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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stamps Depicting Japanese Food

For those of you who still use snail mail—I do for E-bay purchases—or perhaps just for those of you who collect stamps as a hobby, Japan Post has some great-looking stamps.

For example, check out the stamp sheet: Traditional Dietary Culture of Japan Series No. 1 that, despite the protestations of the Asia Times, it did not JUST come out from Japan Post, rather it was issued on November 24, 2015.  Oh well… that’s why I like to double-check stuff… and even then, a triple-check… but sometimes, we all screw up.

The first series of 10 stamps—each issued at a ¥82 value (~ US$0.78) in the “Traditional Dietary Culture of Japan” series is said to feature the country’s most popular dishes and side dishes.
Let’s see if that is correct.

1. 栗ごはん - Chestnut Rice. This is the left stamp within the large upper part of the sheet
2. みそ汁 - Miso Soup. The right stamp within the large upper part of the sheet.
3. 天ぷら - Tempura - battered and deep-fried vegetables or seafood.
4. 白米と奈良漬け - White rice and pickles seasoned in sake lees... I don't know what the lees are... leeks? Bonito shavings? Anyone know? 
5. みそ汁とひじきの煮物 - Stew of miso soup and seaweed - Miso soup... let's just leave it at that.
6. 茶碗蒸し - Savory egg custard - that's what Google Translate says.. but I'm pretty sure this is Chawanmushi... and is an egg custard that is steamed in a cup, usually containing mushrooms or leeks or stuff like that.   
7. あじの干物 - Taste of dried fish - that's what Google Translate spit out... but it is a type of dried fish... horse mackerel, I believe.
8. 五目ごはんとぬか漬け - Gomoku rice and pickled bran
9. けんちん汁 - Kenchinjiru, a clear soup made with root vegetables and tofu.
10. かぼちゃの煮物と冷ややっこ - Pumpkin boiled and cooled and tofu. I believe this meal is called Shiraae... with a convoluted but essentially apt description above.

If you, the casual gaijin ex-pat or current-pat were to look at these meals on a stamp and wonder where sushi, sashimi, yakitori, tonkasu or fugu is, you wouldn't be wrong in asking WTF?

Yeah - where's the umeboshi (sour plum) on a bed or rice that looks like the Japanese flag that I ate pretty much every day as part of my school lunch and is on every single bento box ever made and purchased at a train station!

Where's the okonomiyaki? The shabu-shabu? The cold soba or hot ramen noodle dishes? Where's the natto? Where's the 7-11 onigiri?

You can look those up yourself, if you wish... but anyone who is anyone IN Japan has heard of these Japanese dishes and has enjoyed them.

I mean... aside from the Shiraae, and Dried Horse Mackerel, I am pretty sure I have eaten the rest and enjoyed them.

To me... everyone of these dishes is a 'side-dish' and not a full meal. Seriously... look at the portions! If you are like men and prefer to have your own popcorn bag when watching a movie, then you know the dishes pictured above are merely appetizers...

Still... it's a nice set No.1... I would assume there would be a second set at some point in time. I mean, why else add the "No.1" designation to the stamp sheet?

Anyhow... foodies rejoice… the only sad thing is that if you lick the back of the stamp, in my opinion the adhesive should taste like what is depicted on the front… and please keep in mind I am only talking about these food stamps, and not the one honoring prostitution in Japan. Patent pending. 

Sadly… these stamps lack that Michelin star flavor.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
Please note that there are other Japanese stamps depicting food.. these are just the latest ones issued.  

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sleeping Hood Stops People From Watching You Sleep - Not

If you don’t wish to use it to hide any embarrassment from sleeping on a train, it also comes in handy for human falconry…. or perhaps something light and handy for some light S&M bondage on the bus.

Mitsubishi Paper Mills has created the My Dome Pal Travel Sleeping Hood is designed to help Japanese people sleep on trains or long-distance buses… I assume they mean long-distance train rides on a shinkansen.

I have no idea when Japanese people became self-conscious about sleeping on trains… I’ve seen them walk onto a train, push an old lady out of the way, sit down between two plus-size people, drop their head and fall asleep within seconds.

I’ve fallen asleep on a train in Toronto… after imbibing too much wine when I was 19 years old during an office get-together for a summer job I had… I woke up with spittle dragged across my shirt in a weird paisley pattern… I can only hope it was my own spittle. It’s Toronto… you never know.

In Japan, Japanese people will power nap anywhere and anywhen they can…. trains, cafe’s and work.

I’ve also fallen asleep at work and awoken with my face plastered with wet gooey spittle attached from my head and the computer keyboard and with 47 pages of zzzzzzzzzzzzzz mysteriously imprinted on my computer screen.

In Japan, guys get so plastered drunk that they remove articles of clothing and pass out on the train floor… then again… that’s passing out, and not really falling asleep… which is what his blog is about.

Falling asleep in public is no big thing… in fact, it seems to imply that you have fallen asleep because you have been working too hard… so even taking a break at work with your head down… no one will say anything negative about that.

So… since no one cares…pretty much everyone does it… why do we need the My Dome Pal Travel Sleeping Hood?
Scrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Mitsubishi says it is designed to help people sleep on long-distance train and bus-rides… for people who are also embarrassed because people are looking at you.

Really? Japanese people are embarrassed by people looking at you? (Hora! Gaijin-da!!) You’re asleep! Why do you care if people are looking at you?

More than likely they are looking at all the people who are still awake (like themselves) and wondering how so many people could be such lazy shiftless worker bees at their respective jobs.

No… no one cares…

And… if you are paranoid enough to be embarrassed about sleeping in public—and that is paranoia—would you not be self-conscious about wearing a hood on your head that makes you look like you are being kidnapped, and forced to act like a falcon for horrible people in the hope you get some scraps of cubed raw meat to snack on?

Yes… now you can be the Navy Blue Falcon!


So… let’s get to the nitty-gritty.  

The nap time head cover bag costs US$78, not including shipping, and is available at the www.japantrendshop.com (click on it to go to product’s page).

The hood fabric is, according to Japan Trend Shop, designed to maintain a warm temperature on your head to prevent one’s body from feeling chilly in an air-conditioned plane or train.

Plane?

I’m pretty sure that if I (or you), pulled out the hood and placed it over our respective head, an air marshall would shoot us. Plus, with our head covered, we would probably miss out on those little bags of salted roasted peanuts that we can get all over our hands and, when we go to the bathroom to try and join the Mile High Club, we can smear our peanut oil-covered hands everywhere, assuring that that guy seated in 7G will die horribly from his sever peanut allergy when he later has to take a poop.

On the plus side, we joined the club! We also didn’t get handcuffed by air marshals and waterboarded as the pilot takes us to Cuba in a panic, as the Mitsubishi hood reminds him of that time he was a Black Man in the KKK.

Okay… I’m being silly… but then again… so is this product. 

The blurb for this product on Japan Trend Shop says that the hood will also “keep out pollen and dust, since when traveling we are always susceptible to germs.

Uh… we are always susceptible (they spelled it incorrectly, but I fixed their spelling in this blog) to germs.

Also… where the heck are you traveling that you are worried about pollen and dust hitting you on the train, plane or catbus? Seriously… so now you aren’t tired, but are concerned about allergens or germs? Now you are going to place the hood on you? Why not simply get one of those hazmat suits and walk around with that?
I love that the Hood comes with enough room to cover my leather zipper mask and that red ball I have to have strapped to my mouth. 
Japan Trend Shop says that “Attention has also been taken with how the sleeping hood looks.”

Maybe… but maybe not how it looks to others who see you wearing a snow boot insole on your head.

Oh… they mean colors… which again, has nothing to do with you… you are supposed to be inside it… sleeping and dreaming of flying… the only people who can see what color the hood is, are the people you were paranoid enough to worry about them looking at you while you slept hoodless.

The color is for the people watching you, oh paranoid one. And yes... sometimes the paranoid is correct. People do watch you.

Colors available are: a green Japanese paper design; houndstooth check; purple Edo Komon; and pink cherry blossom (sakura).






Made in Japan (of course it is, dear) from natural wood pulp, rayon and polyester… so it’s almost a green product… it is machine washable… you know… in case you are a drooler or Buddha help you, get pollen up your nose causing you to sneeze while in the hood.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Somewhere twirling my meat… no… that sounds a lot dirtier than the falconry joke I was actually going for,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I usually traveled on long-distance train rides with a sexy, female partner… so even if we weren’t sleeping together, we didn’t mind sleeping on each other for the long-haul ride. This type of sleepy trips was only sleep-inducing on the way back home… Ash and Trish and Noboko were three such partners, but I’m pretty sure there were a few others.
I rarely traveled alone while in Japan owing to my propensity for getting lost: “Hello Cleveland!”
Now… if the hood only came with some sort of a muffling device that stopped my snoring… and yes, Matthew… . I am aware that if you took a belt and tied it tightly around the base of the hood, you would have had an effective muffler for my snoring. Sorry. By the way… none of the women EVER complained about my snoring… at least none of the women I was sleeping with.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Background On Recent Mass Murder At Center For Mentally-Challenged In Japan

Okay, so I previously said I wouldn’t comment on it… but it does bear a look at.

In case you weren’t following the story, a 26-year-old Japanese man stabbed 19 people to death, and wounded 26 others at a care facility for the mentally-challenged in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo in Kanagawa-ken.

The thing is… Uematsu Satoshi (surname first), the alleged offender (he did it, but hasn’t had his court date yet) had been released from a hospital after being forcibly hospitalized by city authorities for evaluation after he had made violent verbal and written threats to kill the mentally challenged, including those at the center he attacked.

The hospital assessing Uematsu apparently decided he posed no threat and discharged him. He had been diagnosed as paranoid and dependent on marijuana… but only spent 12 days in the hospital for his psych evaluation.

Uematsu had, prior to his hospitalization, delivered a letter to a member of parliament—in it he threatened to kill hundreds of mentally-challenged people.

How the hell do you come up with a ‘paranoid’ assessment when someone takes the time to write down that he is going to kill hundreds of people?

Japan’s Health Ministry mandates that ‘mentally ill people who threaten to harm themselves or others can be subjected to involuntary hospitalization.’

In Uematsu’s case, it appears as though in voluntary hospitalization only amounted to 12 days.

While local government officials were supposed to do a follow-up on Uematsu (as they are supposed to do with all discharges), no such follow-up ensued, owing to a lack of available staff.

Now… up until February 2016, Uematsu had worked at the center he later attacked. He probably wasn’t the most well-liked person there… and while news articles say that Uematsu left his job, it is equally possible that he was made to leave, perhaps hushing up something else.

Why would I say that?

How else do you explain why the mentally-challenged hospital/center went out and installed 16 security cameras in April after learning of Uematsu’s release from the psych evaluation hospital?

It was afraid of Uematsu… they took his threats very seriously. But it wasn’t effective, obviously.

On the night of his attack on July 26, 2016, Uematsu entered the hospital (I’m still not sure how) and tied up five of the eight caregivers, and then… over a 50-minute rampage stabbed, and slashed at 45 patients with severe mental handicaps.

According to the Japan News Network, Uematsu specifically targeted patients who could not communicate, stabbing his 19 victims in the chest and upper body with deep stab wounds.

Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo 9surname first) has ordered officials within his political domain to review the healthcare system and to determine what measures can be implemented to make such facilities more secure, and to see how patients requiring medical/mental health treatment receive it as swiftly as possible.

As well, the government will examine the timing of: admissions; discharges; follow-up care after release; and the sharing of information with police.

As an aside, I asked how the hospitalized Uematsu could have been released - especially if they noticed he was paranoid… but I suspect that Uematsu was able to hide his mental health issues from the assessors.

Can a paranoid person kill 19 people? Isn’t paranoia just part of an overall diagnosis? In this case, it is obviously a big YES.

I might suppose that Uematsu was very good at covering up his violent tendencies when confronted by others. Sort of bi-polar?

Still… after his murderous rampage, Uematsu went to a local police station and turned himself in… he was obviously in charge of his faculties to know that what he had done was wrong… why else confess to the police?

Maybe he really was paranoid of the mentally ill or disabled… and not wanting anyone else to be hurt during a manhunt, he turned himself in…

If someone was bi-polar, they can cycle between ups and downs very quickly… sometimes (often) not recalling what they had done while manic… as the brain compartmentalizes those ‘embarrassing’ moments.

But look at that photo of Uematsu in the police cruiser… he’s not embarrassed (no hiding of the face with hands or a jacket)… no slouching… he looks calm… smug even… is he psychotic?

The problem with most of Japan’s criminal cases—especially with its attitude towards people with chemical imbalance—is that we may never get an answer as to why the spree occurred.

However… I do believe that Japan will take a hard look at the system, and will—for a while—do its job in providing more resources and care to those with mental health issues.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above shows Uematsu Satoshi in the back of a police cruiser, returning from lock-up to the Tsukui police station in Sagamihara, Kanagawa-ken on July 27, 2016. Photo by AFP.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Japan Noted As Potential War Enemy By U.S. In 1915

I wonder if people in 1941 were truly surprised that Japan had just become and enemy of the U.S….

Not only had newspapers in Hawaii truly expected the Japanese attack in the days prior to December 7, 1941, but a newspaper account from 1915 notes that even as early as that date, Japan was regarded as a potential enemy thanks to its recent global initiatives.

From Readex, a Division of Newsbank, we find an interesting tidbit of news on page 5 of the January 31, 1915 edition of the Oregonian, published as Morning Oregonian of Portland, Oregon. Click HERE to check out Readex.



Japan Regarded as Potential Enemy
——
Monroe Doctrine and Legislation by States Declared to Hold War Menace.
——
NAVAL BILL DISCUSSED
——
Massachusetts Member of House Declares Victor in Present War
Could, if It Chose, Become Master of World.
——
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30.—Possible trouble with Japan because of unwise state legislation, maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine and the conditions of the present war were ascribed by Representative Gillet of Massachusetts, today as reasons why he had recently become an advocate of large armaments.
The naval appropriations bill, on which he was speaking, lost, through points of order, an allowance of $1,000,000 for aeronautics, this being the unexpended balance from last year, and a provision for the creation of a chief of operations to head a naval war board.  Democratic leaders expect to provide for aeronautics by adding $1,000,000 to the total of the bill, and Representative Hobson immediately introduced the chief of operations as a separate bill.

Victor Could Master World.
Mr. Gillet declared it would be possible for the victor in the European war to disarm all other nations and become mistress of the world, although the chance of this would be slight, he said.
“Among those nations we have considered the most progressive and civilized,” he continued, “has suddenly burst forth a worship of force, reversion to the primitive savage type, a lawless selfishness, a disregard of sacred obligations, of pity, or mercy and of humanity which is depressing and confounding.”
The Monroe Doctrine, “without basis in law or justice and never acknowledged by Europe,” Mr. Gillet asserted, “was the one prolific source of trouble for the United States.” He referred to Japan as a possible antagonist of this country, and said some of the states had singled out the Japanese for unfriendly legislation, which course if persisted in might “cause a wave of resentment to sweep the Japanese people into a hostile outbreak.”

-30-

There was more, related to the Naval Bill, but it had nothing to do with Japan.

The first thing I would like to say is: Holy crap! That writing sucked. I know I am from a different time period, but I should still be able to understand English from a mere 100 years ago!

I only present this article because it shows that Japan was being discussed as a possible enemy state by the U.S. in 1915.

But why? Because it (Japan) had some unfriendly legislation says the news article. Okay… like what? You can’t make a statement that Japan should be considered and enemy and give ZERO facts as to why! Crap journalism at its worst.

As for Massachusetts Representative Gillet… this guy likes to hear his voice more than I do!And I like my voice a lot. If you heard it, you'd like it too. ;)

“Uh, yeah, the uhhh people of the god-feering state of er, Mass-a chewsits, would like to uhhh make a point.

“We, er, feel that whomevah wins the War to End All Wars (WWI) can make awl othah nations disarm…

“Foah example, should Canader lead and defeat the evil Hun, it could make not only the Hun, but the British, French and yes, even the great United States of Ameriker give up all her arms.

“…er, except the odds of Canader or any other country trying to do that is slim.”

So why the fug even bring up such a ridiculous notion? How the fug are you going to force anyone to do be your bitch, er… mistress?

Again… no attempt by the media to ask why… just blindly reporting whatever people say.

At least call Gillet’s bluff and say: “BS. How could any country force another country to give up their arms? Did you just mean the loser of the war? If so, why the heck didn’t you say so? And in a global war, how does one country stand out more than another?

“You know that Japan is actually on our side now, right… and we’re not exactly winning this war right now… and you want to stir up the wasabi and piss of the Japanese?

“We want them on our side, you schmuck.”

Now… when WWI ended, four empires collapsed, countries disappeared, new countries arose, countries got new boundaries, and everyone was pissed off at Germany and tried to further beat them into submission by forcing German to admit they were entirely to blame for the war, and as such, would have to pay reparations of then US$31.5 billion… which basically meant that German would remain a poor country for a very long time.

It caused Hyperinflation which meant it was easier to burn money than to use it to purchase wood.
The economic and psychological abuse of the German people after the war helped bring to rise that crazy wallpaper hanger Adolph Hitler who brought respect back to the pure Germanic peoples and fear into everyone else.

When World War II ended, the rest of the world learned its lesson from what had happened after WWI.

With regards to Japan, the United States was clearly the dominant force in repelling the Japanese. Yes, Asian countries such as those in Vietnam, Dutch East Indies, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Solomon Islands and more played roles against the Japanese, so to did Canada, Russia, Australia, Great Britain and China… but it was the U.S. and its atomic bombs and its large commitment of weapons and men (generic) to fight back against the country that dared attack its naval base in Hawaii, and thus the American way of life.

I wonder if Hawaii in the 1940s was a bastion of American way of life yet. It still seems to have its own culture. But that’s not the point.

Anyhow… that’s why the U.S. helped prop up Japan with a New Constitution that was probably better in places than its own (no right to bear arms, nothing in there about slaves or anything about how women or Blacks being chattel) so that’s cool. And while it took away Japan’s right to have it’s own army, navy and airforce, it would protect Japan’s borders while also allowing Japan to eventually create its own self-defence force that looked suspiciously like an army, navy or airforce, but it wasn’t. But it is.

The U.S. propped up Japan’s economy - especially in electronic, as lots of people had Japanese TVs, and radios, and later automobiles. So… yeah, I guess Gillet was right about the victor being able to make the loser disarm - but in a different war… but certainly not able to disarm everyone who was a prick in WWII.

Okay… enough of this… it was a stupid article about a loud-mouthed schnook about the lazy media and about the kindness of Vinnie who sent me the link to this story from America’s historical database—Readex, a division of Newsbank. Click HERE (again) and check out history for yourself. Type in a topic and presto… the world is your oyster.

And... just because the story was poorly written, who says you can't learn something. You guys do every time you read one of my articles!

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 18


While I admire the ingenuity in creating a comic book character, I must say that the majority of comic book art from the so-called Golden Age is barely passable as art.

By that, I mean one can tell the great art stylings of LB Cole, Hal Foster, Carl Barks, Frank Frazetta, Bob Kane, Lou Fine and others versus the stiffness of say damn near everyone else—Including on this day's entry into American comic book propaganda versus Japan—starring Cat-Man #13 with art by Charles Quinlan.

To be fair, the art isn't horrible... it's just crowded... and that may be the fault of his editor or publisher, which just HAD to advertise all of the features inside the comic book magazine.

Hmmm... let me alter my opinion of the art... it IS actually better than most, but still not up there with the greats. Why?

Quinlan actually draws the Japanese on the cover so that they look Japanese. Forget the orange complexion - that's the colorist! No! The people actually look like people rather than the demonic monsters virtually every single other comic book depiction from this era.

It's 1942! Japan recently bombed Pearl Harbor and Japan is part of the evil empire....

I mean, yeah... it's horrible that one of the Japanese—strangely dressed in some weird-looking hooded purple robe is about to put a knife into Catman's feline fatale Kitten.

Yes... Kitten... played by a tween or very young teenage girl. 

We can blame Batman and Robin for the need of every superhero to have a sidekick.

Back to Kitten... check it out. She's tied up and has some sort of weird gas being pumped into her mouth by those well-tanned Japanese fellows in the strange-colored toga.

Cat-Man and Kitten were created by artists Irwin Hasen (Cat-Man) and Charles M. Quinlan (Kitten) with unknown writers, which leads me to believe that they came up with the concepts, and writers fleshed out origins and initial storylines.

Cat-Man was first published in 1940 by various Frank Z. Temerson companies, with Holyoke Publishing being the most widely known of them. Regardless, Cat-Man first appeared in 1940 under Tem Publishing Co. another Temerson company, under Crash Comics #4.

Cat-Man is David Merryweather, whose parents were killed and was raised by a momma tiger. He lived with the tigers for years, and honed his athletic abilities to the point where they could be considered superhuman, possessing: super-strength, enhanced agility, natural night vision, and the legendary "9 lives" of cats.

Eventually returning to the world of man, Merryweather in the U.S., saw how criminals preyed on people, and decided to become a private dick (investigator). Later, as a state-side officer in the U.S. Army, he eventually put on an olive green and orange costume with a black cat-head symbol and became Cat-Man. Orange and green? What sort of kitty cat is made up of colors like that?

Kitten and Cat-Man look pretty good here. Art from  http://www.reelartstudios.com/ArtGalleries/GoldenAgeClassics/catmankitten01.htm. Kitten's ears are quite different from how they appeared in the early Golden Age books - and she looks far-less child-like, but this is very good work. I assume it is fan art.
As for Kitten... that's Katie Conn, (from Wikipedia): an 11-year-old circus acrobat who fell under the guardianship of her unscrupulous uncle after her parents died in a fire. The uncle forced Katie to steal things for him. Cat-Man intervened on her behalf and made sure her uncle was brought to justice. Since she no longer had a guardian, David adopted Katie. She tried to help him fight crime, sewing a matching red and yellow costume and calling herself the Kitten. At first, David tried to keep her from helping him, but Katie eventually proved herself and the two became partners. As the series continued, Katie matured and David was promoted to the rank of captain.

Wow... an acrobat kid whose parents died mysteriously... gee, that doesn't sound like Robin at all.

To show you how stupid some things are in the early so-called Golden Age of comic books... After Cat-Man #1 appeared in 1941, the title ran for a total of 33 issues... but there is NO 33rd issue... just a second issue of 32.

Cat-Man and Kitten fell into the public domain... so anyone can create stories using them. Powers: Super-strength, agility, night vision, nine lives

This Cat-Man is NOT related to DC Comics’ Cat-man character who is now one of the more cool characters I read recently in the Secret Six comic book series.

Take that, Japan!
Andrew Old Glory Joseph


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Blog Update - Oh Those Russians

The past week or so, the blog has been doing better visitor-wise, thanks to the fact that Russia now appears to be letting its populace on the Internet read what it wants.

There were months recently where I had zero Russian click thrus on the blog, and it showed with my monthly visitor numbers. The same for China… I had one day where I had 300 hits from China… and then… nothing. Was it something I said? Come one, China - let the people through. I like China… I eat Chinese food a couple of times a week… it’s my comfort food, seeing as how Japanese food is so damn expensive here in Canada.

Congratulations to Russia for hitting and wildly surpassing the 50,000 hit mark (in total) for visits to Japan—It’s A Wonderful Rife.


They were the ninth country to do so, and thanks to the massive influx of Russia hits this week, they even overtook the Australian contingent to move up into eighth place.

Blog hits by country:
  1. United States of America: 972,223
  2. Canada: 246,225
  3. Japan: 114793
  4. United Kingdom: 105,999
  5. Indonesia: 90,986
  6. Germany: 56,668
  7. France: 57,086
  8. Russia: 55,778
  9. Australia: 54,473
  10. Singapore: 20,367
There are plenty of other countries, of course, that visit, including in the past two hours: India, United Arab Emirates and Italy. though I suspect that almost everything from India is just to try and drop SPAM comments into the site—which is usually blocked by Blogger.ca.

I check for SPAM regularly, too. You have to if you run a blog. the SPAM I usually get involves those trying to advertise porn or escort sites, plus those who want to tell a story about how some fortune teller saved their marriage. No! You and your significant other save your marriage, if it’s in the cards.

I rarely get visitors from Africa, but it happens - usually from Egypt. Same for South America.

I know I once got a few hits from Antarctica, which is fascinating. Who knew penguins had wi-fi? Maybe they just have wi, because I know penguins can’t fi.

Okay, I’ll end this blog on that lame wordplay.

Thanks for your continued support.

Dasvidanya baby,
Andrew Joseph

Mass Murder in Sagamihara

I’m sure you have heard about the ex-worker who snuck into a care facility for people who are mentally challenged - and killed 19 patients while they slept last night.

The suspect was named as 26-year-old Uematsu Satoshi.

There’s nothing to say here, except he obviously believed that these people didn’t deserve to live, and if they could have made a choice, they would have chosen to die.

It beats me what made him think he had the right to choose for everyone else—but there’s a mental health issue, more than likely, as opposed to a radical political motive.

Sad.

You need more information, just Google.

Andrew Joseph


Happy 10,000th Day Birthday Becomes Popular In Japan


I suppose you could celebrate your yearly birthday as you normally do, but some Japanese are adding another birthday to the mix—no, it’s not your un-birthday party per Alice In Wonderland—actually, it’s the celebration of one’s birthday in 10,000 day increments.

For example:
  • 10,000 days: Age 27 years, four months;
  • 20,000 days: Age 54 years, nine months;
  • 30,000 days: Age 82 years, one month;
  • 40,000 days: Age 109 years, six months.
The whole concept came about after some smart rice cookie noticed that after the WHO (no… not THEM, WHO - no… we won’t get fooled again, Gloria) the World Health Organization said in 2015 that the average Japanese lifespan was 83.7 years—longest lived in the world—someone calculated that that age would equate to about 30,000 days…. and so someone came up with the concept of 10,000 day birthdays.

I’ve been involved in far more lame excuses for a party… and this concept seems kind of cool to me… after all… someone has to actually calculate the exact number of 10,000 day increments… which shows that they actually care… more than merely recalling that your birthday is September 13, for example. 

So… why is this such a big deal? If it is at all…

Well, in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan… the concept of 10,000 years is translated to mean or to wish a person a “long life”… specifically the Emperor… you know… long live the king…

It was a Chinese term introduced to Japan in the 700’sAD, as banzei (ばんぜい, or in Kanji: 万歳).
According to a Wikipedia site, the term Banzai (spelling) was shouted by the peasants to the Emperor in 642 AD, 8th month, 1st day. 

Now… did the peasants get it wrong, or did the writer of this official account of the Empress Kōgyoku (皇極天皇 Kōgyoku-tennō, 594–661) in the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀) .. the chronicles of Japan… the second-oldest book of classical Japanese history.

Anyhow, banzai - in reference to the long life aspect, that came back into vogue after the Shogun was displaced  by the Meiji Restoration of 1868… Banzai was shouted by those who were about to commit suicide rather than be caught by the enemy.  It’s used by Japanese people nowadays to say “Hurrah”, and I use it more often than not to sign-off on my daily blog.

But it has a 10,000 year symbolism… which is completely different from 10,000 days… so either my point is moot, or there may be a peasant symmetry for those of us who dare celebrate our 10,000 day birthdays.

I would suspect that for most of the people reading this, we’ve been gyped off at least one 10,000 day birthday.  I say we have an un-birthday party to make up for that missed one.

According to Kase Kiyoshi (surname first), director of the Nagano Prefecture-based Japan Anniversary Association: “The 10,000th day since birth is a landmark that falls around the time people are thinking about careers and marriage. For the 20,000th day, people are starting to look to retirement. More people are celebrating [the 10,000th day of their own] because it’s our national character to like special days and because it feels special. It probably also gives people a chance to express a wish to face their lives thereafter in a positive manner.”

Proving that I am so not Japanese—in stark contradiction to what the Japanese are doing at those various points in their life: 
  1. When I was 27/10,000, I was trying to get laid;
  2. As I approach 20,000, I am just trying to get laid;
  3. I suspect that if I make it to 30,000, I will just be trying to get laid if someone reminds me;
  4. If I make it to 40,000, I will probably be laid to rest if I get laid… making it my one chance to come and go at the same time.
Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: For the record, I am currently 18,888 days old. My 10,000 day birthday was March 26, 1992… which I apparently celebrated in Japan.
My 20,000 day birthday is on August 12, 2019… My 30,000 day on Earth will hopefully be on December 28, 2046… which sounds an impossibly long time from now. There was no listing for my 40,000 birthday… which I kind of expected, unfortunately.

Want to learn what your days are? Click HERE.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Japanese Colonization, Early Aviation, International Intercourse, And Women's Rights of 1913.


The news is sad, folks...there seems to be a lot of going where no man (or woman) has gone before - and in these cases it's not all good.

From the Salt Lake Telegram (published as The Evening Telegram) from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. on August 2, 1913 - and buried on page 9, we have—100-plus years later an interesting look at Japanese colonization techniques, early aviation success and something about international intercourse, which I know all about. And there’s something about penetrating new women.

Here we go:

Japan Opens Campaign to Subdue Tribes of Savage Head Hunters in the Wilds of Formosa; Hopes to Make Them Farmers

Japanese National Development and Future Success Depend on International Intercourse, Says Diplomat; Country Is Making Rapid Strides in Aviation; “New Woman” Movement Penetrates to Island Empire.
——-
Tokio, Aug. 2.—Japan has opened a vigorous military campaign against 20,000 savages of the island of Formosa, better known as “head hunters,” who have refused to submit to the domination of Japan. When Japan was ceded Formosa in 1895 at the conclusion of the war with China, the “head hunters,” so named because of their custom of bringing human heads to all ceremonies, numbered about 150,000, but successive campaigns and peace overtures by the Japanese have now limited them to the Taruco tribe, the wildest of all, who inhabit the rugged and precipitous mountains near the eastern coast. The present Japanese force of subjugation comprises 3,000 men, made up of native troops and the police force of the island. It is divided into two columns and is in charge of General Sakuma, the governor general of Formosa.

The Taruco tribesmen came from the Malay peninsula and are the oldest known inhabitants of Formosa. They practice a rude kind of agriculture, wear scarcely any clothing, and live in wood and bamboo huts on the heights of almost inaccessible mountains.

The fight from the top of trees, and the campaigns against them will be exceedingly dangerous. The subjugation in the past has been largely carried on by constructing electrically charged wire fences, gradually extended into the savage district, until the dominion of the head hunters was restricted to the mountains which must now be assailed. The Japanese hope to make peaceful farmers out of those who are left at the end of the present expedition.
----
A notable contribution to the discussion of the relation of the west to the east, opened up by the California land bill agitation, has been made by Count Okuma, “the grand old man of Japan,” who declares that Japan’s future success depends upon her development of foreign intercourse.

Count Okuma writes of this problem in a volume fresh from the press. The statesman constantly uses the word “taisei,” meaning trend, tendency, current or movement. Dividing history into the antemedieval and postmedieval periods, the writer points out that in the former period oriental races overran Europe, while in the latter European races invaded the oriental world. This pulsation, or movement of races, Count Okuma calls the “taisei,” or “tendency of history.”

Three successive waves have swept Japan. The first period began with Oda Nobunaga, when the Portuguese, Hollanders, English and other Europeans sought intercourse with Japan. The second was the Russian movement, which began to be felt after one hundred and fifty years of seclusion, and the third reached its culmination with the coming of Commodore Perry from the United States.

The attitude of the country toward this world tendency decides its fate. The count says: “To follow the taisei is to rise, and to oppose the taisei means destruction.” This law, he declares, holds in the material world, and as a principle it pervades human history. The course for a nation to pursue is to obey the world tendency, to mount upon it, and guide it. It was this attitude that saved Japan from destruction. If Japan for any reason assume an attitude of hostility and opposition to the world tendency, her doom would be sealed.

Count Okuma considers it a matter of good fortune that Japan took good advantage of the world tendency when the movement was felt pressing at her door. “the progress of Japan in the future,” Count Okuma concludes, “will depend on the nation’s success or failure in effecting intercourse with foreign nations.”
-----
Japan is making important strides in aviation. Recently a number of young military officers trained by the army aviation corps made a series of successful interprovincial flights, covering a distance of sixty miles, and qualified themselves as experts. The aviation corps has a spacious open ground at Tokorozawa, near Tokio, where a group of student aviators is being trained by Captain Tokugawa. These military aviators make occasional excursions to the city of Tokio, the people of which climb up to house tops to see the “man birds” fly. The aeroplanes in use are Japanese biplanes, devised by Captain Tokugawa, and a number of French machines.

The naval aviators also have been active recently. They paid a surprise visit to Yokohama and Tokio from the naval station at Yokosuka. In one of these trips Lieutenant Yamada covered a distance of 130 miles in two hours and ten minutes. The naval aviators are now planning to exhibit their craft before the emperor, who is recuperating at Hayama, a seaside resort, from his recent illness.

Aside from army and navy aviators, Japan has a number of private aeronauts, who are making successful lights at different points in the empire.
-----
The “new woman” crusade in Japan is day by day occupying an increasingly prominent place in public discussion. This is due to the comparatively radical measures adopted by the women to further their cause, and to the fact that this agitation has elicited a counter campaign by prominent men of Japan, including officials of the department of education. Although the Japanese crusaders have in no way approached the radicalism of their English sisters and have not yet resorted to violence, they are carrying on a determined movement by means of lectures and literature, some of which the government has seen fit to censure. Mr. Okuda, minister of education, says he is at a loss to understand the real motives of the “new woman.” He declares, so far as he can gather, that they are trying to transplant wholesale to Japan the extreme and unwholesome doctrines which have had a vogue in some parts of the United States and Europe, without modifying them to suit the Japanese people.

“If their movement is actuated by consciousness of the necessity of freeing themselves from the yoke imposed by men, or by indignation at the attitude of some men, who regard women as mere dolls,” the minister declares, “I think there is some reason in their attitude. But if they aim merely at improving men’s conduct toward women, there are many other ways in which this could be attained without taking such steps as are at present contemplated.”

The minister admitted that not a few cases of unhappiness in the home in Japan are due to the general misconduct of men, and he acknowledged that the present relations between men and women show room for great improvement. He recommended, therefore that men pay greater respect to women. Women on her part should practice those virtues upon which alone happy and healthy households can exist. Girls and young women should be educated with the idea of making them good wives and wise mothers.

Mr. Okuda is not of the opinion that the women’s movement for participation in government will find its way into Japan.

-30-

What I find most humorous is the top-most story where the writer does NOT feel the need to explain to the reader where Formosa is, but does need to explain the term “head hunter”.

Formosa, aka the Republic of Formosa, was a short-lived republic on the island of Taiwan that lasted five months in 1895… so that ain’t it. Hmm… but it is. Taiwan was once known as Dutch Formosa.

Anyhow... make head hunters farmers? That's nuts. Farm implements can be used as weapons (see American Independence)... but really... subjugation of people...

Now, we can't just look at the Japanese and shake our heads. We've all done this in the past: Native American Indians. Inuit. First Nations. Inca. Mayan. Africans. Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, Indians (of India), even the Chinese. ... and these are just the ones I know about. Heck, we could talk about the holocausts of the Jews and Gypsies and Intellectuals, as well as the Armenians.

Many a first nation got where it was by subjugating the indigenous populations of other countries while they raped their land of resources.

It's nothing new... and it's something the Japanese began to do (again... they did the same to the Ainu peoples previously) again after learning from the West, that in order to be a player in the 19th century, one needed to flex one's muscles against the weak. But... this is just the first time I have ever read about the Japanese doing such things against Taiwan (Formosa)... and it sounds brutal.

Electrical fences? Holy crap.

Anyhow... notice the archaic spelling of Tokio/Tokyo.

The second story about foreign intercourse was not what I was expecting, but that’s okay. Old man Okuma was correct… when Japan decided to go its own way and start trying to rule all of Asia, rather than follow the world tendency of pure capitalism, it was doomed to fail, eventually reaching that with the conclusion of WWII. The guy was like Nostradamus.

Story No. 3 about the aviation revolution was interesting consider Tokugawa was Japan’s first pilot and he only first flew less than two years earlier and now he’s teaching others, spreading the word about spreading one’s wings. But… don’t you just love that it’s the army and navy looking to capitalize on the new technology.Notice the archaic spelling of aeroplanes/airplanes. I use the archaic spelling in my other blog: Pioneers of Aviation.

I love the fourth news story about Japan’s women looking for more rights… forming their own new woman's coalition. I love even more that the Japanese men, rather than examine what the women are seeking, instead formed their own club. It’s called Japan.

Anyhow, the men decided they would punish the women of Japan by not allowing them to have sex with the men. This plan backfired. Or it would have had they actually done something that stupid. Ahhh, wham-bam, thank-you ma’am.This paragraph is just me making light of a serious situation. Sorry.

The women in Japan are still fighting for some equality in Japan, more than 100 years later… and even if they wanted to, they can’t use the threat of non-sex as a tool, as there is an increase in the decrease of sexual liaisons between men and women in Japan. There’s not enough intercourse! Oh to be a young gaijin again!

Oh well, at least women can take part in politics in Japan nowadays. Katoh Shidzue (surname first) in 1946, became an elected member of Japan’s parliament. While Nakayama Masa became Minister of Health and Welfare in 1960, and Doi Takako became a leader within the Japan Socialist Part in 1966, not much else progressed until 1991 when Kitamura Harue became mayor of Ashiya-shi (a city in Hyōgo Prefecture), and 13 other women since then entering Japan’s political ranks as leaders.

History… funny old thing.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Thanks to Vinnie for suggesting the topics found in the database from Early American Newspapers via www.readex.com.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Travel Advice: What Not To Bring To Japan And What To Expect

So... you are going to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in a week or so.

Have fun!

If you do it right, it just might be the most fun you ever have in your life.

While I am sure you have been given a list of things to bring with you to Japan - see HERE for a bit of my advice.

As well, there are many things you will NOT need to bring with you to Japan... things that will cause you grief at Customs, things that will be a waste of space in your luggage, and simply things you can pick up while you are in Japan.

So: here's my  list of:

Things NOT to Bring With You To Japan: 

1) Drugs. I'm talking narcotics. I know that in today's day and age, many people like to use recreational drugs.I'm mostly going to talk about marijuana in this regard, though I would bet some people have done hashish, cocaine, Ecstasy, maybe even dropped acid or done mushrooms.

The point is... don't bring that stuff with you. Japan has zero tolerance for drugs, and neither does JET.

Yes... you can find drugs in Japan. Saw it myself. Smoked something, too. The fact is, it was incredible stupid of me. I didn't get caught, and 26 years later I can write about that incident (somewhere in this blog), but play holier than thou and insist you refrain from following my example.

For medication, keep in mind that some legal medications in your country may be illegal in Japan. Over the counter-drugs, too. Refrain from bringing over-the-counter drugs in, unless you are SURE it can be brought in legally.

For those of you who do require real medications on a daily basis, please bring the prescription, keep all drugs in their original containers (don't mix them!), and even for liquids, keep separate and inform Customs. A doctor's note may also be required, so it does not hurt to have one. 

2) Weapons. It goes without saying, but even things like a pocket knife or a Swiss Army knife combo unit will not make it in, and neither will you.

It's standard fare to know not to bring this or narcotics, so 'nuff said.

3) Musical instruments. I played keyboards and clarinet... even taught bought before coming to Japan to help supplement my finances while in school... and because I figured I might be bored in Japan with nothing to do, I brought a set of electronic keyboards and a clarinet with me.

I did play both while in Japan, but truthfully, if you can't find something else to do while in Japan, you ain't trying hard enough. Cost me a lot in extra baggage fees at the airport.

4) Library. Excluding what you stuff on a Kobo, bringing more than a few books is a waste of space. I'm never going to try and dissuade someone from reading - read more! - but you can purchase English language books in Japan, especially in Osaka or Tokyo. Load up when there, or have books or other entertainment goods sent to your apartment at a later date.

5) Sports Equipment. Hey... I was a decent enough soccer player, but unless you played pro like my Aussie buddy Jim P., don't bother bringing such things over with you now. The same with tennis rackets, golf clubs, skateboards, hoverboards, skates, rollerblades, surfboards, fishing equipment, basketballs, etc.

This is all stuff you can have shipped over a week later if you really want it, or you can buy it in Japan. It's a first-world country... you can get damn near everything in Japan.

6) Pets. For god's sake, you can not bring pets with you while on the JET Programme. I had pets while in Japan... but I gave everything away when I left... fish. I did keep a stray cat I found for a night, but she wanted to leave, so what can you do.

-30-

That's pretty much it.

In Japan, when I needed something, I bought it. Now.. unlike many of my American friends, I had no student loans to take care of, as I had summer jobs pay for everything as I stayed at home and went to school. My parents may not have been cool, but they never hassled me in any way shape or form except to maybe go out more with my friends. I still don't do that enough.

For hobbies, I wrote. I built insanely large puzzles of 5,000 pieces or more (want to know what a map of the universe looks like - black with lots of white spots), built model kits (I have a Thunderbirds 2 kit I am still quite proud of, and a castle I am slowly building now, 26 years later).

I took photographs of everything - and this was when I had to purchase film and try and get things right before digital cameras made it possible for even idiots to take good pictures... which I am thankful for.

I rode my bicycle and explored nooks and crannies around my town... went into shops I might never have considered back home because you never know what you'll find.

I shopped for foods and tried things I would never have expected myself to try. I was a meat and potatoes guy in Toronto before leaving for Japan. I had only been to a Japanese restaurant once - three days earlier... I had no idea how to use chopsticks... but I learned, and I tried. Ever had a round pear the size of a softball? They are pretty common, pretty expensive, and pretty tasty. Since each could feed a family of five, buy them one at a time. Same with the huge apples. Ever tried whale? I found it in a small tin, once. Not my cup of tea, but I ate it. I didn't even know if it was cooked, needed to be cooked or what... I did cook it, because what the heck.

I found all my toiletries in Japan - though not the brands I was used to... but maybe things have changed in the last few decades. I hope so. But who cares if they haven't. I easily survived.

The point is... I had never left home through seven years of post secondary education... I knew nothing of Japan, didn't really want to go, didn't read up on it, didn't eat the food, never had a Japanese alcoholic drink, and sure as heck didn't know how to cook, shop, clean, do dishes, wash clothes, iron or sew.

But I learned.. and I learned without the internet to guide me (pre-internet)... and I learned quickly. I survived... easily... but I had my hiccups along the way.

I bought a container of chocolate milk to pour on my cereal... turned out to be a brown barley tea. Sucked horribly... but I ended up drinking it because I don't believe in wasting food or money... hey, even if you buy a comic book, as long as you read it, it's not a waste of money.

Share your bounty from home. If someone sends you DVDs of movies or TV shows or books or comics - share them with others.

My mom would send me boxes of condoms... and while I did not share them with my buddy Matthew (who probably needed extra large), I did attempt to share them with half the female AET population in my prefecture and beyond. You can buy western-sized condoms in Japan... but I had mine sent over from Canada.

She also sent me VCR tapes of shows my brother taped for me - shared, packs of lasagne shells that I could use to learn how to bake a lasagne in my convectional microwave oven... I think it was pretty good - though I added three cheeses but should have added a cream cheese to it, too.

Haircuts... Matthew found the place first and though I did even up growing my hair out ridiculously long, our barber/stylist pal still got rid of the split ends.

Booze - plenty out there... sake, beer, wine, coolers, energy drinks, cola, milk, juice.. whatever the heck you want, Japan will have it in one form or another.

Cigarettes - there's a decent enough variety.

Clothing... uh.. I'm sure there is clothing that will fit some people, but I was aghast at the stylings, price, and well everything. I had extra clothes sent over... shoes too... I did have dress pants and shirts and a jacket made for me in Thailand - all silk... raw silk looks classy... and it was all made in a day and sent to my hotel, pre-paid. Oh... I even picked the bolts of silk, and designed each re: lapels, cuffs, and pockets. Anyone can do it, obviously.

I was given a pair of ice skates, had my soccer cleats sent over... had extra contact lenses sent over...

I bought pre-made meals at the grocery stores... something I didn't see here in Toronto until a few years later... I ate smoked duck, pork cutlets (tonkatsu) on rice, ate natto (rotting soy beans) and rice given to me by schools I taught at because not everyone one (let alone a foreigner) likes the smelly, sticky, horrible taste of natto. Prove them wrong.

I made lasagne once a month. I made a huge pot of chili con carne once a week that could feed myself for three meals and some for Ashley and Matthew. Yes, you can buy ground beef, and all the veggies you think you know from back home. Spices, too. I also had flavors of tinned tea from Twinnings.

My apartment--a huge one compared to most Japanese living spaces, as it was built for a family--had plates, cutlery in spades, drinking vessels, cooking implements, a convectional microwave, small bar fridge--in Japan, you shop every day or other day for most things--a small dining table that four people could use, cupboards, shelves, bookshelf, clock, bilingual television, a kotatsu (a heated table which will come in handy in the winter, as most Japanese houses had poor insulation or heating options), a A/C-central heating device because most places will have to use a kerosene heater which requires you to keep a window/door open.... which defeats the purpose of the heater being on...

I had carpeting in three rooms, tatami mat flooring in the bedroom, a queen-sized bed after I destroyed the tatami mats.. really... make your bed every day by rolling it up and or airing it out every weekend, remembering to bring it in before dusk or else spiders will fall down up on it from your balcony ceiling. I'm not kidding.

I had a hot water heater to make hot water that I had to turn on to do the dishes or have a shower. I had a shower only. I had a western-style toilet. I had a washing machine that doubled as a dryer. I had a circuit breaker that would trip if I had the heater/AC on with the television, microwave and washing machine on.

I had a booze cabinet for guests... I never drank alone in my apartment. Clothes closet for dress clothes... a drawer for other clothing items...

The rest was up to me. I bought an aquarium, pump and filter and what seemed like a monthly supply of fish.

I figured goldfish wouldn't need a heater because they are cold water fish, but one October before I used the kerosene heater and before I needed the central heating unit, I awoke to see the aquarium's water frozen at the top two inches... chip-chip-chip using a table knife...

The point is... you can get whatever you want of need in Japan.

Don't waste your time, effort or money in bringing over a lot of things you don't need right now. Have things shipped later, or purchase them yourself in Japan.

I bought hairbands of different colors to match whatever shirt I wore that day. The women noticed.

Tattoos... I would keep those covered up while going through the early days of Japan. Tattoos have long been the sole domain of the yakuza (underworld)... and while I like tattoos (on others), I will not say you SHOULD get a tattoo done while in Japan, but I won't say you should not. Read THIS book to learn more about Japan and tattoos.

Movies at the theater... while I have no doubt many of you will be utilizing Netflix or something similar, I have seen many western movies in Japan that either have English subtitles or are in English with Japanese subtitles...

Restaurants... can speak the lingo? I couldn't after three years.. but you can look and point... many restaurants have fake food showing what they serve at the front of the place... point. You don't have to get skinny.

Lastly... video games... while you can get video games that are in English in Japan, most will be in Japanese. I'm sure that if you are playing Pokemon Go now, you can do so in Japan... though you may need to buy into their servers... it plays the same. Just look where you are going.

For the Internet... ask your bosses about Wi-Fi et al.  They'll help set you up with what you need for your laptop, phone... whatever. It might take a day or two, but they will after they figure out how to do it for you.

Have fun. Japan is a foreign culture with lots of things that are different from your own. The people may seem aloof, but they aren't. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't. Just like back home.

If you are going on vacation, or even out of town... tell the bosses... they re responsible for your well-being and are like your parents. Don't be ashamed or angry that you are telling them where you are going. It would look very bad on them if they found out you were hit by a car in another city. It's just YOU being responsible.

Don't be afraid to ask for help from the bosses or schools... whether it's for medical aid, how to mail something, there's a problem with your internet, apartment, people around you - whatever. I had them help get rid of a female stalker I was sleeping with to get her the help she needed. Or to help with a scratch on my cornea (contacts) so I wore an eye-ptach for a month. I looked cool. Or for some stomach bug... or a bad back... things I had taken care off.

The men from my board of education office even brought over the women from theh board of education office to show me how to use the cooking utensils (men know nothing about such things in Japan).

A home economics teacher in school taught me how to sew - because I asked.

School club teams had me join them for practice because I asked if I could. I learned kyudo at a city club - Japanese archery. I did kendo (samurai fencing). I did judo because I knew some from back in Toronto. I played music with the school clubs... taught soccer because I could. Did baseball... but know that even junior high school kids are better than you (probably)... watched volleyball and basketball, tennis and softball... the point is, to get out and do stuff with your school(s) when you can.

I taught adult English classes, but know that you aren't supposed to... but my board of education was cool with it. Matthew's too. We made a few extra yen every week, and by the end of three years I was pulling in an extra US$1,000 a week doing English conversational classes.

I did it for free in bars, however... but I used that to meet and date women. 
 
Oh... take your identification with you or whatever passes for an alien registration card. It should be kept on your person at all times. In a small city, the police knew who I was and where I lived and who to contact if there was an issue (I was hit by a car - twice - in a one week period). Still, failure to have it on you can be a problem. Carry your business cards with you at all times.

Keep an open mind, and try new things, go out when asked, be afraid but not too afraid.

You'll have a great time.

There... lots of basic stuff,, ,and stuff I have talked about in greater detail throughout the seven years plus I have been writing this blog... five plus every single day.

Have a question about Japan? I have an answer for you, or will at least do my best to find out the correct answer... even if you are there right now. 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Lonely or afraid in Japan... don't worry... most people are... I was. Talk to other JET participants... it doesn't hurt to call anyone you feel like. I talked to one person 500 kilometers away. The point is, we all get bored. We all get homesick. We all get afraid. We all handle it outwardly and internally differently. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

So You're Going To Japan: Some Quick Advice

This is the time of year that people who have been selected to participate in the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme are worrying trying to determine just what they need to take from home to Japan.

Twenty-six years ago, I packed a lot... paid extra to fly it over, but found it well worth the effort and cost.

I assume that people traveling to Japan will have done far more research on WHERE they are going than I did—I winged it... though I did have a few letters exchanged (before E-mail) with my predecessor who at least gave me brief advice on the weather and what the teaching would be like.

Both helpful... though I prefer to make up my own mind when it comes to things, knowing in advance that the JTEs (Japanese teachers of English) don't speak English as perfectly as you might hope or expect, was helpful in tempering expectations.

Anyhow... more on that sort of stuff later... 

So... here's my advice on

WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU TO JAPAN

1) ADAPTER/CONVERTER: If you have any sort of electrical instrument, from phone, laptop, camera, shaver, toothbrush, curling iron, be aware that Japan uses a different amperage than other countries, so having an electrical adapter/converter is a must.

In Japan, the voltage is 100V (volts). In the U.S. and Canada, it’s 120V… it’ll work, but it will burn out the electronic device sooner or later. Central Europe, it’s 230V… and man, sometimes you guys have funky outlets.

Buy an adapter/converter BEFORE you leave your country.

2) BRING GIFTS: Not only should you bring something very nice for your Board of Education’s superintendent and your boss (Booze - whiskey..  the good stuff) , you might also think about bringing smaller gifts for the other men and women you will encounter in your travails and travels who will HELP you. While you could purchase standard Japanese gifts in Japan such as senbei rice crackers gift boxes or Kit Kat's sets or special tins of o-cha (green tea) powder, presenting a gift from your home town or country is perhaps more appreciated by the recipient.

I would also suggest bringing plenty of gifts for your youthful students… as rewards for good work in school on your teaching projects or for speeches. I would recommend low-level coinage from your country. Tie pins with your country’s flag. Some people bring stamps… not my bag, but whatever.

I brought silk scarves for the women, wood carvings, even an Inuit soapstone carving, which I gave to my boss celebrating 20 years in his job. I also gave a very nice scarf to an office worker celebrating her 30th year that same night.

Gifts are also appreciated by your Board of Education after you go away on vacation somewhere later. It's to thank them for giving you permission to do so, and for you to be a nice person. I did NOT do this (still had a good experience with all involved), but had I known, I might have done so. Money is always an issue, right? But a large box of rice crackers from the train station for the office would be cool.

3) PHOTOS, NUDGE, NUDGE, WINK, WINK: When you arrive in Japan and begin teaching at your school or schools, each initial class will more than likely be in the for of an introduction. The kids and teachers are as interested in you as you are of them and Japan. Bring printed photos of your family, friends, home, way of life, neighborhood, boyfriend or girlfriend(s), typical dinner and setting, of a similar level of school… stuff like that.

Oh.. be prepared to tell them how tall you are or or how much you way (if you are comfortable with such things) in METRIC. That advice is for Americans, and dumb Canadians like myself. Know your shoe size… converting it to centimeters. I have a 10-1/2, shoe that is 12-inches long and therefore 30 centimeters.

You may get asked about penis size or three sizes (bust-waist-hips), but feel free to tell them it is not polite to ask such things.

4) CLOTHING: Unless you are the same size as the average Japanese person, clothing - and shoes - will not fit you. Bring what you need, have stuff shipped over by family or friends later or wait until you can vacation in say… Singapore and have clothing made for you there.

Even still, unless you can find a western-style clothing store, you might not care for the Japanese fashions, or worse yet, may not find a 'western' fit for your body-style.

5) CONDOMS: Although a virgin when I left Toronto as a near 26-year-old, I was confident that I could lose that tag upon arrival in Japan. I brought three boxes of 12 condoms with me —used two to practice putting them on… I ripped the first one… and had my mom purchase and ship more condoms to me by mid-November, and again every few months.


Why? Japan has condoms, but they are made for the Japanese market. Depending on your needs, Japanese condoms may not fit your penis. I bought a pack, squeezed on on, and nearly took out my girlfriend’s eye when it snapped off.

You only think I’m joking, but I’m not.

6) TOILETRIES: Maybe this is different now, but back then Japanese water lacked fluoride in the water. Japanese dentistry wasn’t known for its sparkling reputation. You might want to bring along toothpaste. I also brought along extra sets of contact lenses and saline solution… but I don’t know how the latter will fly with today’s aviation security.

Deodorant… bring what you like. Shaving cream, too and razors… again… not sure about airport security.  Hair care products, too. Have it shipped in advance (too late now), or maybe you can get lucky at your local department store… ask when you get into Tokyo for orientation… load up until you can have materials shipped in.

Of course, if you are in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka, you are set. For those of you in a smaller city, it could be hit or miss… but I would think you shouldn’t be too off put. Those in a small village or town… road trip.

I'm also going to include medication here... you need it, you bring it.

7) BACKPACK: This is a must.  You will use it everywhere you travel in your day-to-day activities. Yes, a briefcase looks great - same with a purse, handbag, clutch - whatever the fug you call those things—but a backpack will be your lifesaver. Just trust me. Oh… if you are like me and liked to wear the backpack ON your back… just note that Japan has a high level of humidity, and your back will get soaked… unless there’s something fantastic with modern backpacks that I don’t know about (likely).     


I still have that backpack I took with me to every school, every where I vacationed in Japan, to Malaysia, Thailand, Saipan, Singapore... even to Tokyo Disneyland. It's coming apart at the seams, but it still works for me daily as I take it to work.  

8) EXTRA MONEY: While you should not be asked to pay for key money while on the JET Programme, (not sure what it is - look it up), I would recommend bringing along a lot of of money for that initial month of your stay in Japan before you get paid.

Yes, lots of things will be paid for by others looking to welcome you, but that initial stay in Tokyo for orientation… after dinner meals or drinks out with friends will cost you. Same with if you are going to buy toiletry supplies ahead of time… yes… a predecessor may have left you something to help you out… but you know what you like.

I think we were told (26 years ago) to bring approximately US$300-500 in funds to tide us through. That was 26  years ago. I had around US$700 and an empty Visa card, and do recall being able to help out a fellow AET (assistant English teacher) with a loan. Lend money to people you feel you can trust. I got lucky, and 26 years later consider the guy I lent a few bucks to one of my best friends on the planet.

Do NOT bring your country’s money to Japan expecting to change it to Japanese yen. I mean, yeah… you can do it… but when you get off that plane, you are racing to get your luggage and then find out what van or bus is picking you up to take you to Tokyo… you’ll be tired, excited and sweaty (When my plane landed, it was about 4PM and it was 34º Celsius (93.2F). And here’s the weird thing – it was getting hotter as the day progressed), so  it was convenient for me to get the heck onto the scheduled air-conditioned vehicle and get to my air-conditioned hotel, have a shower, explore the area around my hotel, get frightened and go and crawl back in my hotel room to watch CNN.

It is easier to get your money exchanged into yen back in your own country—they’ll speak your language better, and you’ll save some time.

By the way… you will be paid monthly. It will be deposited directly into your soon-to-be-set-up Japanese bank account. You will receive a bank card that can be used in an ATM  - pay attention to how that machine works, because it’s in Japanese.

I am assuming that you can use a bank debit card to make purchases in Japan - but only the Japanese bank debit card. I couldn’t do that in my day, except in Canada. No cheques/checks used for purchases in Japan, please. 

Some places will take your foreign credit card. Some places will not. They won’t even take a Japanese credit card. There are plenty of places like that in Japan still, but they are usually older establishments. But I would assume even those places are becoming less evident.     

9) HOBBIES: You may or may not be able to use your phone or laptop right away. I don’t even know how to help get you set up. I would assume your boss entity—The Board of Education—will be able to help you. Bring a book. A real book.

You can find books—English language books and comic books—at many Japanese bookstores, especially in Tokyo or Osaka… load up, but only for what you will need that first month… remember… you aren’t getting paid for about 30 days.

I spent most of my first month in Japan going to my Board of Education office and being shown around the city (during the work day) by my team. Don’t feel weird if they offer to buy you lunch or things like that… they’ll expense it and it will come out of the large annual budget they have put aside for you and your needs. (For example, I wrecked my tatami mats and had to have them replaced. They bought me a bilingual television so I could watch a few set shows in English. They bought me a central heating/air-conditioning unit so I didn’t kill myself from accidental kerosene poisoning. They bought me a queen-sized bed so that I wouldn’t go to school complaining about tatami mat burns to my knees from too much sex. And those are just the things I know about.) 

I spent my evenings with other AETs, an international association of curious Japanese, cycling about the city and getting lost everyday… you know… the usual stuff.

-30-

I don’t have a No. 10.

I could have spread things around and talked about winter clothing… depends on your place… I needed snow boots, dress shoes, running shoes. I needed winter gloves, scarves and hats. You know you’ll more than one pair, because you’ll lose one. I brought a spring windbreaker with a hoodie that I used it as a rain coat… but it wasn’t water-proof. Or humidity proof. I drove everywhere in Toronto and did not need a raincoat. Odds are very good you will need one in Japan.

The author and his windbreaker breaking wind.

It effing rains a lot in Japan.

Bring lots of tee-shirts, dress clothing, ties… wear a tie for goodness sake. You are representing yourself, your city and your country. Wear this stuff to work.

Bring sweaters.

Sunglasses. While you can find sunglasses - and good expensive ones in Japan, as they are becoming more… popular, not every town has such a place, I had a place that sold cool 1950s looking Ray Ban products. You will NEED sunglasses more than the average Japanese person.

Skis, snowboards, skateboards, etc… aside from the skateboard (I know that’s personal), I would recommend getting these items in Japan.

Bicycles will be provided for your daily usage. My BOE had an 18-speed built for me and my size… it had a basket on the front handlebars, and a bell.  It seems silly, but both are useful in Japan. Oh, it also had a light for night riding… trust me.. also very, very helpful.

Okay…  that’s about it. If you have any questions, contact me, and I’ll do my best to answer or find an answer for you.

Tomorrow, I’ll present a blog on what NOT to bring to Japan. In case you are going shopping soon.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, July 22, 2016

Deadpool Invades Japan's X-Men: Apocalypse Movie Trailer

Looking for more Deadpool original content featuring Ryan Reynolds not in a Green Lantern costume?

How about taking a peek at the Japanese trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, where Deadpool merc-bomb's it at the end.

As you hopefully are aware, because Japanese-language subtitles need to be added to all the western flicks that appear in Japanese theaters and DVDs, the actual Japanese release of movies can take weeks - even months after its debut in Hollywoodland.

Anyhow, at the end of a trailer for the upcoming to Japan, X-Men: Apocalypse movie, as it ended, Deadpool inserts himself—sitting in a director's-style chair—and proceeds to provide five "interesting" facts about the X-Men trailer that they may have missed.

No... it's not Earth-shattering. It's typical stupid Deadpool humor except not as funny as it could have been. I mean wow... crickets, man. No wonder he wears a mask. The jokes were so bad, I don't even want to call them jokes, lest bad jokes be offended.

Still... there is more Deadpool... so if you are a completest, you gotta watch it.

As for X-Men: Apocalypse,  I was disheartened to see that they took one of my favorite X-Men comic book heroes, Psylocke, and turned her into a bad guy.

But, I can forgive that, considering that she was costumed within by the hot, hot, hot (my retinas are burning) Olivia Munn:


So... naughty. Yeah... so you go ahead Deadpool fans and watch the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse for the man in red... while I swim in the deep-end of Psylocke's purpleosity.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In Japan, Work Can Kill You

Talk about irony.

It’s like a writer being allergic to words, except this is a real thing.

The owner of a 113-year-old soba restaurant called Maruka, located in Uchi-Kanda in Tokyo has closed its doors after informing its loyal customers that he couldn’t keep it open owing to an allergy to buckwheat, the main ingredient in soba noodles.

Posted on Twitter last week by @Ki_46ozzie (who bizarrely has a background image of some wacky North Koreans - see HERE, a poster (see above) from the owner describes the sad plight:

“To all our customers who have provided us with their patronage over the years since 1903 in the Kanda area, a long period of time which spans 113 years, we would like to express our deep gratitude from the bottom of our hearts. We sincerely thank you.”

I’ve never heard of a buckwheat allergy, and it’s rare outside of Japan and Korea, but buckwheat, despite its name, is not related to wheat, instead more closely related to sorrel and rhubarb (talk amongst yourselves).

Just like others with severe food allergies, if someone allergic to buckwheat comes into contact with it—they can die.

While I applaud the shop’s owner for his decision—hey, Japan! you don’t have to die for work!—I wonder why the business wasn’t passed over to a relative or a chef looking for work? Or sold, even.

One could still own a business and not have to do all of the purchasing of buckwheat or making of oodles of noodles!

Oh well… too late now.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: In television or movies, when one is a background or "extra", to provide a low-level added impact of talking, one can simply mutter the words "rhubarb-rhubarb-rhubarb".  It helps create a loud crowd buzz. The director will tell if that needs to be done.
PPS: You guys know actors John Goodman and Bette Midler were in a movie of mine called Stella, right? I pop up a few times in a bar scene, most notably around the 42+ minute mark—no really—where I'm drinking a beer in a smokey dance saloon/bar, and later dancing with an incredible sexy young woman in a leopard skin print dress. She had beautiful long dark brown wavy hair  - but was soooooo short even in her three-inch heels that you can't see her in the shot, so it looks like I am dancing by myself right behind Midler and some other guy.
I did this in 1989 while I was still in journalism school to make a few bucks, the year before I went to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.  
I'm pretty sure I stared right at the camera for a second. D'oh. But I made the print.

That's me right in the middle! I believe I was wearing construction boots, worn blue jeans, and a Jim Morrison tee shirt to look all blue-collar-like. I refused to wear plaid, even though it was a suggestion by the talent agency because I figured EVERYONE would wear plaid. I was darn near correct. Good thing I took off my jean jacket earlier. No soba was hurt during the filming of this scene, though I was offered the choice of a real of fake beer to have on my table in another scene. Guess what I chose? It was a wheat beer, shot at the old Silver Dollar Saloon in Toronto.