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Friday, September 30, 2016

1871 Japan - A Troubling Time In The News

From the Boston Traveller (published as the Daily Evening Traveller) newspaper of Boston, Mass., U.S.A, in the January 18, 1871 edition comes a short bit of news discussing how a small pocket of Japan was becoming dangerous to the foreign contingent.

Thanks to Vinnie for the heads up on the story from the Readex "America's Historical Newspapers" database. Click HERE for more on Readex, an important library of historical knowledge.

I am confused by the Boston Traveler is spelled with one "l", while the Daily Evening Traveller uses two... but I suppose that' a bit of English grammar I'm not hep with. 

While the Japan of 2016 is very safe for foreigners (generally speaking), it appears that in 1871 - some 20 years after Americans first forced their way into becoming economic trading partners with Japan, the initial fascination for all things western was not as strong amongst the average Joe Suzuki as it was in western civilization where all things-Japanese were in the midst of a full-scale cultural revolution.

It would be. In the U.S. and Europe, for example, seeing Japanese people and experiencing bits of their culture would have seen fantastic to the people of the day, what with the fact that until the 1850s, Japan had closed itself off from the rest of the world (except for a wee bit of foreign trading).

Most people outside of Japan would have been highly curious of the Japanese and their culture.

You would expect the same thing in Japan. And it did occur among the people… and while Japan and the west were setting up political relations, it’s people were fascinated by the westerners.

And then culture clash. While the government of Japan may have gotten over the initial forcefulness of the U.S. wanting to be an economic partner, it used western technology—especially after the end of the shogun-led Edo-jidai (Edo period) to build itself up, quickly in the technological department.

But the regular folk of Japan began to resent the forcefulness of the western visitor… their aggressiveness—which may have been quite common and accepted among western countries, was seen as culturally insensitive by the Japanese.

Of course, Japan was openly violent among themselves at this time, as there were still pockets of infighting as many refused top accept the new, western-style of government that Japan had adopted, effectively putting the warrior-class samurai out to pasture.

I’m not saying violence in Japan at this time was caused by samurai, but I am saying that Japan in the early 1870s was still a volatile place to be.

Enough preamble, here’s the brief article located on page 2:

Various Matters.
The roads in the vicinity of Yokohama are again becoming unsafe and foreigners are frequently attacked.
An English-Japanese railroad loan negotiated by H.A. Lay, is not giving satisfaction, but the negotiation is still progressing.
On the 20th of December, half a square mile of houses were burned in Yeddo, and on the same night the premises of Gadown, Walsh, Hall & Co., took fire, but the flames were extinguished after considerable damage had been done.
On the 29th of November a powder magazine exploded and several lives were lost.
Granert, an old merchant of Yokohama, committed suicide in a fit of despondency, caused by losses in business.
Portman, the interpreter at the United States Legation, had been suspended by Minister De Long, owing to complaints made by the Japanese and an angry correspondence had passed concerning it between De Long and Portman.
The rice crop had suffered severely in the southern provinces from unfavorable weather and an earthquake.
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Yeddo is an archaic spelling of Edo, or what we call Tokyo


What the heck, here are a few more articles from the same edition and page concerning Japan.

They are just news tidbits and don’t man much in 2016, but it still provides an interesting peek into just what was going on in Japan.

Japanese Noblemen En Route to New York.
San Francisco, Jan. 17/—The steamship America; from Hong Kong via Yokohama, arrived to-day, with 40 passengers or San Francisco, 14 young Japanese noblemen, who go to New York to attend college, and 160 Chinese. She also brings a full cargo of teas and miscellaneous goods.
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What’s interesting here, is that despite the higher number of Chinese passengers, it’s really about the 14 Japanese noblemen going to school in New York. What about the 160 Chinese? At this point in time in the U.S., news about Japan—infrequent though it was—was of keen interest to the general public.

American Business in Japan.
was utterly stagnant. Minister De Long and Sir Harry Parker have been on a visit to Kystin, where a strong disaffection against Satsuma exists. The latter had amassed a number of troops there, and it was feared that a civil war could not be much longer deferred.
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I have no idea what Kystin is or where it is.

As for Satsuma - it's not a person... rather a group: The Satsuma Rebellion (西南戦争, Seinan Sensō aka Southwestern War) was a revolt of disaffected samurai against the new imperial government, nine years into the Meiji Era. Its name comes from Satsuma Domain, which had been influential in the Restoration and became home to unemployed samurai after military reforms rendered their status obsolete. The rebellion lasted from January 29, 1877, until September of that year.

I like how the newspaper editor was too lazy to create a full opening sentence, instead relying on the headline to continue directly into the copy. You can’t do that nowadays!

Of keen observance was the fact that the media still fared a Japanese civil war to explode soon.

Drowning of British Officers and Sailors.
Commander Snooks, Paymaster Bowles and some sailors of Her Britannic Majesty’s ship Ringdove were drowned in Yokohama bay by the upsetting of a boat on the 20th of December.
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Okay, the loss of life is tragic anytime and anywhere, but the guys who drowned were sailors! Sailors who can’t swim. 

Anyhow, even nowadays, say in the U.S. Navy, you do NOT have to know how to swim, but they will teach you until you can swim I think 100 meters without having to grab the side of a pool.

I understand that nowadays there are plenty of jobs in the navy where one doesn’t ever have to dip one’s toe in the water… but in the 1870s…

Of course, I am only assuming those guys couldn’t swim. It is possible that they were concussed when the boat flipped over and drowned… or perhaps something more nefarious occurred.

There were plenty of Great Britain ships in the Royal Navy designated HMS Ringdove. The one mentioned in the article above was a wooden screw gun vessel (designed for naval warfare, and a troop carrier) launched in 1867 and sold in 1882.

It’s why I suggested something nefarious…

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nissan Introduces ProPILOT Chairs

Building upon its own Intelligent Parking Chair—see HERE—that allows offices to work more efficiently by removing all of that wasted time and effort required for people to push their chair back to their desk after a meeting, or even for cleaning staff to ensure chairs are back in the right cubicle after the office’s daily clean. Apparently the daily clean does not exist yet in my work space—but whatever, here comes the new Nissan ProPILOT Chair

While Nissan is not suggesting that the Intelligent Parking Chair is the next step in the evolution in office management efficiency, it, and the ProPILOT Chair are meant to demonstrate Nissan’s autonomous driving technology.

The new ProPILOT Chair was designed to showcase queuing… that it can maintain a set safe distance between your car and the one in front of you.

In the case of the ProPilot Chair… how many times have you been standing in line waiting patiently to get into your neighborhood strip joint, when you are accidentally jostled by the person in front of you because, well, he just wasn’t paying enough attention to his surroundings in his rush to get inside the strip joint to begin passing out $20 bills to women young enough to be his daughter, should his marriage have lasted long enough for him to have had kids.

Well, Nissan knows nobody enjoys being jostled while in line, and neither does anyone appreciate a fender bender, unless said rear-ending is done with your wife or significant other. It’s Japan, so let’s say significant other.

To demonstrate its autonomous driving technology with superb queuing action, the Nissan ProPILOT Chair has motorized wheels and a camera installed, where the camera looks in front of the chair to ensure other chairs in front of it remain at a safe, non-crotch/stomach-jostling distance.

In the test, when a person at the front of the queue leaves their chair (presumably to enter the strip joint in my hilarious example), the ProPILOT Chair senses that the person has left (it no longer feels your a$$ on its back, I assume), and moves itself to the back of the line.

The second chair in the line now detects that there is space available in front of it, and moves forward. Ad infinitum.



Supposing that the chairs are nice and comfy, every person in the line can now arrive at the strip joint (the joke is beginning to wear thin, like the socks I am wearing today, darn it) relaxed and ready to have so much fun that when they arrive home, cologne needs to be drunk in order to cover-up the eau-du-embarrassment perfume wafted all over them by that 21-year-old exotic dancer who looks just like your wife used to look if you had ever married that girl 30 years ago.

The Nissan ProPILOT Chair can only guarantee the riders safety to and from destinations, but not from your wife or significant other.

While we should know this experiment is just for Nissan’s actual automobile safety assurances, apparently they ARE also testing the ProPILOT Chair between now and December with an eventual safe roll-out in 2017 for restaurants who apparently feel such technology will help its patrons arrive at their dinner tables in a safe manner thereby eliminating all those unfortunate deaths that seem to occur when walking customers bang into each other.

Somewhere envisioning a world with no functioning legs and a decline in women’s high heels (… Hey! Stop Nissan now!),
Andrew Joseph
PS: Just having fun here, my dad owned a Nissan, and the car was great! I may also have visited a strip joint or two in my youth and did indeed watch a married buddy splash cologne all over himself before he went back home to see his wife who was better-looking than any of the dancers he was putting through college. Ahhh, the good old days.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Japan National Parks: Sanriku Fukkō National Park

We’ve finished looking at the six Kantō area National Parks of Japan, so over the next few days, lets take a look at the three (3) National Parks of the Tōhoku area: Towada-Hachimantai National Park; Sanriku Fukkō National Park, and the Bandai-Asahi National Park.

The first thing you may want to learn, is where the heck the Tōhoku area is! See the map below, noting that it’s the dark green area., which comprises 66,889.55 square kilometers (25,826.20 square miles).

What is a national park in Japan? See HERE.

The key for me, is that it has beauty that surpasses “normal, average” parks.

And, when it comes to Sanriku Fukkō National Park (三陸復興国立公園, Sanriku Fukkō Kokuritsu Kōen)—which translates to Sanriku Reconstruction National Park—it’s like a slice of heaven.

Hopefully you looked at the name of the park and noticed it had the word (in the English version, if you are like me) denoting “reconstruction”.

The Sanriku Fukkō National Park was only established on May 24, 2013… after the devastating March 11, 2011 9.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive walls of water to damn near wipe out much of that Tōhoku area… with death and destruction, physical and mental anguish that continues to this day.

Right now, the Sanriku Fukkō National Park consists of the former Rikuchū Kaigan National Park and Tanesashi Kaigan Hashikamidake Prefectural Natural Park, with further plans to add in the  Kesennuma Prefectural Natural Park, Kenjōsan Mangokuura Prefectural Natural Park, Matsushima Prefectural Natural Park and the Minami Sanriku Kinkasan Quasi-National Park.
Tanesashi Coast (種差海岸) - 2004 by Forrest O. Or, the world's worst water hazard in Golf For Giants.
The current national park goes along the Sanriku Coast of Japan from Hachinohe in Aomori-ken (Aomori Prefecture) through Iwate-ken (Iwate Prefecture) to Kesennuma in Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture), totaling 146.35 square kilometers (~56.51 square miles) in area.

Let’s see... if we add in the other would-be parks to the Sanriku Fukkō National Park area, we get: 146.35 + 139.02 + 54.1 + 99.33 + 210.79 = 649.59 square kilometers (~250.81 square miles)… which is a heck of a lot.

One of the more spectacular vantage points of the park is the view of Jyoudogahama. The image at  the very top was taken in 2007 - before the destruction of the area. It’s near Miyako-shi, Iwate-ken

The Jyoudogahama is officially nationally designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty, as its white sandy beaches were said by an early 1600s priest to be like paradise mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

aXis Marks The Spot

On this day, September 27,  in 1940, the Axis powers are formed as Germany, Italy, and Japan become allies with the signing of the Tripartite Pact in Berlin. The Pact provided for mutual assistance should any of the signatories suffer attack by any nation not already involved in the war.

This formalizing of the alliance was aimed directly at “neutral” America–designed to force the United States to think twice before venturing in on the side of the Allies.

The Pact also recognized the two spheres of influence. Japan acknowledged “the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe,” while Japan was granted lordship over “Greater East Asia.”

The Tripartite Pact aka, the Berlin Pact was signed by Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany, Galeazzo Ciano of Italy and Saburō Kurusu of Japan.

Two months later on November 20, 1940, Hungary joined the military alliance, followed by Romania on November 23, 1940; Bulgaria on March 1, 1941, Yugoslavia on March 25, 1941… the German client state of Slovakia on November 24, 1940, and the Independent State of Croatia on June 14, 1941.

Here’s what the pact says:

The Governments of Japan, Germany, and Italy consider it as the condition precedent of any lasting peace that all nations in the world be given each its own proper place, have decided to stand by and co-operate with one another in their efforts in Greater East Asia and the regions of Europe respectively wherein it is their prime purpose to establish and maintain a new order of things, calculated to promote the mutual prosperity and welfare of the peoples concerned. It is, furthermore, the desire of the three Governments to extend cooperation to nations in other spheres of the world that are inclined to direct their efforts along lines similar to their own for the purpose of realizing their ultimate object, world peace. Accordingly, the Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy have agreed as follows:[1]
  • ARTICLE 1. Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe.
  • ARTICLE 2. Germany and Italy recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia.
  • ARTICLE 3. Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.
  • ARTICLE 4. With a view to implementing the present pact, joint technical commissions, to be appointed by the respective Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy, will meet without delay.
  • ARTICLE 5. Japan, Germany and Italy affirm that the above agreement affects in no way the political status existing at present between each of the three Contracting Powers and Soviet Russia.
  • ARTICLE 6. The present pact shall become valid immediately upon signature and shall remain in force ten years from the date on which it becomes effective. In due time, before the expiration of said term, the High Contracting Parties shall, at the request of any one of them, enter into negotiations for its renewal.
In faith whereof, the undersigned duly authorized by their respective governments have signed this pact and have affixed hereto their signatures.


The signing of the Pact was done in triplicate on September 27, 1940 in Berlin, in the 19th year of the Fascist era (Italy) or on the 27th day of the ninth month of the 15th year of Showa (the reign of Emperor Hirohito).
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With this signing, the so-called Axis of Evil was formed.

Interesting, isn't it... all those other countries that signed the pact... Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, et al...

Finland, Thailand and Russia also considered signing the Pact, but all did not.

Japan attacked Thailand on December 8, 1941 at 2AM, with the Japanese ambassador, Tsubokami Teiji (surname first) explaining to Thailand's foreign minister, Direk Jayanama, that Japan only wanted permission for its troops to pass through Thailand to attack the British in Malaya and Burma.

While a ceasefire was quickly brokered, the Japanese offered Thailand a few option:
  1. to conclude a defensive–offensive alliance with Japan;
  2. to join the Tripartite Pact;
  3. to cooperate in Japanese military operations
  4. to agree to the joint defense of Thailand. 
Thailand opted for #3 - military cooperation but did not sign the Tripartite Pact. The Thailand prime minister did want to sign the Pact, but the foreign minister convinced him not to.

Although Thailand eventually became a puppet-state to Japan, Thailand did attack its neighbors and extended its own boundaries to China. At this time, Thailand was a member of the Axis.

However, most of Thailand disagreed with the actions of its government, and a pro-Allies army of underground fighters disrupted things in their own country until 1944, when he was finally ousted.

While the Allies wanted the Thai prime minister brought up on war crime charges for aiding the Japanese, the Thai people rebelled saying he had merely acted in the best interests in protecting the people of Thailand from Japanese aggression. Plus Thailand had expanded its own territory by annexing parts of Malaya and Burma.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I actually wrote this one two months ago or more... one of the rare times I didn't accidentally publish it ahead of time!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Snake On A Mutha-Fuggin’ Train In Japan

With apologies to Samuel Jackson, Japan had a snake on a shinkansen “bullet train” on Monday.

Here’s the thing that was so Japanese, however: After making an unscheduled stop to remove the snake, it left one minute earlier and arrived at its destination exactly on time.

Originally thought to be a python, the snake turned out to be a rat snake only 30 centimeters (12-inches) long.

Found wrapped around a armrest on a super-express bullet train on the JR Tokai (Central Japan Railway Co.), a passenger in a reserved seat was apparently unaware that the rat snake was wrapped around his armrest - possibly for about 50 minutes - until a passenger behind him saw it and notified the conductor.

The snake did not belong to that passenger, and is suspected of having been brought onto the train accidentally in someone else’s luggage or perhaps wit the maintenance equipment.

The train crew made an announcement in the train asking if anyone had lost a snake—but no no one responded… so the unscheduled train stop was made at Hamamatsu-eki (Hamamatsu station) some 25 minutes later.

As mentioned, after the one-minute delay, the train was off and running, arriving on time at Hiroshima-eki (Hiroshima station).

Five years ago, a similar incident occurred with crew spotting a snake on an unoccupied seat.

It’s not know if either snake had purchased a ticket. :) 

The Japanese rat snake (Elaphe climacophora) is a medium-sized Japanese snake known as the aodaishō or "blue general". It is a non-venomous snake... but looking at the photo... it doesn't look blue... maybe a little sad at being stuck in a Tupperware container. 

Banzai,
Andrew “I effin’ hate snakes” Joseph

University Sexual Assault Club Gets Suspended Sentence

I am currently reading a book published by Stone Bridge Press called Womansword... which I am pretty sure is meant to be read as 'womans word'... but I think could also be read as 'woman sword', because I think it just might be more appropriate. I’ll provide my thoughts on that when I’m done ready the book in its entirety—but essentially it points out that when you are a woman in Japan, you are a still a second-class citizen.

Case in point, the male-only members of a university molestation club essentially getting a slap on the wrist after a gang-sexual and physical assault of a woman.

We’re not talking about someone with low mental capacity has difficulty distinguishing right from wrong, we are talking about five Japanese men at one of Tokyo’s top universities who thought it would be cool to form a club and sexually-assault women gang-style.

Now… I don’t mean to imply that smart people don’t commit violent crimes. They’re the ones who think they can get away with it.

University of Tokyo student (I assume an ex-student now), 21-year-old Matsumi Kensuke (surname first) brought shame upon himself, his family, his victim and real men everywhere for—with four club cohorts—forcing a female University of Tokyo student to get drunk so that they could then sexually assault her.

Called the (translated) University of Tokyo Birthday Research Group, the club’s goals were to get women drunk and then molest them.

Who the fug has goals like that? How do you find other people who think like that and agree that this is a good idea? Posters put up around the campus? Friendly chatter talking to fellow students at the bar?

Seriously, if I heard something about forming a club that was harmful like that, I’d beat the crap out of them all.

Did not one of these people think - hey, that’s not cool.

And if these people heard about and joined the club, surely someone else who didn’t join, heard about the club.

Was it it all a smokescreen? Did the members who joined the University of Tokyo Birthday Research Group think there was actually going to be scientific research about birthdays, but when they found out it wasn’t thought - what the heck, I’m here anyways, let’s go abuse some women?

The club was formed in April of this year, with what was hopefully (sounds stupid) it’s first and only assault on a woman occurring in May of 2016.

May 11, 2016 - midnight - the group managed to coerce a female student to go with them, where they forced alcohol into he until she was fully intoxicated, forced her to strip.

They then groped her upper body.

They took turns lying atop her back and twisting her face around to kiss her.

Matsumi—along with being the ringleader—was accused of slapping her on the back numerous times, using a hair dryer to blow hot air on her genitals and pouring a cup of hot ramen noodles on her breasts.

I’m a pretty imaginative guy when it comes to consensual sexual relations between myself and a woman, but a cup of ramen noodles?!

That takes time to make. Did Matsumi say - hang on guys - you continue to squeeze and fondle her even while she resists, while I go and make some hot ramen noodles.

Did the others question why he wasn’t making a snack for them? Or did they already figure that Matsumi was a weird fug and that they figured he would pour the hot liquid on her breasts? Did he add the flavor packet? Was he that fugged up? I’m sorry - that sounds insensitive, but I’d like to know just how screwed up this guy’s mind really was.

So… while I am unsure just how long the physical assault continued on this poor person, and if it truly was just relegated to upper body attacks, without penetration of any kind… not that that matters as fare as the abject helplessness the victim felt and probably still feels, we can rest assure that Japan’s fantastic justice system will make things better.

Oh wait… is this the same Justice System that takes into account just how pathetically remorseful one is for he crimes (not helpful if you show defiance because you aren’t actually guilty)?

What did they do now?

Matsumi - the ring-leader - received two years in prison, suspended four years.

Presiding judge Shimada Hajime (surname first), when passing sentence agreed that Matsumi’s behavior was worthy worthy of strong condemnation because it disrespected the victim…

(did you see the …?)

However, judge Shimada says that because Matsumi had shown enough remorse for his actions, there was room for rehabilitation.

On September 20, 2016, another defendant—Komoto Taichi (surname first), 22—who was part of the sexual assault received 18 months in prison, suspended for three years.

Matsumoto Koko is reported to be another club member, standing trial under another judge.

Back in 2006, members of the Kyoto University American football team were convicted of forcing female university students to drink to the point of unconsciousness so they could rape them. Holy fug. What is wrong with people?! Committing a felony with all these witnesses around you… hell, not having the balls to stand up and say this is wrong? Oh that the race of men could sink so low.

Oh… and how about these beauts—the ring leader a former student from the famous Waseda University named Wada Shinchiro (surname first), who formed a rape club known as Super Free. It wasn’t just for one to rape a woman and then brag about it, no, it was the gang-rape mentality.

Should you have the stomach for it, I wrote about the Super Free rape club HERE.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: If you are wondering about the photo above, Google "No Not Happy Birthday" and see the Warner Brother's cartoon. It's just about assault, not sexual assault.  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park

Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園, Chichibu Tama Kai Kokuritsu Kōen) is one of Japan’s 32 National Parks—this 1,216 square kilometer park is located in the Kantō area of Japan at the intersection of Saitama-ken, Yamanashi-ken, Nagano-ken and Tokyo-ken. This is the last of six national parks in the Kantō region.

The lovely parkland encompasses five rivers, hiking trails, ancient shrines and lots of mountains, with eight of them inching over 2,000 meters in height.  The rivers are: Fufuki (富士川, Fuji-kawa or Fuji-gawa); Tama (多摩川, Tama-gawa); Ara (荒川, Ara-kawa); and  Shinano (信濃川,  Shinano-gawa) the longest river in Japan.

Approaching from Saitama-ken, sites to see include the Nakatsu Canyon (中津峡, Nakatsu-kyō), a 10-kilometer long ditch carved by the Nakatsu River - a tributary of the Ara-kawa. This is on the Saitama-ken part of the park. There’s also the Tochimoto Sekisho Historical Site (栃本関所跡, Tochimoto Sekisho-ato) with a small hamlet located there, retaining its feudal era look.

To be honest, the Tochimoto Sekisho Historical Site looks like any other place I've ever visited in Japan outside of Tokyo and Osaka. Image from www.chichibu.co.jp.
If you are coming from the Yamaashi-ken side, there’s the:
  • Daibosatsu Pass (大菩薩峠, Daibosatsu-tōge) that cuts through three mountains peaking at around 1,900 meters. Lots of flowers to see at certain times of the year;
  • Mitake Shosēn Gorge (御岳昇仙峡 Mitake Shosēn-kyō) carved by a tributary of the Fuefuki River - lots of birds in the gorge, plus the Shosēnkyō Museum of Art, which mainly displays shadow play (paper puppets) and kirigami (see HERE) exhibits. Oh… and apparently plenty of traffic jams;
  • Nishizawa Canyon (西沢渓谷, Nishizawa-keikoku) carved by the Fuefuki River, there are lots of stream pools, a nice walking trail, and plenty of waterfalls including Nanatsugama-godan Fall (七ツ釜五段ノ滝, Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki), one of the best 100 falls in Japan.
The Nanatsugama-godan Waterfall is one of the prettiest waterfalls in the world, in my opinion. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6951.html
From Nagano, the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park has the Chikuma River Upstream Course (千曲川源流コース) through the mountains where in Mōkiba you can see azaleas in June and an entrance to the famous Jūmonji Pass (十文字峠)… no wait… the pass has nothing to do with that excellent Robin Williams movie. It goes right to Mount Kobushi (甲武信岳) which rises to 2,475 meters above sea level.

Jūmonji... pass. Image from http://navi.city.chichibu.lg.jp.e.qg.hp.transer.com/p_flower/1872/.
If you are coming from the Tokyo side, you can see Mount Mitake (a measly 929 meters high) and Mount Mito that’s 1,628 meters high and famous for its Fagus Japonica, which isn’t what I thought, as it is a species of tree known as the Japanese Blue Beech (Inubuna, aka ‘dog buna’).

Now, the smaller Mount Mitake is considered to be a sacred mountain where the shinto Musashi-Mitake Shrine (武蔵御嶽神社, Musashi Mitake Jinja) was first erected in 90 B.C. It houses a Zaōgonge statue made in 736AD… and since we are all lazier than the ancient Japanese, you can now take a cable car up to see it.

By the way… if you look up Zaōgonge on-line… there are four entries exactly the same, with NO explanation of just what the Zaōgonge statue is all about. There are 28 images in Google—but not one of them actually shows the statue.

So… since I may be working against myself by using English, if anyone out there can find me a link to an image or a description of what the hell the Zaōgonge statue is all about, it would be greatly appreciated.  

Kanpai,
Andrew “One of the best 100 gaijin not currently living in Japan” Joseph
PS: Image at very top is from https://www.japantimeline.jp/en/yamanashi/kofu_city/shosen_gorge, showing the Mitake Shosēn Gorge.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Video Game Developer Gets Squeezed At Tokyo Trade Show

For video gamers trying out a new VR game—it was all about the chikan—sexual groping.

Maybe I have become a bit more prudish in my age, but needing to play a video game where one gets to grope a mannequin in order to get a reaction from a VR (virtual reality) anime female figure is just plain stupid.

As you can see above (the gamer obviously doesn’t know how to grope - not really), the animated figure in the back (the video game) looks like a high school student.

I understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but I am worried that many people do not.

Not everyone has a firm grasp on reality, as you can see every time you look at the news.

This action at last week’s Tokyo Game Show was actually halted by show organizers probably because they are involved in trade shows, and not specifically just video games.

I like video games. I just bought one for the far superior PS3 system (who wants to pay $80 for a PS4 video game and then have to pay (on-line charges) to play it?

I like women, too, but again who wants to pay to play?

But… when software developer M2 Co had their exhibition booth set up so visitors could snap on a set of VR glasses and then touch the mannequin to make the it seem as though the gamer was successfully grabbing high school girl boob—well… that’s just wrong.

According to M2 Co, the demonstration was to show how it can turn flat images into 3D images… uh… I’m pretty sure that’s been done for many years and years now.

That was their reasoning to create a chikan/molestor video game demonstrator.

And… what is equally disheartening, is the fact that so many people (men) lined up to get their pervert on before complaints caused the demo to be shut down.

Now… lest we jump all over the video game industry, the Tokyo Game Show’s exhibitors—including Sony Corp.—pretty much had just family-rated entertainment in mind, as most companies showed off their VR games and tech.

Although… the Tokyo Game Show did offer up a bunch of scantily-clad women—booth babes—at many exhibitor stands.

Having organized the participation of exhibitors at some 350 different annual trade shows around the world over a 13-year period, I can honestly state that not once had one of my clients ever asked for a booth babe.

I did see a few at a trade show here in Toronto about eight years ago, but that practice is now on the wane.

Hey - I’m all for people earning a few bucks legally dressed up (I would imagine that got its start at auto shows), but there must be better ways.

Sadly at the Tokyo Game Show, touching the mannequin boob was about as close to reality as it was going to get.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, September 23, 2016

Japan's National Parks: Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park

From the tropical islands that make up the Ogasawara National Park (see HERE), to the swampy bogs of Oze National Park (HERE), the splendor of the temples and shrines of Nikkō National Park (HERE), and the almost believable existence of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (HERE), we go now to the mountainous grandeur of the Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park (上信越高原国立公園 Jōshin'etsu-kōgen Kokuritsu Kōen).

All of these parks mentioned above are located in the Kanto area of Japan, with the Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park situated around the active and dormant volcanoes in the mountainous part of Gunma-ken, Nagano-ken and Niigata-ken, with the name of the park derived from the two mountain ranges that physically make up the park.

Jōshin'etsu represents the old names of the prefectures (provinces/states) in the area:
  • Kōzuke-ken (上野国) in present-day Gunma-ken;
  • Shinano-ken (信濃国) in present-day Nagano-ken;
  • Echigo-ken (越後国) in present-day Niigata-ken;
  • Kōgen, means plateau, or mesa.
Established in 1949, and expanded in 1956 to include the mountainous Myōkō-Togakushi area, Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park covers an expansive area of 1,890.62 square kilometers (729.97 square miles).

What is there to see at Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park? Well, assuming you like hiking, there are plenty of mountainous areas to explore. Hiking not your bag? Try mountain climbing… or skiing… or to rest those weary muscles, lots of onsen (hot springs) to settle into.

Mountains to see include:

Southern Niigata/North Nagano Area (新潟南西部・長野北部, Niigata Nanseibu, Nagano Hokubu area:
  • Mount Myōkō (妙高山, Myōkō-san, at 2,454 meters (8,051 feet) high, the active volcano is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains;
  • Mount Kurohime is 2,053 meters (6,736 feet) high;
  • Mount Iizuna (飯縄山, Iizuna-yama) is 1,917 meters (6,289 feet) high, and legend has it that there is a strange edible sand somewhere there that the tengu would give to the hungry people during times of poor harvest. It was also the site for the 1998 Winter Olympics’ bobsled and luge track events;
  • Mount Togakushi is 1,911 meters (6,270 feet) high. At the base, ther's the Togakushi Shrine (戸隠神社, Togakushi Jinja) shinto shrine—a melange of five shrines located about two kilometers apart for each other.
Mount Myōkō from the northeast - in the winter, obviously.
 Southwest Mikuni Mountain Range Area (三国山脈南西部 Mikuni Sanmyaku Nanseibu area:
  • Mount Tanigawa (谷川岳, Tanigawa-dake) is 1,963 meters (6,440 feet) high, and it is part of the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan, and has had 805 people die upon it since the 1930s. For reference’s sake, just over 200 people have died while climbing Mt. Everest since then);
  • Mount Kusatsu-Shirane (草津白根山, Kusatsu Shirane-san) is a 2160-meter (7,093-feet) high active volcano featuring a series of overlapping volcanic cones with three crater lakes, the largest—Yu-gama—is an acidic, tourquoise-colored lake with yellow sulphur floating on it. It is beautiful, despite its grossness. That's a photo of it at the very top of this blog;
  • Mount Asama (浅間山, Asama-yama) is an active complex volcano, and the most active volcano in the Honshu area. It is 2,550 meters (8,3705 feet) high, and last had a big eruption (Auto Correct changed it to “erection”) in February of 2009, but continues to have small eruptions and shakes even now. It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains.   
The triple cone threat of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane.
 While I am sure I would enjoy visiting the Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park for a chance to find and eat some mythical edible sand and capture a tengu, I would settle for a chance to view that acidic Yu-gama lake up on Mount Kusatsu-Shirane.

Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park is rife with active volcanoes, and having climbed a much smaller one near my hometown, even ignoring the fact that it was a tiring climb—I was in shape then and ready to impress my girlfriend who had obviously invoked the spirit of a mountain goat for that trip—the hot venting steam, the quick weather changes from warm sunshine to blinding, dense fog in minutes is both worrisome and cool.

Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park sounds like a thrill-seeker's Japanese paradise.

FYI, you may have noticed that sometimes these mountains are called 'yama' (山 in Japanese), and other times 'san'. Yama is indeed the Japanese term for 'mountain', but the special mountains are provided with an honorific of 'san'...

While the Japanese do indeed add 'san' to names implying an honorific of Mister or Mrs., in this case it can be traced back to 山... which in Chinese, is pronounced "san".

Confused? All of those damn mountains have the kanji symbol of 山, except when they have the original Chinese symbol (from which kanji was borrowed/stolen from) of 山. San in Japanese, Yama in the Chinese language. I am unsure WHICH Chinese language, however.
I don't know about any edible sand on Mount Iizuna, but that is the second-largest swan I have ever seen swimming upon
Lake Daizahoushi.
Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Japanese Spy And Pearl Harbor

Hitler said “thank-you” to Yoshikawa Takeo.

Yoshikawa (surname) was a Japanese spy who not only helped Germany destroy many British transport ships on a mission, he played a huge role in helping the Japanese plan out their attack on Pearl Harbor in the months before their attack on the U.S. naval base on Oahu, Hawaii.

Born Yoshikawa Takeo (吉川 猛夫) on March 17, 1914 in Matsuyama-shi, Ehime-ken, after graduating top of his class rom the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy (海軍兵学校 Kaigun Heigakkō situated in Etajima, Hiroshima) in 1933, he was posted aboard the lead armored cruisers Asama for training, along with various submarines.

After beginning training as a naval pilot in 1934 Yoshikawa developed some sort of stomach ailment (ulcers, maybe?) that halted his training, eventually causing his discharge from the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1936.

As a patriot, not being able to serve his country left Yoshikawa despondent and suicidal―but that all changed in 1937.

Working at Navy Headquarters in Tokyo, Yoshikawa became involved in Intelligence work, quickly becoming an expert in all things U.S.Navy, and, of course, studying English. He also immersed himself in Jane’s Fighting Ships―like its yearly reports on aviation, this book was and is the be-all for naval data, including sizes, armaments, personnel, etc. He also memorized the silhouettes of all U.S. ships. 

Yashikawa said: “Since I had been studying English, I was assigned to the sections dealing with the British and American navies. I became the Japanese navy’s expert on the American navy. I read everything; diplomatic reports from our attachés, secret reports from our agents around the world. I read military commentators like [New York Times military affairs editor] Hanson Baldwin. I read history too. Like the works of Mahan, the famous American admiral.”

See, kids? Figure out what you want to do and learn all you can on the subject.

It was while at the Naval intelligence unit that Yashikawa intercepted a shortwave message in early 1940―in non-scrambled English―noting that 17 British troop ships had moved past Freetown, Sierra Leone in west Africa and were sailing back to port in England.

Because Germany was already at war with Great Britain, and Japan was already on friendly terms with the Nazi regime, he passed the information along to the German Embassy in Tokyo.

After the Germans destroyed many of these waylaid British transports, Adolf Hitler sent Yoshikawa a letter of thanks.

Japan, seeing Yoshikawa’s potential decided to send him to send him to Hawaii to do some work there.

Except… he didn’t go as Yoshikawa, he went as Morimura Tadashi (surname first), arriving on March 27, 1941 aboard the Nitta Maru liner at Pier 8 in Oahu, Hawaii.

Described as being of medium height and slim, with long combed back black hair, the 29-year-old Morimura/Yoshikawa had a lei of welcome placed around his shoulders by Japanese Consulate vice-consul Okuda Otojiro, rather than some sexy Hawaiian babe in a grass skirt.

After a visit to the consulate, Morimura/Yoshikawa talked to consul general Kita Nagao (surname first), who made introductions around the place, explaining that he was the new chancellor―a cover, of course, known only by Morimura/Yoshikawa, Kita and Okuda.

Japan Consulate General in Honolulu (today).
At that time, Hawaii was home to some 160,000 people of Japanese descent, and despite Hawaii being a protectorate nation under the United States and still its own country, it was incredibly easy for Morimura/Yoshikawa to blend in to do his real work as a spy.

Now, you might think that with so many people of Japanese-origin then living in Hawaii, it would have been easy for Morimura/Yoshikawa to coerce the locals for information, but he says that the “men of influence and character who might have assisted me in my secret mission were unanimously uncooperative.” (Takeo Yoshikawa and Norman Stanford (December 1960). "Top Secret Assignment". U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.) 

So… he couldn’t find anyone willing to do his dirty work for him. He pretty much did it all himself.

I say pretty much, because it is known that we did work alongside Bernard Kuehn of German military intelligence group the Abwehr, as well as Seki Kokichi (surname first) who worked as the Japanese consulate treasurer who doubled as an untrained spy.

After being supplied with a second-story apartment over looking Pearl Harbor,  Morimura/Yoshikawa began scouting the island of Oahu making notes of the U.S. Navy’s fleet movements, as well as its security measures.

He even rented small airplanes from the local John Ridgers Airport and flew around the island to check out U.S. installations.

Did you know he even went swimming in Pearl Harbor’s harbor, using a hollow reed as a breathing device?

While Morimura/Yoshikawa did not know of any upcoming plans to attack Pearl Harbor, he still sent his reports to Japan’s Foreign Ministry and then to the Imperial Navy via the Purple encoding machine (see HERE) from the consulate… because you never know. 

Japan didn’t know, however, that the U.S. had broken the Purple code, and thus knew what was going on, but the communications between the consulate and Tokyo were still considered unimportant because none seemed to be dangerous.

But they should have been.

One message sent and intercepted on September 2, 1941 from Tokyo to the consulate asked for the location and number of warships in five distinct sectors of Pearl Harbor ( a grid).

Wow… so the U.S. knew all about the Japanese thinking about doing something nefarious as early as three months before Japan’s so-called surprise attack.

Except they didn’t know.

Despite the rest of the world being at war, the U.S. wasn’t at this time.

There were staff shortages, and other files deemed more important to decrypt that this message sent to Kita, and thus to Morimura/Yoshikawa, wasn’t actually decoded until the middle of October.

Great, so there’s still two months of advanced warning, right?

Uh… no. The message was seen as unimportant… who cares if Tokyo was asking for details on where it keeps its ships at Pearl Harbor.

Now… you might have though that the September 2, 1941 message request was just a one-off… maybe it was… but Morimura/Yoshikawa was sending twice-weekly reports back to Japan.

It was this information that Japanese Imperial Navy admiral Yamamoto Isoroku utilized to finalize his plans to attack the U.S. military installation at Pearl Harbor.

To protect their  spy, Japan sent out a code phrase within a shortwave news broadcast from Tokyo: “East win, rain”.

Whether Morimura/Yoshikawa knew that meant attack was imminent, he did mean he was supposed to destroy all evidence of what he had been up to.

On December 7, 1941 when waves of Japanese aircraft launched from aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean bombed the crap out of Pearl Harbor, its fleet and navy personnel, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) stopped by Morimura/Yoshikawa’s place to have a chat—but found nothing incriminating at his residence, or upon his person.

They let him go, without charging him—though I doubt they could have considering he would have had diplomatic immunity.


A very detailed map of Pearl Harbor and locations of its fleet, found in a captured midget Japanese submarine shortly after the attack.
Morimura/Yoshikawa stayed in Oahu until August of 1942, when he was part of a diplomat prisoner exchange with Japan.

Morimura/Yoshikawa continued to work for Japan’s naval intelligence office throughout the war, but no special mention was ever made for the unfortunately great spywork he had done and provided. He married upon his return home.

While no one in the U.S. was aware of his role in the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the war ended and U.S. forces began to occupy Japan, Morimura/Yoshikawa went into hiding—leaving his wife—for fear he would be recognized and punished for his role leading up to the U.S. inclusion in WWII.

Hiding out as a Buddhist monk in the countryside, Morimura/Yoshikawa only returned to his wife and two kids when the U.S. occupation ended on April 28, 1952. Now that was a patient wife.

By 1955, he opened up a candy business, but after rumors spread about his true role in Japan’s embarrassing war, the business quickly failed. Japanese people blamed him for the war… for their son’s and daughters having died… lives lost.

Says Yoshikawa: “They even blamed me for the atomic bomb.”

However, his role as a spy was not revealed to the U.S. until 1960. He was, by then, angry and bitter with Japan. He was broke and had to rely on the wife’s selling of insurance, as the Japanese government did not provide him with a pension, let alone any honors.

I’m unsure what was worse for him.

Knowing he was on the losing side of a war?

His country not looking after one who was dedicated to it helping give it THE major advantage in the war? Apparently when he went to apply for a pension, he was told they had never heard of him. When he explained he had been a spy working in Hawaii, he was simply informed that Japan had never spied on anyone.  

His wife having to be the breadwinner.

Ding-ding-ding-ding!!!

While Yoshikawa believed that only his wife showed him the proper respect as a hero of Japan, he did in a nursing home still bitter and still without any money, on February 20, 1993 at the age of 78.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Ogasawara National Park

For reasons unknown to me, I have actually written quite a bit about the Ogasawara area of Japan—a portion of Japan that I bet the vast majority of the country’s population has ever visited, let alone given much thought to.

Welcome to Ogasawara National Park (小笠原国立公園, Ogasawara Kokuritsu Kōen) located within the Ogasawara Islands—also known as the Bonin Islands—occupying 66.29 square kilometers of space some one thousand kilometers south of Tokyo - interesting enough, these islands are part of Tokyo’s political domain.



First off… the Ogasawara Islands/Bonin Islands consist of 30 subtropical and tropical islands. Bonin, is derived from an archaic word “bunin", meaning no people—uninhabited. However, there are two islands, Chichijima (父島) and Hahajima (母島), that are inhabited.

The Ogasawara National Park consists of some of those islands: Chichijima, Hahajima, Mukojima and one of the three so-called Three Volcanic islands: Kita Iwo Jima (北硫黄島, North Sulphur Island); Iwo Jima (硫黄島, Sulphur Island); and Minami Iwo Jima 南硫黄島, South Sulphur Island)—with Kita Iwo Jima ONLY being part of the park.

I see you recognize Iwo Jima—isle where the greatest battles of WWII on Japanese soil took place. The U.S. took it to pretty much end the war, but cleaning it out from a Japanese army that refused to surrender—that caused the U.S. to suffer more casualties of the next few months than those suffered by the Japanese.  Now you know what Iwo Jima means... sulphur island... that's gotta suck on so many different levels.  


After the U.S. finally returned the islands to Japan in 1968 after ‘holding on to them’ for Japan since WWII, Ogasawara National Park was established on October 16, 1972.

There’s probably not a heck of a lot to do at this park, but if you are a naturalist (keep your clothes on, buddy)… I mean someone interested in nature, if you were the type who has to see everything, you should note that there are 441 recorded native plants (most rare and only found here)…. and maybe you can spot a critically-endangered Bonin Flying Fox (a species of fruit bat), or the endemic Ogasawara Snake-Eyed Skink. Skinks look like snakes… but with legs! See HERE.
  • There are 195 known bird species on the island—14 of which are threatened;
  • 1,380 insect species (379 endemic);
  • 134 species land snails (100 endemic);
  • 40 species of freshwater fish;
  • 23 types cetaceans (whales, eh); 
  • 795 species of saltwater fish;
  • 226 species of hermatypic coral. 
… so… kindda cool. Just watch where you step… snails…

If I had a girl child, I would have named her Coral. True story. Here we see some aquatic life amongst the coral at Ogasawara National Park - notice how clean and clear the water is? 

I’ve never been to these islands, but… I would like to see the Ogasawara National Park.

Kanpai,
Andrew "Loves escargot" Joseph

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Japan May Have The World’s Oldest Fishhooks

I never actually think about fishing, until someone invites me along and I enjoy the heck out of it. One of my favorite television programs is River Monsters, a science and fishing show by angler extraordinaire Jeremy Wade. Hee… wade.

Some of the more memorable times I have gone fishing include going salmon fishing with a Mohawk chief here in Canada, with Michael Hutchison in Japan, and with my Dad at a pond north west of Toronto.

At no time did I physically catch a fish, but there were a few battles.

Most of my fishing attempts have been spent unraveling knotted up line in the reel or untangling myself from a submerged tree trunk or algae, or wondering just how the hell I could hook myself in my own hand, then my back, and then my father’s shoulder.

So… maybe I don’t enjoy fishing as much as I enjoy drowning worms, but whatever. This story is what is known as “the hook”.

A few years ago, fishing hooks made up of the shells of sea snails were found in the Sakitari Cave on the southern end of Okinawa, Japan.
Sakitari Cave, Okinawa, Japan
It took a while, but scientists now agree that these fishhooks, which were ground into shape to look like a crescent moon, are about 23,000 years-old, which makes them the oldest fishing gear in the world… or at least as old as similar fishhooks found in Timor.

I would assume since there was more than just one old fishhook found within the Sakitari Cave, that it didn't simply wash in there with a flooding, but rather it was because it was used by the cave dwellers who kept their fishing tools safe in there.   

Keep in mind, that these are simply the oldest fishhooks that have been found to date. No one is suggesting that the Okinawans et al discovered fishing with hooks.
From left: World's oldest fishhook; a partially-finished fishhook of the same age; a shell fragment of the same vintage from which the fishhooks would have been made.
While it is indeed kind of cool to know that the old Okinawans and Timbor(ians?) though a hook shape would work to catch fish—such as eel or parrotfish—just like what we would use today if we were in the mood to impale a worm and then drown it.

On the plus side, the old hooks look far less penetrating in one’s thumb than today’s barbed river monstrosities.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Older And More Virginal Japan

Holy crap - Japan is getting older and more virginal.

Yes, there's a reason for the images of sexy women in this blog. 

According to statistics compiled by Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry—as of September 15, 2016—Japan’s elderly of 65-years-of-age and older climbed to a total of 27.3 per cent of the population.

Of all the women in Japan, it was found that 30.1 percent of them were 65-years-old and older.

That part is all cool—who can begrudge anyone for living longer?

The problem for Japan, is that while it’s population continues to be made up of older and older people, there is a decided shortage of flesh blood if you will… fewer children are being born every year.

Combine that with a damning influx of legal immigration, Japan is correct to assume that soon enough there will not be enough young adults in the workforce to do the jobs that need doing.

That means bad news for Japan’s economy.
It's not for her - it's for you, oh man. Before they learn better, some women will even cut your pancakes into bite-sized morsels for you... even pre-chewing it first so you don't have to wear out your molars. Really. This happens all the time in relationships. Of course it does. How would you know? Are you in a real relationship? 
Yes, you can hire more people from outside Japan to come and work in the country—but outside of the plethora of would-be English teachers, bartenders and hostess positions, not a heck of a lot of people from foreign nations can or want to work in Japan. The largest obstacle, is the language barrier.

While Japan remains the number topic within THIS blog, the world his hardly going out of its way to learn how to speak, read and write Japanese in order to go and work in the country.

And… and here’s the real rub… even if one does have those skills, and works well at a job there in Japan, how likely is it that Japan will even allow you to become a citizen of its country? Slim to non-existent.

Back to old people (and don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the virgin-thing, either).

Part of the reason for Japan’s declining population, is that marred couples aren’t having children as often as they once were.

The fertility rate in Japan is a scant 1.4 kids per couple (considering you tend to - but not exclusively - require two adults, that’s a negative population growth rate). The Government of Japan has indicated it wants to increase the fertility rate to 1.8 kids per couple by 2025… which is still a negative growth rate, but one has to start somewhere.

There’s rising costs to raise children, and now the fact that women in Japan want a career like their western counterparts.

Uh-oh… internationalizing the Japanese seems to have backfired. 

Rather than stay home and look after a rug rat after giving birth, Japanese women are actually going back to work. And because no one wants to screw up their job prospects by continuing to be a baby machine, Japanese women are reluctant to have a second child… which doesn’t mean no sex, but rather that no conception is more in line.
What?... nothing? I would do anything to not be lonely anymore. This poor woman can't even afford a pair of jeans that fit properly.
Now, Prime Minister Abe’s federal government has begun to offer tax incentives for married couples, as well as better child-care services - so there is that.

Back in the 1930s, the federal government of Canada (and the U.S.) used to provide bonus cash to families who would have large - extra large  - numbers of kids. I think that’s right. Yeah - the Great Depression of 1929 meant families couldn’t afford to have big families of kids.

Where’s that virginal thing?

Well…  while the married folks are at least giving the old ,college try and having at least one kid… a recent survey notes that of the 70 percent of single men, and 60 percent of the unmarried Japanese women… none are in a relationship. While that means a higher likelihood of no sex (I’m sure prostitution plays a part in alleviating the hang-ups for some men and women), there’s a more real problem.

That survey also revealed that of all single Japanese people, 42 percent of men and 44.2 percent of women admitted they were virgins.

Ho-ly-sheep-dip.

I go a way for a few decades and the whole country goes in a sexual devolution?!

Are we not men? We are devo.
I have no beef with Stews... though I'd like to.
Look… I have no issues with being a virgin. I was one for nearly 26 years of my life.

i didn’t like it and would have given up my virginity for a fug in a heartbeat. My problem was that I was either too shy or I was ugly and women didn’t like me. Maybe a combination of both.

Then I became confident. I think people of the opposite sex can sense confidence. I went from zero to  37 in 36 months, with stops for a girlfriend of 12 months, and a fiancé for five months. And I wasn’t even trying to get lucky.

Apparently Japan has a National Institute of Population and Social Security Research that does this sort of research every five years…  

For whatever reason, Japanese people - men and women - are remaining chaste because there is a generational feeling of loneliness.

I can help! Someone get me a ticket to Japan, and an unlimited supply of orange juice and viagra stat!

It seems contradictory, but let’s not blame the virginity at the glory hold of the young Japanese men and women alone.

Apparently they WANT to have relationships - admittedly not all, but most - as there is an industry that caters to the lonely Japanese individual… so at least there is hope.

So what is stopping them?
Maybe suck back some Red Bull and do the work now so you can leave on time and hit the bar scene with people other than your co-workers. I work with them, but I don't need to spend every waking and un-waking hour with them.
The biggest excuse is work… too much of it, and little time to find a significant other…

But that’s horsehockey.

The Japanese have been overworking themselves for generations… working unpaid hours every night… and still, the Japanese need for companionship and sex didn’t dwindle to nothingness!

There was still a drive to have sex… a dream to get married… have kids, be the perfect Japanese brick in the wall of society.

Did we gaijin screw things up that badly? Most of us foreigners want that family crap as well. yes, it can be difficult to find, and even more difficult to maintain. But most people seem to like it.

But the Japanese… these seem to be caught between a rock and virtual hard place.

Thanks to being mixed up by us foreigners about what work should really be like, wanting to be Japanese and do all the long hours of work… a lack of real interpersonal skills thanks to a proliferation of video games (no, I’m not blaming everything on video games… I play video games… I played video games when they first came out… I never stopped playing video games… but after overcoming my shyness and or ugliness, I had no problems in talking to the opposite sex. heck, I once whipped it out and wagged it at a reigning Miss Nude Universe, and lived to tell about it.

Are the Japanese afraid to be set up on arranged dates/marriages because it seems so old-fashioned… is it because they want someone who understands them, as a person?
Just a simple, ordinary Japanese woman who gets me.
I’m a writer… wouldn’t it be grand if I could find a woman who understood me and like me and my writing? I assume they are out there. And they are out there for the Japanese, too.

You want someone to like you and your hobbies… are your hobbies that weird? Can’t you change? I haven’t collected comic books in a long time. It sucks, but you know what… you deal with it and move on.

What’s the matter guy, the women don’t like the same anime as you? Grow a pair and either learn to like hers or maybe the both of you can learn to like something else or perhaps you stop all together and find a new hobby you can share… like sex?

I’m sure prime Minster Abe would appreciate it if you could find some common ground to burrow in.

The point is… there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin. There’s nothing wrong is that is what you want to be. But if it is because of circumstances that can be altered safely and legally, then why not begin looking at ways the situation can be altered and resolved.

Ahhh… but I’m not here to give advice… I’m just here to tell you what’s up. I know what’s not up, too.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

PS: Japanese women... if the Government will not foot the bill for me to do my part for the country, please keep in mind that there many Japanese men out there looking for love. If you are looking for love too, stop looking in all the wrong places. I am sure there are singles websites out there not filled with guys and gals involved in loveless marriages. And... if there aren't... talk to me and we'll create one together.

PPS: I have slept with or at least seen Japanese women who looked like the women in the photos above.

Monday, September 19, 2016

America Is One-In-A-Million

There’s nothing wrong with pandering to people, especially when it’s necessary.

The United States of America continues to show it has great taste, with its one millionth visit to this blog , Japan—It’s A Wonderful Rife.

All I can say is “thanks, you Yankee Doodle dandies!”

The U.S. continues to lead the way in readership of this blog with over 15,000 views per month.

I blush in your general direction.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: BTW, I was kind of surprised that all of the "pin" examples of US flags with Japan and other country's flags, always seemed to have "Old Glory" facing backwards.... a situation easily rectified if you put the other country's flag on the left, and America's on the right... it works easily enough with Japan, Canada and the UK, but may not work as well with Australia, as it also has a left dominated image as the U.S does. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Oze National Park

If you take a look at the photo of Oze National Park (尾瀬国立公園, Oze Kokuritsu Kōen), above, you might think it was someplace out in the western part of the U.S. or Canada… there appears to be nothing there that makes one think of Japan. Photo by Brian Adler (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:BrianAdler).

I look at that photo and wonder what the heck happened to the top of the mountain. Oh yeah - a volcanic explosion.

The entire park area—all 372 square kilometers of it is spread out over four prefectures: Tochigi-ken (my old home prefecture), Fukushima-ken, Gunman-ken, and Niigata-ken.

Although new to the rank of National Park as of August 30, 2007, Oze National Park has been around a while… as it was actually formerly part of Nikkō National Park (see HERE for more on that park), as well as the Aizu-Komagatake and Tashiroyama mountains.

The idea behind it was to relieve tourist pressure from Nikkō and all of its temples and shrines, to better allow the Oze National Park to prosper as a true natural reserve.

I’ve been here, though not when it was designated as a National Park. I pop my fingers inside my hollowed cheek.

Yeah, it’s beautiful and all—and I’m glad that Japan is maintaining large swathes of green zones that will avoid being concreted over for a shopping mall… but I just expected more than just some trees, flowers and mountains.

Okay… the Oze National Park is actually Japan’s largest highland marsh—so pick the appropriate footwear... because eventually, you're going to fall in.

Yes… if you want to walk the walk, the hiking paths are covered with wooden planks so it’s easily accessible for visitors.

The Oze National Park’s landscape is the long-term result of volcanic activity from Mt. Hiuchigatake (燧ヶ岳 Hiuchi-ga-take)—the tallest mountain in the Tōhoku region (northeast part of the main Japanese island), after lava flow damned the Tadamigawa River (只見川, Tadami-gawa), a major tributary of the Agano River, thereby creating the current marshlands. The North Tadami River (Kita Tadamigawa) feeds the marshlands of the Oze National Park.

Did you know that all of the streams and rivers within the Oze National Park help provide most of Tokyo’s electrical power? Did you know that 70 percent of the land within the Oze National Park is actually owned by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany)? The same company who owned the nuclear power station in Fukushima-ken that nearly irradiated the entire country after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 caused a loss of power there?

Should you wish to visit Oze National Park, note that it’s actually a bit of a challenging place to visit.

After entering the park… uh… that's not the park’s entrance.

There’s a lodge where you purchase a ticket to enter the park… but before you actually enter, you get to hike up and over a mountain to find the Oze National Park’s entrance.

There’s a hike up a mountain, then a hike down it—just to get to the marshy area… you walk along those previously mentioned wooden planks… with few rest areas.
It was actually a lot of fun to walk along the wooden pathway wondering what the heck people were looking at. Yup... that's a marsh... I don't see any ripples indicating there's anything swimming in it. Why does one of you need a walking stick? Why aren't you tipping it over as you point to the stillness of the marsh's water?Image from https://www.visitgunma.jp/en/sightseeing/detail.php?sightseeing_id=12
What can you see?

Lots of pretty, pretty, pretty flowers. 

In the Spring, there’s the misobasho (Japanese Skunk Cabbage) white flowers all over the marsh.

In the late Summer/early Autumn, you can see the yellow flowers of the nikko-kisuge (Yellow Alpine Lily).

Seems like quite the effing hike to see some posies, but if I was with ex-fiance Noboko, I’m pretty sure she would have dragged me out to see it.

As it was, back in Japan, I was driven out there by the Kanemaru family… my friend and my co-boss responsible for ensuring I didn’t accidentally kill myself because I was unfamiliar with the country.

To be fair, as long as you have a camera, this is a great place to check out.

Aside from the crowds of people slowly walking across those 45-centimeter (18-inch) wide wooden planks—I’m a fast walker—the place is bereft of the conveniences of Japan—vending machines, restaurants et al.

It’s funny… when I was there, I don’t recall seeing any birds or animals… hmm.

Whatever… it was all good… generally relaxing…. and the wetlands do serve a huge purpose in flora and fauna preservation.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ohtawara—Now With WiFi

A few years ago, my friend Mike Rogers, a fellow blogger transplanted from the U.S. to Japan, once idly commented that he would never visit Ohtawara-shi (Big-Rice Field-Field City), Tochigi-ken—my old home town in Japan—because it seemed like a dull, little place.

I'm sure he would have visited if I still lived there, but without me to lend the place the added excitement, I understood his reluctance. It didn't even have a cool castle to visit. It has a sign indicating that one existed centuries ago, and there's parkland in the depression where the castle once stood, where one can wander around drunk and see the cherry blossoms during hanami (cherry blossom viewing time)... but no... there was no photo-op with a real Japanese castle. 


I painted it as quite the idyllic, rural city located some 100 kilometers north of Tokyo, to be sure, and while it was true that as far as the night life goes, Ohtawara-shi rolled up its sidewalks at 9PM every night… except in the nearby (to my apartment) bar scene that partied on until 2AM or later, if you knew the right people.

Along with the classy bars and old-fashioned and modern Japanese restaurants, there was even a ‘special’ bar called the London Club—which I never ever entered. Ever—that purported to be a pervert's club… I assume that means that for lots of money for expensive drinks, I could be pawed over by slutty Japanese women.

I would never do that.

Okay, I never did that in Japan. I wanted to go in, but then again, for myself, why buy the cow when you are getting the milk for free.  

Mike’s complaint is actually well-founded. While there are plenty of temples and shrines, and onsen, and restaurants, bars and parkland… when I lived in Ohtawara between 1990-1993, it was a sleepy-little town that dreamed of being a big city. There wasn’t even a real dance club there or a place where one could go and listen to live music. Sure, it had those activities set up every once in a while, but it lacked permanence.

But Ohtawara isn’t like that now. Apparently.

As you can see from the image above sent to me by my buddy Matthew who saw enough in Ohtawara to marry one of its beautiful citizens, while doing an on-line search for things in Ohtawara, a website noted that along with 14 hotels and 293 restaurants, there are also 78 things to do.

It ain’t no Tokyo, but even the most ADHD person isn’t going to be able to hit all the sites or do all the activities in a week’s stay in the city so boring it has the word “field” in its name twice.

So… nyahh,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Hey Matthew… you don’t think that the APP mistakenly looked for the more famous Odawara, do you? Ohtawara couldn’t have 78 things to do could it—unless there’s a guided tour of my living spaces with an extra charge to see the boudoir? 

An Ohtawara farmer—outstanding in his field. Oh... wait... he's "out standing in his field". Photo by Andrew Joseph, back when you had to buy black and white film.
PPS: I have no idea if Ohtawara offers free WiFi. I doubt it. So ignore that bait and switch headline.