fakery like this Japanese invention.

Yes, I am aware that the user can switch her toenail appearance several times a day, but it also means you have to carry around several pairs of stockings with you.


I am aware that people have busy lives, and finding the time to paint one’s toenails may seem frivolous—well, just leave’em plain. There’s no shame in that!

In my opinion, the shame comes from wearing the fake toenail stockings that cost ¥990 (US $8.90).

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, April 25, 2016

Candy, Buddha And The Shogun

It's been a busy weekend of baseball from myself and my son, Hudson, and I'm working on a story at work on a candy manufacturer I visited recently - so what the heck - let's write about candy.

Above is a 1787 AD black and white print drawn by Shunchosai Takehara Nobushige depicting a Japanese confectionery store known as "The Great Buddha Sweetshop".

The shop was near the Great Buddha tourist spot in Kyoto. But more than just show an affirmation for Buddha, the statue was meant to show a line of separation between peasant and samurai.

The Great Buddha statue was the brainchild of samurai warrior Hideyoshi Toyotomi (豊臣 秀吉 surname first), who in 1588 AD ordered all peasants to surrender their weapons, claiming the metal in the weapons would be put to use in creating the metal Buddha statue.

Part of the real plan was to take away weapons from the peasantry so that there could not be any future uprisings against other higher classes.

The other part of the plan was to ensure the peasants knew their place, and to ensure the samurai knew theirs.

Prior to this, low-level samurai had also worked the fields to earn a living...

An edict of 1591 by Hideyoshi said:
  1. Fighting men - samurai - are banned from becoming peasants/farmers or townspeople;
  2. Peasants could not leave their fields to become merchants or even artisans, and artists and merchants could not become farmers;
  3. No one could hire or employ a samurai who had left his master without permission.
Hideyoshi had himself risen from peasantry to become a general and nearly had control over all of Japan either through daimyo vassals or his own holdings... but this way, he hoped to crush the dreams of everyone else.

The other man who held control over parts of Japan was some guy name Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had control in in the central Kanto area - but these were large and powerful areas.

Tokkugawa has actually considered to be wealthier than Hideyoshi, so a truce was struck to ensure there was no war between them.

The  truce was struck by having Tokugawa marry Hideyoshi's sister.

But, when Hideyoshi died on September 18, 1598, Hideyoshi's daimyo nor even Tokugawa wanted too swear allegiance to Hideyoshi's son and successor, Hideyori, who was just five-years-old.

Like taking candy away from a baby, there was a huge battle for power, finally settled in October of 1600AD via the Battle of Sekigahara... with Tokugawa emerging victorious and named shogun in 1603 AD.

Oh... and Hideyoshi also played a huge role in the spread of Catholicism in Japan, when he ordered the execution of 26 Catholic martyrs on February 5, 1597 at Nagasaki.

Until that time, there were some 300,000 Catholics in Japan, but with the executions, Buddhism became the de facto way of life for the Japanese. I should mention that many Japanese Christians did continue with their religion, but now no longer out in the open.

Yes... candy is dandy, but controlling a country is epic.

>Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Beer Me-iji - A Short History Of Beer In Japan

When Japan closed off its international borders to global visitors, or for their own seeking to leave, it kept a small port open at Dejima in Nagasaki, where small amounts of trade continued with both the with Dutch and Portuguese.

I suspect that trade with the Dutch was always looked forward too, because the Dutch brought guns… which kind of sucks, as it takes away the somewhat romantic notion of war - where everyone could now kill from a distance.

I know, bow & arrow.. but still… anyhow… the Dutch also brought beer to Japan.

Booze, guns… all they needed to bring in were narcotics and prostitution for the total Dutch treat.    

Now… most people know that the Dutch make a decent beer—Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch, to name some of the biggies… ever heard of anyone raving about Portuguese beer?

Right. In Holland, it's weed, prostitution, beer and windmills. Apparently windmills supplanted gunpowder-based weapons. 

Anyhow… beer. The Dutch actually managed to open up a special beer establishment for its sailors in Dejima

Take from that paragraph what you wish, but it does NOT appear as though the Dutch beer was made available to the local Japanese, who had to rely upon their sake and waaaa-der… or something like that.

Anyhow… the Japanese essentially remained a beer-less nation - effing Shogun - until the Meiji Restoration that pretty much began in 1868.

At that time, small amounts of Bass Pale Ale and Bass Stout (Mmmmm, that's great bass)

SNL video



Pity it’s not the full video…

Anyhow… the small amounts of beer that made its way into Japan was only available in the new foreign settlements of the country.

While the Japanese might occasionally get a taste, it was not readily available to them.

Still, soon enough European brewmasters began arriving in Japan, and either trained the Japanese or attempted to startup their own brewery, and by 1869, the Spring Valley Brewery was born.

What you might not know, however, is that while the Japanese soon couldn't get enough of that wonderful duff, the beer makers were running afoul of the sake manufacturers.

Booze War!

Yes, this new-fangled thing called bieru (beer) was competing with the rice-wine products produced in Japan by the Japanese for the Japanese.  

Because the sake shops would not allow beer to be sold at the wholesale sake shops, the beer manufacturers began selling it within other shops - like at wholesale drug companies—yup, good for what ails ya.

The main thing to come from this, was that since beer (and wine) was now being distributed differently from sake, it was not taxed as heavily as sake.

But so what if sake and wine & beer are being distributed differently - shouldn’t the taxes be the same?

In this case, because of the Meiji government’s attempts to drag Japan and the Japanese to the 18th and eventually the 19th century, it penalized the sake drinker, and made the prospect of buying the more inexpensive wine and beer products even more appealing.  

Yes, Europeanization… which seems odd, but what image comes to mind when one thinks of 1860s North America? Canada wasn’t Canada until 1867, and we had a beaver infestation (kidding), and the U.S. was either embroiled in or just concluding its first Civil War. I assume there will be another one.

So - cheap beer made its way around Japan.

It wasn’t until 1901, that beer began to be taxed, but wine was not.

Sake had, until the end of WWII, a brewing tax, a commodity tax, and a tax on the total shipment.

Beer only had the brewing tax.

When WWII ended, and people could begin to rebuild their lives, they could do so with affordable beer and wine.

So… once again, Japan can blame the gaijin for their alcoholism.

Kanpai!
Andrew Joseph
Image from www.japantravelmate.com 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

No More Philosopher Tree

To tree or no to tree, that was the question. Now, one farmer, fed up with rude trespassers - both foreign and Japanese has cut down a local tourist attraction - the Philosopher Tree.

Cut down on February 24 of 2016, the 30-meter tree situated in a farmer's field in Biei, Hokkaido is no more, after trespassers looking for that perfect photo or opportunity to touch the tree continued to ignore warning signs, trampling the farmer's crops.

Planted in the 1960s, the farmer himself says he will miss the tree, but enough was enough.

"I don't have to be bothered any longer," explaining that he had feared that the old tree may fall by itself and cause damage to crops in the surrounding fields or injure tourists who trespassed on the fields to see the tree.

While foreign tourists were often cited as the leading cause of the trespassing, locals say it was actually the Japanese tourists who were the most rude, shouting back at those warning them not to trespass.

Trespassing on private farmland is against the law. Farmers also voiced concerns that germs on shoe soles could contaminate soil.

Biei is famous for potatoes, but one kind of potato pest, a species not native to Japan, was found in Abashiri, a Hokkaido city some 200 kilometers east of Biei, last August for the first time.

Yeah... well, (whether) 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them.

Now we know. Philosophize amongst yourselves.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, April 22, 2016

Japan’s Stealth Jet Makes Successful First Flight

On April 22, 2016, Japan’s first stealth fighter jet soared into the sky - joining the select ranks of countries with the technological skill and money to produce a stealth aircraft—China, Russia, and the U.S.

The flight is even more impressive because Japan has refrained from manufacturing its own jets and bombers since the country agreed to constraints placed upon it after its role in WWII.

Japan has no armed forces per details inscribed in its Constitution written originally by WWII victors the United States.

But, with both China and Russia buzzing its own warplanes over southwestern and norther islands under question of who actually owns them, Japan has been looking to ramp up its defensive posture on the global stage.

The new Japanese stealth jet - the X-2 jet—flew from Nagoya airport, with a small crowd of people in attendance, lifting off in the clear, morning sky.

Two Japanese jets fighters (purchased from other-country manufacturers) escorted the X-2 during its flight… not for protection, but to help record flight data.

The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight without any issues.

It was an "extremely stable" flight, the pilot was quoted as saying by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the main contractor.

The inaugural flight, which followed extensive ground tests, had been postponed due to bad weather and malfunctions of parts used in its escape system.

The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and 200 other firms, measures 14.2 meters (47 feet) long and 9.1 meters wide and was built as a successor to F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the U.S.

First delivery of an X-2 stealth jet to the Japan Defense Ministry is expected to occur as early as May 2016.

The X-2 project was initiated in 2009, with some ¥39.4 billion (US$332 million) spent to develop the aircraft.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Japanese Typewriter In Action

We all know that writing Japanese can be a difficult thing to wrap one's head around - especially if one comes from a world where there are only 26 alphabetical symbols to Japan and its 2000+ symbols of kanji, and 76 each of hiragana and katakana symbols.

It's daunting.

A week or so ago, I wrote about the guy who created the so-called first practical Japanese typewriter.

Want to see a version of it (a later version) in action... a version that supposedly improved upon the original 'successful' one? Japanese type II suganuma typewriter.

All I know is that I write in English with a pen and paper faster than that, and I am sure there are many Japanese people who can do the same with kanji.

Thanks, Julien!

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Get A Look At Japan's Invisible Train


I can see how, on the one hand this might appear to be a ghostly green solution... but then again... pow!

Japanese architect Sejima Kazuyo has built a hyper-reflective train that is virtually invisible, allowing it to blend in with its surroundings as it barrels through the picturesque Japanese countryside, and concrete urbanside (is that a word? It is now).

“The limited express travels in a variety of different sceneries, from the mountains of Chichibu to the middle of Tokyo, and I thought it would be good if the train could gently co-exist with this variety of scenery,” Sejima says via her press release.

Seijima was hired to design the trains as part of Japanese railway company Seibu Holding’s 100th anniversary for use on the company’s Red Arrow commuter train.

The reflective surface has previously been used by Sejima on buildings, such as Le Louvre Lens Museum in France.

Even though the train’s revolutionary exterior sets it apart from the average commuter rail service, the architect hopes the inside will lend itself to an enjoyable experience for riders.

“I also would like it to be a limited express where large numbers of people can all relax in comfort, in their own way, like a living room, so that they think to themselves ‘I look forward to riding that train again.’”

The reflective train is set to hit the tracks around Tokyo in 2018.

Good luck seeing it.

My only complaint - and one not brought up in other media, is that if this so-called invisible train blends in so well, could this not cause issues for cars and trucks that have to pass over the train tracks?

Hmmm... looks clear - Smasharoo!

Oh well... I'm sure that'll never happen.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Chimp Makes Monkey Of Japanese During Daring Escape From Zoo

While not quite Planet of the Apes-like, things got pretty hairy last week in Sendai after a chimpanzee escaped from Yagiyama Zoological Park.

Not quite every which way but loose, on April 14, 2016, Chacha, a 24-year-old male chimp, found a hole in a fence and made his escape that would have made the lads stuck in Stalag Luft III (The Great Escape) proud.

Spoiler Alert:
But, like damn near everyone in that movie, Chacha was found surrounded by the dirty Boche (Why am I thinking of Hogan’s Heroes?)… anyhow… I mean after Chacha climbed atop a hydro pole, zoo workers tried to get the chimp down.

Check out that fierce image above from AP… holy crap. Ape shall never kill ape, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t kill humans.

Obviously not wanting to go back to his “home” back at the zoo, that very brave or stupid zoo worker in the cherry picker shot Chacha with a tranquilizer arrow.

Of course… it wasn’t an instantaneous knock out shot… no… Chacha began scampering along the wires…

Chacha pulled the arrow out… but then the sedative kicked in… and dangling from the electrical wire, the now unconscious chimpanzee fell headfirst …

… into a large blanket below held by a dozen zoo workers. 

Chacha is okay, suffering minor bruises and cuts from his ordeal.



 
Bonzo,
Andrew Joseph

Scarlett Johansson Plays Japanese Character In Movie

I suppose I have finally come to the conclusion that my feelings for Scarlett Johansson are stronger than hers for me—and I’m okay with that. She’ll come around.

Anyhow… the spectacular Ms. Johansson is, as most people are aware, a healthy white woman who just so happens to be a movie actress, having appeared in such hits as The Avengers (both of the movies, plus the upcoming Civil War), Lucy and many more.

More often than not, Johansson has played a character revolving around the world of comic books: playing the always hot Black Widow character in the Marvel blockbuster flicks and nerd girl Rebecca in Ghost World when she was 16 or 17.

You may have noticed that I added the word “white” when describing her… which isn’t like me at all, because I don’t really give a crap about such things. But in this case, it is warranted.

Scarlett Johansson is set to play the lead role in the movie Ghost in the Shell, a live-action version of a Japanese anime (animated film), which was itself based on a manga (comic book) created back in 1989.I have never read it, but I have heard it is fantastic.

So… people are wondering why the heck a white woman has been cast as a Japanese lead.

Get used to it.

Despite a super large actor population, apparently Hollywood could never find a brown enough person to act in its movies… like in Gandhi. Yeah, I know actor Ben Kingsley got some Indian in him… but no one is going call him anything but white.

What about casting Nick Fury in the Avenger’s movies as a black man via Samuel L Jackson. yeah… I know that the there was a line of books set in an alternate universe where Fury was black and based on Jackson himself… but that’s not what Fury was originally.

Personally, who gives a rat’s butt. Kingsley and Jackson are wonderful actors, and while I don’t think Ms. Johansson is at that same point yet, she does possess world-class sweater puppets, and as long as the script is fine, she’ll do her job well.

What the fug is Ghost in the Shell? It’s cyber punk in Japan.

Johansson will play “Major”, aka Kusanagi Motoko, a cyberntically-augmented woman, who in the 21st century (that’s now) will explore the futuristic landscape of Japan wondering what makes a human human.

Considering Johansson already played Lucy with her ultra-human brain powers, it seems to me she should be more than ready for this role.

I have no idea who is actually complaining about Johansson in this Japanese role. probably a few Japanese people. But whatever… this ain’t no Japanese movie.

This is a Hollywood movie. Why not use one of the most beautiful and popular actresses one can get their lucky hands on?

It’s not like the manga/anime character of the Major looked Japanese to begin with!

Look at the comparison above! Who has the bigger eyes? Kidding, but Japan's characterization of eyes in its manga and anime has always ticked me off.

Why does Japan not make its cartoon and comic book characters look more like a real Japanese person? Don't give me that 'cuteness' crap argument. Maybe it was find back in the early days, but why do 90% of the books and anime follow that large eye rule?

Yeah... some characterization has occurred where the Japanese animated figures actually have Asian eyes.

Jawline? Boob size? Well, they got that part correct, as Ms. Johansson almost seems to possess a body of comic book proportions.

Seriously... I've been to Japan. Lived there a while. Was lucky enough to date women so beautiful I still have no idea how that happened.

And while there's a few Japanese women out there with bodies like that (heck, there are a few women in the world who have comic book bodies), I can state for a fact that body-wise, all depictions of the Major are not representative of a true Japanese female body. Sorry... it's true.

Now, the Major is supposed to have cybernetic augmentation... but seriously... bionic boobs? Despite the wishes of many a fanboy and fangirl, it ain't ever happening.

Hair color? The manga/anime character has purple hair. Yeah man... she looks soooooo Japanese.

Seriously… is it skin tone? That’s the problem?

There’s people out there who will complain about anything you can come up with. There’s people who are offended that zebras have vertical stripes. There’s people are who believe the Earth is flat. There are people who believe in god. It’s all faith, right? So skin color?

People are upset that the casting of Ms. Johansson is the American studio simply not understanding the concept of what they are working with.

Bull roar! (How 1970s of me.)

The studio(s) Paramount and DreamWorks know what they are doing.

They picked a sexy actor to lead their movie.

Should they have picked Lucy Liu? Or Ming-Na Wen? They aren’t Japanese either, despite their very different skin tones.
Lucy Liu is 47, but a 10 in my book. See her in tv's Elementary.

Ming-Na Wen is 52 - like really? Holy crap! See her on Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv show.

What Japanese actress should they have used?

I’m sure you can think of one or six… but this is a Hollywood movie, with a big budget and high expectations. They want to entertain and make money… not necessarily in that order.

Skin color? Racism? Whitewashing? 

People need to get their head out of their politically correct collective butt and hope like hell Ghost in the Shell is a good movie.

Man… the next thing you’ll know, Japan will be forced two make their own Japanese version of Ghost in the Shell, like they are doing with Godzilla.

Damn American Godzilla looks fat! Right… and those Japanese Godzilla movies made in the late 1960s and 70s are good.

Yes… Scarlett Johansson and my favorite lizard.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bread Or Baby Arm?

You can’t say the Japanese don’t have a sense of humor.

Earlier this month, Japanese were taking to Twitter to post photos asking “Bread or baby arm?” with the hashtag: #我が子の最強ちぎりパン画像

The image above is just one of thousands and thousands to hit social media.

Go on… check it out for yourself… really, I'm not making this stuff up.

It’s pretty damn funny, and makes me never want to eat Japanese bread or baby arm again.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death

While today's blog is an obvious nod to one of my favorite punk group the Dead Kennedys, it's also a nod towards something Japan's federal government is instigating in the hopes of making travel within Japan easier—but I suspect more devious uses for it.

Coming soon this summer to a convenience store, hotel, restaurant and other places near you, Japan is instigating a fingerprint system that will allow visiting tourists to the country to more easily make purchases while at the same time avoid all of that nasty crime Japan is famous for.

Yeah - it's that last phrase that should be troubling. The fingerprint system for gaijin is to better prevent crime, and to reduce the amount of cash tourists need carry about with them.

Japan doesn't have a crime problem - except from whatever the hell the Japanese Gentleman's Business Club members - the yakuza - are up to, which as far as I know isn't anything. I swear! I don't know nothing.

Granted this fingerprinting system is being put in place in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games... because while the average Japanese person is pretty damn honest - as much as you are, I say hopefully, it can be assumed these measures are because crime travels... with expected pickpockets. muggers, armed robbery and petty theft offenses increase as the games get closer.

The plan for the system is that foreign tourists when they arrive in Japan via airports or the docks to register their fingerprints and data such as their credit card information - linking, for example, those two items so that only the appropriate fingerprint can access and utilize the credit card.

I admit it sounds like a great idea.

Who the hell needs to carry around $10,000 in Japanese money in their wallet. It sounds stupid, but I have done that on a few occasions while in Japan. That was 1990-1993.

Here in Toronto, Canada where I live, we use our ATM (automated teller machine) bank card as a debit card to make purchases, where we can stick the card into a reader and type in the password or literally tap it against the reader, and presto, purchase accepted or declined (if you lack the funds in your bank).

Personally, I dislike the tap method, because if the card is lost, anyone finding it can use it until such time as you realize the card is missing and cancel it.

I don't use the tap method... I prefer to input my password. No password is perfect, but it's a helluva lot better protection than the "tap".

Seriously.... don't get the "tap".

So... in Japan... do they have the debit card option for payments? Seriously - except for some very small businesses in Toronto (my hairdresser like cash), every damn place has a debit card payment option for goods and services rendered. I would assume Japan has this capability, minus the "tap".

How about credit cards having a hologram image of the user's face, along with personal information such as the card owner's address? Seriously... what's IN those holograms right now? Are you telling me that the holograms used are just for beauty? At that extra cost? If not required by a bank, no bank would absorb the extra cost to make a card prettier with a hologram. I don't feel like looking up that stuff and falling further down the rabbit hole... someone let me know...

The fingerprint deal would allow foreign tourists to verify that they are foreign (assume the fingerprint data is also keyed in with passport data), and it would thus ensure that the consumer could make tax exempt purchases, as is their right.

The plan would also allow gaijin to use the fingerprint scan as proof of identity when they check into a hotel... the Japan Inns and Hotels Law requires foreign tourists to show their passports when they check into ryokan (old school Japanese) inns or hotels.

Initially, this pilot test program will be offered at just 300 souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other places in the tourist trap areas of Hakone-shi, Kamakura-shi, Yugawara-shi in Kanagawa-ken (Kanagawa Prefecture), and Atami-shi in Shizuoka-ken (Shizuoka Prefecture).

By next year at this time, the government will give the finger to gaijin in more areas such as the Tohoku region and Nagoya, with the system going country-wide by 2020 in time for the Olympics - where Japan hopes to see some 40-million gaijin tourists.

So... concerned about Big Brother watching you? Concerned that that big giant red circle in the Japanese flag is really a bleary-eyed government official monitoring your every move?

Well... it is... sort of. No, the government isn't monitoring the fingerprint data, but really... c'mon... anyhow, they say an independent company is doing that.

They also say that said independent company is also compiling data on your spending habits so that they can better-create tourist strategies for the industry at some later point.

The finger system for gaijin is not the first use of the technology in Japan. Back in October of 2015, the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki-ken (Nagasaki Prefecture), had a test program allowing customers to use fingerprint payments at 30 participating stores and restaurants within the theme park... which makes me believe there are too many shops in that theme park.

Later this April, Tokyo-based Aeon Bank will become the first bank in Japan to test a fingerprint system that allows customers to withdraw cash from ATMs, meaning no debit/cash card required.

The bank says that this system is a better method at curtailing fraud, but again... how are passwords being circumnavigated on the debit cards?

Man... if I was a bad ass muthafugga, I would be chopping off people's fingers... or sparing the bloody mess, how difficult could it be for baddies in the food & beverage industry to accumulate gaijin fingerprints from drinking glasses, create a copy and press onto one's own finger to use in the fingerprint verification system to make purchases the real owner has no clue are being made?

I have no data to back this up, but I doubt that it is all that difficult to steal fingerprints. Anyhow... maybe my circumnavigation of the fingerprint system is totally Mission Impossible, but I don't think it is. Where there's a will, there's a way.

As a slight sidebar, meet the Japanese woman who makes fake fingers for the yakuza - sent to me by Vinnie a few hours after I wrote this blog:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/18/woman-makes-fake-fingers-yakuza-japan-reformed-gangsters

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, April 18, 2016

Japanese Comfort Cooking: Donabe

My gal pal Alice is a foodie. Well, we all are… we like to eat good food, but Alice, she also knows where to find good food at local eating establishments, and though I haven't been invited, she swears she is a good cook, and I have no reason to doubt her word.

She passed along to me a webpage from www.bonappetit.com (the image is from there, too) which lists some creative recipes for Japanese foods that they swear (lots of effing swearing in this blog today) are not only tasty, but are easy to eat.

Hells, if the homemade recipes are less expensive to make, and taste even 50 percent as good as some of the tasty concoctions Alice has had, then I think we may have a wiener… which is, I believe, why she sent me this stuff in the first place.

So… let's start with Donabe. I've certainly eaten this concoction many a time while in Japan… it's a soup that has a ton of things in it, specific things, but not specific things.

I only made it sound more complex than it really is.

Donabe is a one-pot meal… but don't freak out… cook stuff in a sauce pan… pour into a soup bowl. You don't need to rush out and buy all the expensive but pretty Japanese earthenware. I'm sure someone would appreciate it if you did, but the point is, we're trying to save a few bucks here. 

As anyone who has ever eaten at a Japanese restaurant outside of Japan can attest, Japanese food is stupidly expensive. It is so much more expensive than any other cuisine's cooking.

I am talking about fair value for one's meal, so yes, I am aware that sometimes we pay for ambiance… but hell… just look at the cost of food at a local take-out Japanese restaurant… all I know is that after a meal, I'm still hungry… and if I had paid the same amount of dollars for Chinese food, I would have had seconds and thirds and still have plenty for seconds for tomorrow!

Ah… but the Japanese will have you believe that its cuisine is all about the aesthetics of comfort rather than the aesthetics of my stomach is full. Again… this is a slap at restaurants OUTSIDE of Japan… I've been well-fed in Japan, and not felt like I need to wait till next pay day before I can eat again.

So… Donabe… it's a noodle, meat and veggie dish.

You can put whatever the hell you want into the pot, but note that the key to a great donate is a fowl to fish combination.

Yup… you can use duck or turkey or chicken, but you should also use a seafood, like shrimp, or fish… 

Because we are talking about a quick meal to produce, ensure all veggies are sliced rather than chunked.

Lastly… the point of a donabe is to fill the pot (or in this case your bowl), with as much food stuff as you can stuff into it to allow the broth to keep it in place to maintain the heat - to lightly poach it all.

Here's me stealing directly from the http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/anything-goes-donabe recipe.

To Serve 4
I am always leery of the whole serving thing… The recipe says four… let's say 2. I'm  a man with an appetite. I assume you have an appetite, as well. if not, you birds can assume it does indeed serve four.

Ingredients:
Bean thread noodles - one ounce;
Dashi - four cups;
Mirin - 1/2 cup
Light Soy Sauce (usukuchi) - 1/2 cup;
Scallions - 4 (2 thinly sliced on a steep diagonal, 2 sliced two-inches thick);
Napa Cabbage - 1/4 head, sliced into two-inch pieces;
Littleneck clams - 4 (just clams);
Jumbo Shrimp - 4, with head on, but no biggie if it's not;
Fish - 16 oz, red snapper or black bass fillet, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick;
Chicken - large, skinless, boneless thigh, cut into one-inch pieces;
Firm Tofu - 6 oz, sliced 1/2-inch thick. Mmmm.
Oyster Mushrooms - 4 oz, torn to bite-size pieces;
Enoki Mushrooms - 3 oz. (use any mushroom, is you want.)
Carrot - 1, small, peeled, halved crosswise, thinly sliced lengthwise. 

As an aside, this is the professional recipe… if you can follow the directions, do so… otherwise, there's nothing wrong with a bit of ad-lib cooking. The important thing is to make it so that 1) you can find the ingredients; 2) don't go broke finding the ingredients; 3) you like the ingredients.

Everything else is fluff.

Okay… the food is cut to the exacting science of typical Japanese cultural cuisine… and yes, sometimes the way it looks is important (especially if it is better to look good than to taste good), but I say the proof is in the pudding.

Let's cook - it's actually pretty damn easy now:
  • Place noodles in a large bowl and add cold water to cover; let soak 15 minutes. Drain.

  • Meanwhile, combine dashi, mirin, and soy sauce in a medium bowl.

  • Place thinly sliced scallions in a small bowl and add cold water to cover. Soak until they begin to curl, 8–10 minutes. Drain; squeeze to remove excess water.

  • Lay cabbage in a large donabe or Dutch oven (you don't want my Dutch oven).
  • Arrange clams, shrimp, snapper, chicken, tofu, mushrooms, carrot, 2" scallion pieces, and noodles on top; add dashi mixture.  (Don't worry about the order of the ingredients, save that the dash mix goes on last).

  • Cover donabe and heat over medium-high until liquid is just simmering. Uncover, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer until clams open and chicken and fish are cooked through, 5–8 minutes.

  • Serve topped with drained scallions.
Now… you'll note that this recipe uses clams. What if you don't like clams? Or you aren't really sure how to choose good ones at the store… and what if the clams don't open up after cooking (don't eat them). Use shrimp. Or don't use anything. You already have fish and chicken… just use more fish and chicken. Hell, use deli meat if you want.

This is a comfort food. The point is you put in stuff that your are comfortable with, and that will provide comfort to you when you eat it. It's even better if your belly is full afterwards.

Some of the ingredients are important. Like mirin, the soy sauce - you don't want things TOO salty or thick. Dashi is also important.

The noodles… I have no idea what offing bean thread noodles are. But, a quick perusals of Google shows me that they are cellophane/glass noodles. They are thin, gelatinous and are made from ground up mung beans. The pre-soak is key, so don't forget to do that.

I believe, however, that this type of noodle is key to the recipe, but whatever… as long as it's cooked, c'est la vie nest-ce pas?

Fish - your choice, really. I would use eel. But that's because I like eel. A lot. Don't be afraid to stray from the exactness of the recipe to create a donabe that is uniquely yours.

Of course, follow the recipe as is for a first try… then go nuts on ways you think you could improve on it.

Itadakimasu,
Andrew Joseph 
PS: Itadakimasu, is what one says in Japan before a meal. It's not a prayer, but rather a polite statement that you have received this food and are about to eat it. It is a thank-you to the cook, but really, it's a thank-you to the living creatures that gave their life for your meal. It seems pretty damn dramatic, but yes, it's a thanks to the scallion, carrot, chicken, fish… it's an important part of Japanese culture, but i wonder just how many people think about what they are saying when they say it. Not being Japanese, I have no way of knowing. I am certain many people take it seriously, but I have no doubt that many others do it because that's the way it has always been done. Every culture is like that. No judging here.
PPS: I'm still awaiting that invite ;)