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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Japan Backs India Over Chinese Agression In Bhutan

I love that headline. Until just now, I had never cared to know just where Bhutan was on a map—though I had an idea. I was wrong.

Have you ever heard of Doklam? How about Dongland? Me either.

It’s a part of the world that sits on the Border of both India and China, and while China says there is no dispute, India feels there is one.

Doklam is what India calls it, and buddha help me Dongland is what China calls it.

Whatever it’s called, it’s an area with a plateau and a valley and it lies between Tibet’s Chumbi Valley in the north, Bhutan’s Ha Valley in the east, and India’s Sikkaim state in the west.

Tibet was overrun by China a few decades earlier as the rest of the world just kindda sat on its own thumb and spun.

Apparently China/Tibet, Bhutan, and India all feel the area is of much importance.

I don’t know who it belongs too, but mapmakers have been noting the area is under Bhutan jurisdiction since 1961… and while China has laid claim on the area, India has not.

I suppose it has simply taken up arms to help Bhutan out against big, bad China.

So… while China says there’s nothing to see here… no “dispute”, the boundary dispute was enough for Japan to vocally support India in the matter… which has now caused China to be snippy with the land of the rising sun.

(By the way… the semantics of it all is quite amusing.  It was like how the United States had always said it had never lost a war… and so when it became obvious that it had lost the Vietnam War, it began calling it the Vietnam Conflict. Semantics… but at least it is still tru about teh U.S. having never lost a war.) 

Since June of this year (2017) China and India have been at odds over the Doklam area… with India having moved troops into the area, and China asking india to move them out.

China says that if there is to be any further talkas to resolve the issue, the Inid a troops must be removed.

Which is interesting in itself, because China foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (surname first) has stated:

“In the Donglang (Doklam) area, there is no territorial dispute. And the boundary has been delimited and recognized by the two sides. … And the attempt to change the status quo by trespass in the boundary is by India, not China."

So is there a territorial dispute or not? China says there isn’t so get off amy lawn, while India says there is and has gathered the local kids to occupy that lemon tree that site directly in the middle of teh disputed gang landscape.

Stoopid kids.

And along comes Japan envoy Hiramatsu Kenji (surname first) who acknowledges that the Doklam area is being disputed by both China and India, and that Tokyo understands why India became involved.

"For both India and Japan, China is an important neighboring country. Both countries have important economic linkages with China. However, after the recent Chinese provocative actions, entire international community will have to send a message to China,”says Hiramatsu.

Hmmm… Japan calls China’s actions ‘provocative’… it’s not overly overt, but it implies that Japan gets why India has to do something about China’s claims on Doklam.  

That’s like Japan saying: “Hey, India… while we love the Chinese culture we sto-, er borrowed for ourselves, we REALLY love that An-do-ryu guy you sent us 27 years ago to teach us how to all get along with the world… so we’re going to side with India over China in a non-dispute that has absolutely nothing to do with us, because we are whiny buggers who once tried to make all of Asia our bitches.”

Okay - so maybe I wasn’t the reason Japan stuck it’s nose in the business between China and India. But what was the reason?

First off, Japan is not the first nation to throw it’s support behind India in the territory dispute. The U.S. and the U.K. had previously done so… only the Japanese support was made to seem like Japan was really more into supporting India than the other two great nations had been.

 How nasty are things between China and India? Well… China had previously mocked India over the Doklam dispute by saying that India should learn from the 1962 military debacle when the two countries fought each other in a war.

This past June, India defence minister Arun Jaitley responded with: “India of 2017 is different from India of 1962.”

So… why did Japan feel the need to toss in its two yen’s worth? Was it because Japan is the toady of the U.S., and needs to kiss its butt should things escalate further with North Korea’s finger on a nuclear missile or two? Maybe.

But didn’t Japan want China to talk with North Korea about that to try and further diffuse the situation?  Yeah… I no longer see China working hard to convince China to stop being a putz to western allies…

Well… you know those southwest island disputes between China and Japan… the Ryuku’s?

Well, back in 2014 Japan asked India for its help in thwarting what it felt were Chinese expansionist moves in the East China Sea, and the Himalayas.

So it’s a quid pro quo kindda thing. That’s where a favors given with the expectations of something the favor to be returned later.

Back in 2014, Chinese jets and ships were routinely invading what Japan called Japanese territories in a game of cat-and-mouse.

At that time in 2014, Japan defence minister Onodera Itsunori (surname first) said that: "Both Japan and India should ask for a dialogue with Chinese side and tell China not to change status quo by force. These issues should be solved through dialogue and following international rules."

In 2012, China and India had come to a resolution over the Doklam area… and so in now in 2017 India reiterates that China should respect the 2012 accord whereby no country would alter the status quo unilaterally in the eastern sector of the India-China border.

Holy crap, people… does it seem that in the past 20 years the world has sudden;t got more stupid?

We had just town down the wall dividing German. The Soviet Union said I want a huge television, too. The war to end al wars was over. Japan’s bubble economy had burst but it still had zero affect on Andrew’s final years on the JET Programme as he still enjoyed living in what was then a sexually-liberal Japanese society.

And then… someone dropped a stupid bomb.

The 9/11 attacks. The ongoing search for weapons of mass destruction and Bigfoot. More terror attacks. Presidents not being presidential. Japan wanted to get rid of its peaceful US-written Constitution as a means to building up its own military in a way similar to (I said similar) to 1930s and mid 40’s Japan level).

The world has certainly become more stupid lately… cripes… and now you know that China is trying to flex its muscles against India. Which involves Japan now…

Can’t we all just get along?

No… no… I suppose we can’t. At least that’s what this generation is showing.

It’s not my generation, is it?

Anyhow… now you know about Doklam… someplace else to keep an eye out for.

Talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation,
Andrew Joseph


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Surnames For Houses?

I have no idea if this is just a one off, or even if this is something that is in Japan... but here's a photo showing the name of the family in the house - as opposed to a house number. 

I realize that "Tanaka" is a Japanese name, but that doesn't mean this photo can't be from another country like Australia, for example.
In the past, a family surname would denote what clan you were from, and could mean the difference between friend or foe.

People in Japan often refer to themselves first by their surname (family name): "Watashi-wa Tanaka-desu"... which translates to "I am Tanaka."

That sorta stuff doesn't work with me, seeing as how my surname also easily translates to a first name... but I do like the idea of a surname being used in place of a house number.

I doubt something like this would ever catch on, however.

Without even going into the privacy issues most societies have, in Japan, there sure are a lot of Tanaka's. And Suzuki's... Holy crap, Suzuki is the western equivalent of Smith and/or Jones, or the Chinese Lee.

It's bad enough in a small village of say 20,000 people in Japan where there could easily be 100 people with the surname of Tanaka (for example)... cut add in the fact that in many a place outside of the larger cities, street signs denoting what street, road or avenue you are approaching are not in use.

The streets HAVE names... it's just not denoted as such (usually) with a marker like a street sign.

Imagine being a postal worker having to deliver mail.

"Let's see... I have to deliver this letter to Ryoichi Tanaka at 47 Ishidori Street in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

"Hmmm... there's a postal code of 327... so I know it's in THIS part of Ohtawara... I really wish I had memorized all of those streets on the map they give us during our initiation... okay... Ishidori Street is a couple of roads over from the post office... good... now thank goodness houses have street numbers on them... waitamninute... they don't anymore....

"They have family names on them... now which Tanaka house is it... is this one? Or maybe it's the one across the street... or the one further down the street... or the one further down the street across the street...  this job sucks."

And that's why having a family surname on a house instead of a house number will never catch on in Japan.

By the way... just by looking at the finish on the wood panels of the house, we know that this is not your common ordinary house in Japan. That is a spectacular finish...

Unlike this blog,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tokyo's Triangle House

Here’s an article that originally appeared in the architectural website magazine HOUZ (, written by Kawakami Junko with photography by Tanigawa Hiroshi  (both surname first).

The article is about a tiny house built in the shape of a wedge or triangle, set in the sprawl of Tokyo.

I think it's a very cool house. It was designed by Japanese architect Mizuishi Kota of Miszushi Architect Atelier ( with structural design created by Ken Nagasaki Engineering Network ( 

I have an eye for architecture.

It doesn't mean I know a damn thing about architecture—because I don't. However, my eye does know what I like.

What's cool about it, is that it has a building footprint of a mere 29.1 square meters

If you click on the blue link below, it will take you to the website to read the well-written article.

If you click on the image below, you will be taken to a gallery of the photos of the triangle house.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, August 17, 2017

All's Quiet On The Eastern Front

With North Korea daring anyone to call it a wet kitty cat, Japan has decided to play nice-nice realizing that the communist country also possesses a retaliatory power of having an itchy trigger finger pointed upwards at Guam.

It's subtle... but on the anniversary of Japan's unofficially surrender to end WWII, no Japanese politician visited the controversial Yasakune Shrine in Tokyo.

The Shrine has a dedicated area to veterans to wars, and while there's nothing wrong with that, per se, the temple shrine's memorial houses memorials to a fair number of Japanese soldiers who were not only accused of war crimes during WWII, but were actually convicted of war crimes.

So... whenever a Japanese politician goes and prays to anyone or generally at the shrine, the former enemies of Japan stand up and criticize the politician and eh country of being insensitive louts.

Some of you might say - come on... it's been 70 bloody years... enough already with picking on poor Japan for being a bunch of dicks during WWII.

Sure... you could say that.

But obviously the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. show that just because the U.S. Civil War ended some 150 years ago, people are still pretty touchy about those statues of Confederate war veterans (not to mention that whole neo-nazi, white supremacist stuff that you hopefully have read in other legit and fake news media).

Anyhow... since North Korea is willing to go nuclear on Guam... and the United States and Japan want North Korea ally China to try and talk North Korea out of doing anything "crazy"... Japan is playing nice-nice and not causing any troubles over any just-for-political-show.

Japan doesn't want to upset North Korea, South Korea or China with any prayer to any war criminals.

There are other countries who would be upset at Japan if it did that, but for our nuclear detente purposes those three countries will suffice.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image found at  


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Uh, What About Dana/Guam?

On Tuesday, August 15, Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) and U.S. president Donald Trump agreed that they would continue to cooperate with each other to strongly urge North Korea allies China and Russia (okay… allies is incorrect… they are more likely to work with North Korea than any other country) to NOT continue on with that country’s threat to launch nuclear missiles at Guam.

Trump and Abe also agreed on mutual cooperation to deal with a possible North Korean missile launch that might travel over Japan toward waters off Guam.

Uh… but what about Guam?

Guam is fugged. Most people on the planet have no idea where Guam is, so who cares, right? Can I get a far right?    

“It’s not near me, so screw them foreigners.”

Uh, those foreigners are American citizens.

If things are confusing, let me muddy the waters by giving you a teenager girl version from the 1970s…  because I think girls talked normally then.

What About Dana? 

  • US: Michelle
  • Japan: Lisa
  • North Korea: Jeanie
  • China: Monica
  • Russia: Rachel
  • South Korea: Hortense
  • Guam: Dana
  • Canada: Porsche
  • India: Pippa
  • special guest: Alana, as the Israel.

In last weeks episode:
Lisa and Michelle aren’t talking to Jeanie, so Lisa and Michelle tell Monica and Rachel to tell Jeanie that she’s a bitch and that they hate her, and that if Jeanie continues to talk smack about Lisa and Michelle’s friend Dana, they will tell everyone that Jeanie once slept with Brad. 



"We should take out North Korea, I mean Jeanie, before she… uh… Hey Lisa, what good is Jeanie to us?"

"Well, Michelle, Jeanie can get us some good kimchi, she has those crappy Hyundai cars… oh… and I hear they give Convenience?"

"Actually, Jeanie doesn’t give us any of those things, so yeah… no biggie… but Jeanie’s twin sister Hortense, I mean South Korea… they are kindda like in the way… if you hit Jeanie, Hortense is going to feel it, too!"

"Shut up Porsche! Nobody cares what you think! Besides… who cares if Hortense gets taken out… it’s Hortense."

"Uh… they give us the kimchi, Hyundai’s and Convenience."

"Shut up Porsche! We can get Convenience from Pippa, right."

"Uh… yeah?"

"That was rhetorical, Porsche! Shut-up! Screw Hortense!"

"Well, Michelle... besides the fallout of Hortense from beating up Jeanie, there’s also the fact that there will be some sort of fallout with Monica."

"Ooooh… Monica kindda scares me. Yeah… she’s smart and hot and all that, but when she gets wound up, she’s one tough bitch."

"Are you still here, Porsche? Hey Lisa... how could taking out Jeanie affect Monica?"

"Oh Michelle, you crack me up! Well… most of the products you have in your house were made by people working under China… I mean  Monica. Plus…. who knows… that might also have an affect on the Jews."

"The Jews… who’s that?"

"Uh… Alana? Sure… Alana."

"How will this affect the Alana?"

"Well, if Jeanie takes out Dana because Monica and Rachel are too stupid to do what they are told, and then if you and I—Michelle and Lisa—retaliate and take out Jeanie, the fallout will not only hit Hortense, but it will also hit Monica… it could mean that all those restaurants owned by Monica could be affected… which would tick off the Alana."

"So what? Who cares about what ticks off the Alana?"

"Yeah… where is the writer going with this? Was that just s stupid joke about Jews liking Chinese food? And Koreans and convenience stores?"

"That's so racist!"

"It's okay, it's the 1970s!"

"And who the heck is Brad?"

Tune in next week when Jeanie gets asked on a date by time-traveling special guest Dennis Rodman. Will she shave up to her knees or all the way up? Tune in next week to find out. 

Shut-up Porsche,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Jeanie might do kimchi, but she’s better known for putting coal in Monica’s stocking, if you know what I mean…. some US$1-billion-worth in 2015 alone.
PPS: I have had a huuuuge crush on Dana Delaney since I first saw her on Magnum PI. The photo below is her in he TV show China Beach... which is just a coincidence... or would have been had she got the role of China:


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Art of Cool Or Otaku

I’m a complicated man, and no one understands him, not even women.

Sometimes I sit here and wonder just how the heck I managed to survive Japan… and then there’s times when i will actually try and figure that out for real.

I was going to write a book review on the Stonebridge Press book Tokyo Geek’s Guide by author Gianni Simone. I will… just not now.

I’m not even close to being cool. And despite my advancing age, I never was cool, either.

Or at least no one ever thought I was.

I’ve met a lot of geeks and nerds in my time… in fact, I used to call myself the King of the Nerds.

Why I could be a nerd or a geek:
  • Played the accordion;
  • Taught piano and clarinet;
  • Played video games;
  • Lived in my parent’s basement for my early 20s, and again early 30s;
  • Like Star Trek;
  • Like Star Wars;
  • Played (Advanced) Dungeon’s & Dragons;
  • Painted my own lead models for D&D;
  • Collected comic books and could recite data if pressed upon;
  • Was short and wore glasses;
  • Was ugly and my mother dressed me funny;
  • Was nearly two-years younger than everyone else in every grade through high school;
  • Could have caught fire in the high school cafeteria and no one would have noticed;
  • Held onto my virginity until I was nearly 26;
  • Not by choice.

Why I might not be a nerd or a geek:
  • Taught piano and clarinet (what's wrong with that? Who's against culture?;
  • I enjoy and played a plethora of sports - and while I was often picked last for a new sport because I was the small kid, that was only the first time;
  • Taped a string to a quarter and fished extra credits on video game machines;
  • I had posters up in my room—not comic book related, but Sports Illustrated Swimsuit-related, car posters, and more;
  • Built my own car models… okay, that might be nerdy, but I also had a subscription to Hot Rod magazine. Along with having a subscription to Model Railroader, I also had one for Cosmopolitan and the Hockey News - all at the same time about 10 years ago, only getting my ice time still now;
  • Got contact lenses and wore sunglasses all the time in high school. Everyone thought they were photogrey lenses;
  • Wore contact lenses with UV protection that glowed purple under black light giving me a conversation starter with strippers;
  • Was a metrosexual before the term came into use, ensuring my hairband on my near butt-length pony tail always matched my dress shirt color; 
  • Was on fire in Japan, and a lot of women noticed, and were willing to put me under a blanket;
  • It may have taken a long while before I could find some woman weird enough to allow me to lose my virginity, but at least I lasted over 40 minutes that first time… and then I got better and better, and slept with about 30 women while in Japan. I got by on word-of-mouth. Of course, that stuff ain’t happening now;
  • Not by choice. 
I’ll be honest - or rather I'll continue to be honest... 

When I went to Japan, I thought I was a nerd… or a geek… which ever one was destined to not make as much money as the other…

In Japan, I realized that my version of nerdienss was less nerdy than others who were as shy as I used to be, less athletic than myself (for the most part), and more bookworm-like than myself.

It was like many people on JET were booksmart, as opposed to world-smart.

Book smart doesn’t mean you communicate, but it might mean you have read up on how to communicate.

I was borderline booksmart and borderline street smart… and while that could have meant epic failure in Japan, it also meant I could be whomever I wanted to be in Japan.

I decided I would not be shy. I decided I was a winner. I decided I could be a leader. I decided I was that guy that women wanted. I decided I would pretend to be cool.

Cool is a relative term.

Does being king of the nerds make one cool? Not when I was king. Maybe it does if I was kind now… but I’m not, so I have no idea what cool is now.

I don’t think anyone knows what cool is… it’s part of the mystique of being cool.

If you think you are cool and do things that will accentuate that coolness, then you are a poser.

I’m sure we have all been posers at some point in time.

I can recall wearing one watch on each hand as a way to start a new trend.

I also took my long shorts, and rolled up one “sleeve” as a fashion statement. 

Those two things were me trying to hard. Poser.

I grew my hair, had my ear pierced, bought some fashionable clothing featuring teal (new in 1992), red silk and purple and blue silk shirts. Matching hairbands. Sunglasses.

That last paragraph might have been me trying too hard, but I wasn’t, in this case. I went with what I liked… and at that time in Japan, I stood out in a good way.

How many guys in Japan - foreigner or Japanese would wear vertically striped blue, black and purple jeans? I might have been the only person in the country with pants like that… and as wild as it sounds, it’s cool enough to be worn today. Of course… I don’t know what cool is… but I know what I can wear and can’t wear. I might still be ugly, but my mother no longer dresses me funny.

I found that in Japan, it was easy to become someone I wasn’t previously.

I never said: Hey, today I’m going to be different.

There were no role models for me to follow in Japan. Holy crap… they guys who stood out in Japan were the rockabilly guys in Tokyo’s Ueno Park…

What enabled me to succeed where others did not and have not, is a confluence of things.

The average Japanese person was and isn’t a nerd or a geek. They like nerdy things, to be sure, but they also like things they perceive of as cool.

Anyone can wear a suit and tie to the office. But can you wear a blue silk shirt with purple threads, a red silk jacket, red and blue and white paisley tie, black raw silk pants—all of the above designed by me and manufactured over night in a tailor shop in Thailand, make sure my hair band matches the shirt, wear some 1950s Rayban sunglasses… or… better yet, instead of the raw pants, I could wear the striped jeans…

The point was I stood out in a room visually.

I was also able to stand out in a room full of Japanese or foreigners because I wasn’t the typical white American guy. Sounds stupid when I write it out… but for once, I appear to have had an exotic look that made me stand out.

My voice.

It’s deep, and resonates off walls to shake a woman’s blouse… but here’s the kicker… I’m loud, without being completely obnoxious. I mean I have a powerful voice. I can be heard if I wish to be heard… a complete 180° shift from what things were like for me pre-Japan. It helps me coach kids sports nowadays.

My look.
I don’t mean my clothes, rather the fact that I am smiling - not like an idiot, but rather like someone who is glad to see you - because odds are I am, even if I don’t know it yet. You’d be surprised at how easy it was for people (not just women) to approach me, because I didn’t look like a scary gaijin.

I’m not a toothy smiler, more of a wide grinner whose eyes light up when he sees you (or wants to see you). I come across as genuine.

You might think this is a whole lotta Andrew ego jacking, but it’s not. I cam across this stuff while in thought.

I never thought I was anything special while in Japan. I still don’t.

But others do… so maybe I was… and so I write these things not as pieces to brag about, but to demonstrate that I am someone who can give advice because he can offer advice.

I’m not saying you’ll meet a woman if you stop being ugly. I never stopped.

But you can be more than the sum of your own individual parts.

Looks will only get a person so far anyways. Sometimes a lack of personality, or a flaw within he personality… a lack of fashion, nose hairs never trimmed, food in the teeth, a poor haircut, in ability to read people and determine what type of tone they need to hear to put them at ease…

yeah… did I mention that you need to be able to read people? I can talk about myself until the cows come home, but I’d much rather hear about you.

I’m suggesting that when it comes to being popular in geeky Japan, sometimes you don’t have to be geeky, because not everyone in Japan is geekly.

That whole Otaku thing is fine. People seem to think that all of Japan is frickin’ weird.

It’s not. Some people are… and the western media picks up on the weirdness to shows it to everyone, and suddenly we all think Japan is like that.

Back in the 1990s, before the Internet, what did we (the average person) know about Japan? Lost WWII, attacked Pearl Harbor, got the crap blown out of it by an atomic bomb (or two)… lost of geisha who are prostitutes (they aren’t and there aren’t a lot of geisha, period.)

Godzilla, Gamera, ninja and samurai swords… what else did we know… blue suits, glasses, Moe haircuts and no sense of humor.

I had one friend who seriously believed that Japanese women had a sideways-sitting vagina. I don’t know where he heard that one…. probably some bad joke he took for reality.

Aside from the vagina thing, that was what I knew about Japan, which is to say - nothing.
The thing is… a lot of women will wear a kimono, but usually only on special occasions. There are not a lot of geisha about. I saw two in three years, I think. They are artisans, not prostitutes. Paid companions, sure, but paid to entertain with poetry, music, dance, and yes, company… but no sex. Some will, but that’s just human nature and not the profession.

The Japanese men do wear pin striped navy blue suits, have Moe haircuts and glasses and can have no sense of humor… until they get to know you and after a beer. Conversation lubrication.

In Japan… I stood out like a sore thumb… except in a good way. I was tallish, had a darker complexion than the average foreigner and Japanese…. was sorta smart, and sorta hip and sorta nerdy, and a out-there dresser without being outlandish.

I had flair. I never said that of myself, but I think now it’s an appropriate descriptor.

I had long, neat hair. I dressed kinnda funky odd, smiled like I know ya, could talk about any subject as long as it was in English, could ask the right questions to avoid having to talk about myself all the time.

i was also safe. I was well-known in my city and I believe well-respected. No one crossed the street to avoid me. People always bowed and called me sensei (teacher).

I treated everyone like they were my friend, which is to say with respect.  Most people do - that's a given. I'm just stating that it is important to consider.

The fact is... there's no manna of the gods drink for everyone to take to suddenly become popular with whatever sex you are attracted to.

Japan is just like every other place in the world. You want someone? You have to try and capture their attention, hold it, and then spend the rest of your life continuing to not only hold it, but to continue to impress. It ain't easy.

Just a public service message for someone.

Andrew Joseph


Monday, August 14, 2017

Japan Takes Aim In Guam

With all the hot air blowing between North Korea and the United States over who has the biggest missile, poor Guam is currently in the cross-hairs.

As we all know, North Korea has said it would attack Guam with nuclear missises if the United States were to continue with its threats in response to North Korea's threats.

If you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s, you are old. But seriously, this posturing between communism and capitalism is old news.

I've long been a believer that it is all just what it sounds like - threats.

I've never believed that any one country wants to serve the first blow, because that would immediately follow with a counter-attack that would ensure MAD (mutual assured destruction).

Back in university, I argued with my political science professors who had written various books on the subject that I believed a nuclear war between superpowers would never come into being.

Maybe I'm naive. But I would like to think that even a crazy dictator knows he is going to get his country bombed out of existence if he or she should level the first blow.

Who wants that?

Guam, as you know is a U.S. protectorate. It's people get to vote in U.S. elections, and are considered to be citizens of the U.S.

I've not been to Guam, though I was across the waters in Saipan and could see the lovely country when I visited the area some 25 years ago with my buddy Jimmy Jive Dalton. If it's ANYTHING like Saipan, Guam is a fantastic place.

I am sure the people there are worried about the North Korean missile threat.

American allies are, too.

That doesn't mean they believe a third world war is imminent - just that they need to take actions to show that they won't back down. In the cold war game, showing weakness just emboldens the enemy.

Obviously there is concern, as even China has come out and told the U.S. and North Korea to chillax.

That was smart of China. Having two hotheads with tiny penises trying to out macho each other is worrying... but again... I have faith that MAD is something everyone knows no one will walk away from unscathed.

U.S. ally, Japan, has become involved in the Guam affair now.

In four Japan prefectures: Shimane, Hiroshima, Ehime and Kochi, the nation has deployed surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptor defense systems, meant to take out any such missile fired in the region of Guam.

If that sounds nice, well... it's actually more of a Japan-first thing.

Any North Korean missile fired at Guam could fly over Japan... and if any fail, they could be taken out by one of the Japanese defensive systems.

I suppose Japan could also do the same to any other missile fired at Guam, but I do know it is to be used IF there is a missile failure and it looks like it might hit Japan.

Sorry Guam.

Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) tole media that his government will "do (its) utmost" to protect the lives and property of the Japanese people.

Japan's missile defense scheme employs Maritime Self-Defence Force Aegis destroyers to shoot down airborne missiles, and the PAC-3 system operated by the Air Self-Defence Force to counter missiles that evade Aegis interceptors.
As well, Japan has Aegis ships in the Sea of Japan, and is on 24-hour alert while sharing its information with the U.S.

The problem with North Korea taking out Guam, and the retaliatory counter-strike by the U.S on North Korea... well, besides all the dead people, is that nuclear fall-out would also affect a lot of other countries nearby, such as South Korea, China, and, of course, possibly Japan - depending on wind.

However, I still think it's all cold war rhetoric.

Somewhere keeping calm and carrying on,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This Blog Is Killing Me

Recently, this blog was assailed by a troll who decided it was fun to send all sorts of disgusting and threatening comments to me. It lasted about four hours and then I suppose their penis fell off.

Yeah, the usual stuff, about me being gay or how stupid I am or how dumb I was because all my girl friends cheated on me while I screwed their father.  Or, how about the ones that suggested they would cut my throat with a boxcutter. Oh, and the ones that threatened my family. 

I had something like 126 comments that I kept and perhaps another 50 I stupidly deleted before I thought things out. The comments were from a named commentator, but you can bet it was made up. 

It was an Indian-sounding name - dot, not the feather - and used such anachronisms in the comments that made it sound like they were really struggling to write English… and yet, the comments were being thrown my way on every single blog about my past relationships at the rate of about three per minute.

I assume it was a ‘bot.

From India? Well, one of the comments used some slang that I had to look up - and it was an Indian slang. Where's the fun in insulting someone who doesn't care?

I don't care.

I just make note of your computer address and then track you down backwards. Simple. I have no idea why anyone would think they can get away with stuff like that on-line.

Everyone leaves a fingerprint somewhere.  

Still… the rush of comments and influx of activity on my blog all pointed to the U.S…. which isn’t to say that a guy from the U.S. who is of Indian-descent couldn’t hate my guts… I’m just saying the speed at which things were arriving was too fast. It's why I assume it was a roving 'bot.

It’s sad really. If I’m going to be threatened, I’d prefer it if it was at least grammatically correct. So many typing short cuts, it makes one look… well, uneducated. And then the actually writing and language used? Yup.

What’s actually sad is that I think I just slagged the uneducated. I didn't mean to. Just because one is uneducated doesn’t mean they are abusive or antagonistic or trollish.

So I apologize to the so-called uneducated. Like the American president says: “ I love the uneducated.“ Unh-huh. I mean mine in a way 180-degrees different from him.

I would also like to apologize to Fiona and Shrek, two trolls I like.

What I meant to say was stoopid is, as stoopid does.

I never responded once to any of the comments left… I just noted each as spam, which removes it from the active blog.

You can see what sort of stuff was sent - but be warned - there is NSFW language. Clicking on the image should make it larger, and thus more legible:

The idea is to get one all riled up, obviously… but the phone number and e-mail? And the name of : Sikandar Nirmal Singh… Riiiiight.

However... there is an Instagram account under that name… apparently with the notation of @ihatewesterntrash.

Hey! I’m western trash! Finally. Same person? Maybe. Maybe not. I need to look deeper.

See… not Brown enough for India, not white enough for Canada, not British enough because I’m Brown, not Japanese enough because I’m a gaijin outsider.

Ha. Welcome to my world. I’m sure quite number of you can relate on different levels, and even about different things.

The important thing to remember is… this type of stuff is the real minority. 

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mazda Looks To Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030

My first car was a Mazda 323 - it was great. I do not own a Mazda now, and do not have anything against the company. Nor do I receive any compensation from the company, though I wouldn't say no if they offered.

I did see the following press release on their website, however - and I'll provide a meager explanation below as to what it all means - in case your eyes gloss over, or you want to skip it all and simply get the gist of it all: 

HIROSHIMA, Japan—Mazda Motor Corporation today (August 8, 2017) announced “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030,” a new long-term vision for technology development that looks ahead to the year 2030.

As part of the new technology to achieve this vision, the company disclosed plans to introduce a next-generation engine called SKYACTIV-X in 2019. SKYACTIV-X will be the world’s first commercial gasoline engine to use compression ignition.

Under the original “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom” vision announced in 2007, the company has striven to offer both driving pleasure and outstanding environmental and safety performance. In light of the rapid changes taking place in the automotive industry, the new vision takes a longer-term perspective and sets out how Mazda will use driving pleasure, the fundamental appeal of the automobile, to help solve issues facing people, the earth and society.

The following is an overview of “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” and the next-generation SKYACTIV-X engine.

Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030

Mazda believes its mission is to bring about a beautiful earth and to enrich people’s lives as well as society. The company will continue to seek ways to inspire people through the value found in cars.

Through conservation initiatives, create a sustainable future in which people and cars coexist with a bountiful, beautiful earth

Mazda’s approach
  • Expand measures for carbon dioxide reduction from a “well-to-wheel” perspective, considering emissions over the vehicle’s entire life cycle;
  • Aim to reduce corporate average “well-to-wheel” carbon dioxide emissions to 50 percent of 2010 levels by 2030, and achieve a 90-percent reduction by 2050;
  • Achieve this with a policy prioritizing efficiency improvements and measures for cleaner emissions that apply in the real world;
  • In line with this policy, continue efforts to perfect the internal combustion engine, which will help power the majority of cars worldwide for many years to come and can therefore make the greatest contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and combine the results with effective electrification technologies;
  • From 2019, start introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution

Through cars and a society that provide safety and peace of mind, create a system that enriches people’s lives by offering unrestricted mobility to people everywhere

Mazda’s approach
  • Develop more advanced safety technologies under the Mazda Proactive Safety philosophy, working toward the goal of eliminating traffic accidents;
  • Further enhance safety fundamentals, such as correct driving position, pedal layout and good visibility, and standardize them across all models;
  • Promote further standardization of i-ACTIVSENSE advanced safety features, which help drivers recognize and assess potential hazards; in addition to Japan, where they are already becoming standard, gradually make these technologies standard in other markets starting in 2018;
  • Begin testing of autonomous driving technologies currently being developed in line with Mazda’s human-centered Mazda Co-Pilot Concept2 in 2020, aiming to make the system standard on all models by 2025;
  • Using connectivity technologies, create a new business model that enables car owners to support the needs of people in depopulated areas and those who have difficulty getting around.

Enhance customers’ mental well-being with the satisfaction that comes from protecting the earth and contributing to society with a car that offers true driving pleasure

Mazda’s approach
  • Pursue an enhanced Jinba-ittai (Me: This term means 人馬一体, "person and horse as one body") driving feel that will unlock people’s potential and revitalize them mentally and physically;
  • Based on the philosophy of “breathing life into the car,” further develop KODO design to raise vehicle design to the level of art that enriches the emotional lives of all who see it

SKYACTIV-X next-generation engine

Technological innovations
  • SKYACTIV-X is the world’s first commercial gasoline engine to use compression ignition, in which the fuel-air mixture ignites spontaneously when compressed by the piston;
  • A proprietary combustion method called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition overcomes two issues that had impeded commercialization of compression ignition gasoline engines: maximizing the zone in which compression ignition is possible and achieving a seamless transition between compression ignition and spark ignition.
  • This new proprietary combustion engine combines the advantages of gasoline and diesel engines to achieve outstanding environmental performance, power and acceleration performance;
  • Compression ignition and a supercharger fitted to improve fuel economy together deliver unprecedented engine response and increase torque 10–30 percent over the current SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine.3;
  • Compression ignition makes possible a super lean burn4 that improves engine efficiency up to 20–30 percent over the current SKYACTIV-G, and from 35–45 percent over Mazda’s 2008 gasoline engine of the same displacement. SKYACTIV-X even equals or exceeds the latest SKYACTIV-D diesel engine in fuel efficiency;
  • With high efficiency across a wide range of rpms and engine loads, the engine allows much more latitude in the selection of gear ratios, providing both superior fuel economy and driving performance.
Moving forward Mazda hopes to help create a future in which people, the earth and society can coexist with cars, to enrich people’s lives through a car ownership experience that celebrates driving, and to become a brand with which customers feel a strong emotional connection.


Interesting - so what does it all mean?

Mazda is trying to create - hopefully in time by 2019, a new type of engine called for its fleet of automobiles... which is part of the company's long-term (2030AD) sustainability goals. 

The SKYACTIV-X engines purports to be the world's first-ever commercial gas-powered engine to use compression ignition.

Basically - and Mazda can talk about people, society and speed all it likes, the idea is to create a car engine that is more fuel efficient... which means you can drive farther on what we can assume will be a more expensive tank of gasoline in 2019 - unless we have begun cloning dinosaurs for the express purpose of squeezing them like lemons to make oil. 

Forget Jurassic Park or Jurassic World as amusement park concepts... this is where the real money is. 

Since we are still two years or so away from Mazda debuting this technology, at least this time, I'm not late with the news.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Ole Jet One-Liner And Then Some


It’s funny because it’s true!

The Rising Wasabi, the Japanese-themed satire magazine in the same vein as The Onion and dare I say it, National Lampoon takes a poke at the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Go on… I know not all of you like clicking away from here - but what the heck… this is worth it.

Click HERE

And if you want another laugh… here’s another “story”… which is essentially a shorter version of the one it took me five years to write about myself here in this blog - BIGGUN

The important question here, is it really satire if its all true? 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Godzilla Character Actor Gone To That Great Monster Island In The Sky

Just in case you missed it:

Najajima Haruo (中島 春雄 - surname first) has passed away at the age of 88.

Najajima was the man in the rubber suit… the man who played Godzilla stomping through the miniature cities of Tokyo et al in all those early and classic kaiju (monster) movies most of us love.

Nakajima played Godzilla from its inception in 1954 through 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan.

Make no mistake about it - Nakajima was an actor.

In the dark and serious original Japanese version of 1954’s Godzilla—which I only watched for the first time a few years ago, being stuck with the inferior American 1955 version before that—Nakajima did not make me think there was a guy in the suit.

No… he made me think I was watching Godzilla.

The same might hold true for later movies where the use of color film brightened things, but it was at that time when people really realized there was a guy in a giant lizard suit.
Irradiated by numerous meetings with Godzilla, Nakajim a cleans out his system with a cigarette.

I admit that things got silly then… watching Godzilla pretend he was a sumo wrestler before running at an enemy monster…

That was just Nakajima following the scripts... after that first movie, Godzilla was less villain and more cult hero to the audiences as he fought other kaiju intent on destroying Japanese cities.

While most Godzilla-people know of Nakajima in his role of Godzilla for the first 12 movies, and for his other kaiju roles: as Rodan (1956); Varan the Unbelievable (1958)—the lead kaiju; and as mech Moguera in 1957’s The Mysterians

He also played the larval Mothra (inching around the ground) in the 1961 flick Mothra; the four-legged monster Baragon in the 1965 Toho film Frankenstein Conquers The World; and 1968’s Destroy All Monsters where he played both Baragon and Godzilla - though strangely never on screen at the same time. :)

But showing his incredible range as an actor, Nakajima could also play a human being. Heck, he was even in my favorite Japanese flick, 1954’s Seven Samurai, playing a bandit.

Heck, in the kaiju movie Dogora, The Space Monster, Nakajima did not play the monster, but a regular human.

I’m having a bit of fun at Nakajima’s expense, but I’m not being mean. Nakajima had many roles in many Japanese movies - nothing big... certainly nothing as big as his role as Godzilla. Bit (bite) roles… nondescript roles…

He may have been one of the most famous unknown actors in cinema history. The guy you know you’ve seen before, but you just can’t put a name to the face.

Yeah, Godzilla aficionados know of him.
Signed Gojira (Godzilla) on the left, and Nakajima Haruo on the right... this card was once on sale on e-bay. I love e-bay... you never know what you might find...

I like Godzilla, but before I started this blog, like most people, I never gave a second thought to the man behind the rubber mask.

I don’t know if that bothered Nakajima—I don’t think it did.

I’m pretty sure he enjoyed himself, though.

So… the next time you watch a Godzilla movie—and really, there is no better movie than the original 1954 Japanese version (you can find it with subtitles)—have a thought for the poor sweaty man in the suit dying to have a cigarette, and know that his name is Najajima Haruo.

Give him a little clap of applause.

Banzai, Banzai, Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Eight-Second Music Concert

Only lasted eight seconds long?

Before you jump to anything prematurely, let me clarify things.

This past June 29, 2017, a Japanese music group called Golden Bomber performed an eight-second song called 8 Second Encounter and gave the fans exactly what was advertised.

Eight seconds of music - and out, off the stage. 

That was the entire concert. That’s the way it was planned, too.

However… after much pleading for an encore performance by the fans, Golden Bomber returned and actually played one full song—their hit song Memeshikute… but that was it.   

If you think that’s weird, remember, we are talking about Japan.

Golden Bomber is part of something called a Visual Key air band.

Air band.

As in… except for the lead singer who writes the words and the musics, and sings them… the rest of the four-man band are merely props playing air band instruments.

Yes, a four-man group solo artist… that’s what Golden Bomber is.

That whole Visual Key stuff sounds sketchy to me, but I’m old, and was old when I was 26 and in Japan, liking old school punk like the Stooges, MC5, Dead Kennedys and The Sex Pistols.  

Part of the Visual Key thing, is to look androgynous, wear lots of make-up, wear flamboyant costumes, and play air guitar and other air instruments.

It’s true… I can’t tell if the lead singer is a guy or a girl… love the kabuki-like make-up on a member… love the 80s thin tie look…

Is it any weirder than going to see a rock concert by Gorrilaz? Gorillaz are an English virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. The band consists of four animated members: 2-D (lead vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboards) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion) - the four are not real people. The music is good.

Watch the Golden Bomber video of the eight-second concert:

Is it just me, or did anyone else find it weird that the countdown was in perfect English?

The music was actually decent - all eight seconds of it!

Here, watch Dance My Generation by Golden Bomber. It’s not in the same vein as the music a suburban punk like myself likes, but I can respect the music and the effort:

Andrew Joseph
PS: Thanks to JJ for pointing me towards this! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hiroshima Speech By Abe Raises N.Korea Angst

Really... all you need to know about this story is that at a special commemoration of the 72 anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) discussed the war and then shifted the tone discussing how North Korea's recent missile testing makes “the security situation surrounding Japan . . . increasingly severe.”

Abe feels the threat to Japan and its people is real and not mere posturing as we saw in the 1960s-80s between cold war combatants USSR, China, Cuba and the U.S. and her allies.

Yikes. Time to re-learn how to get under your school desk and pay to whatever gods you think are appropriate.

“At the present time, we are not planning any specific deliberations about possessing” weapons for a per-emptive strike," Abe says, adding that Japan does need to strengthen its defensed generally.

Banzai, indeed,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Secret Origin Of Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a systematic method for waste minimization ("Muda") within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity.

Lean manufacturing also takes into account waste created through overburden ("Muri") and waste created through unevenness in work loads ("Mura" - inconsistency).

Working from the perspective of the client who consumes a product or service, "value" is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

Waste, in our look at lean manufacturing, is anything (and I mean anything from wasted meetings, production line stuff, labor, etc,) which does not advance the process, and everything that does not increase added value. 

Those bracketed terms are Japanese, and for the record, are listed as such in the English Wikipedia entry on lean manufacturing.

Why? Because try as some countries might want everyone to buy their own products—buy American, for example—any profitable business is utilizing lean manufacturing aspects to add value while removing everything that is not of value.

It is, of course, because we’re on THIS blog-site, a Japanese concept.

Have you ever heard of Ohno Taiichi (surname first)? I hadn’t until earlier this morning when I glanced a Twitter tweet featuring words attributed to him:

“Data is, of course, important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.”

Ohno Taiichi (大野耐) born February 29, 1912 in Dalian, China is the person considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System… or what everyone else called Lean Manufacturing.

Ohno Taiichi
While everyone would probably agree that what made Toyota a great automobile manufacturing company was its ability to produce automobiles that people wanted to drive and buy—that’s obvious to ordinary people like myself—but there’s always that part of the equation the general public fails to recognize.

In 1992, the Toyota Motor Corporation first published an official description of its Toyota Production System (later revised in 1998).

The Toyota Production System is based upon two core concepts:

1) JIT (Just-In-Time), whereby a manufacturing facility only makes what is needed , when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed. IE. Don’t make more than is required;
2) Jidoka (Autonomation): yes, Autonomation is spelled correctly, but it is essentially intelligent automation, or automation with a human touch. This means no production line workers, but human are present in a supervisory role to oversee the automated machinery’s production in a “quality-control” manner.

I know, I know… we’re getting technical here, but bear with me… this is how the manufacturing sector—for the most part—works, or rather when it works best in today’s highly competitive automotive (not automobile) sectors. Gone are the days when you could trade three chicken eggs for an iron horseshoe - it seems fair, to me, if you, the blacksmith wants to eat chicken eggs that evening. 

What really sucked about the horseshoe example I concocted above, is that the blacksmith had more than likely created a set of four horseshoes, but only sold one… this is the blacksmith being proactive, sure, but how long does his product sit on the shelf? How much smithy-shop shelf space does it take up? What if the next customer comes in and asks for a pair of iron gauntlets (gloves), but because he used the iron to make the horseshoes nobody asked for, he is now short of the required iron ore to make the gauntlets meaning there is a delay while he gets more raw product in.

This is what Lean Manufacturing proposes to avoid.

Want a different example?

Let’s say you own a restaurant?

Everyday for two weeks straight, you get a lunchtime crowd order of 200 hamburgers.

To avoid the crush and overburdening of your four line cooks, you begin cooking the 200 hamburgers at 10AM, creating the last one just in time for that lunchtime rush.

Now… for whatever reason—you only get a day’s order for 180 hamburgers. What happens to those 20 extra burgers you had cooked earlier?


Maybe these guys will sell-out with their burger product... maybe they won't. Why waste the energy and resources on "maybe"?
A waste of resources - meat, chef time, even fuel for whatever cooking method you are using, to say nothing of a carbon footprint that needed not be as large that day. I didn’t even mention how the you, the restauranteer, may have over-estimated the market and purchased in advance a week’s supply of buns, and a six-month supply (based on the 200 daily order) of condiments. If the 180 order is the new norm, you may not require four line cooks… maybe just three who work harder.

This will, in the long run provide the eatery with reduced overhead costs… and even with the reduction in actual sales, could result in greater overall profits. You save on labor, ingredients and more. You could even pass the savings on to the customer, which could increase your customer base when word gets out that you have a great product at a great price.

For the Tokyo Production System, aka Lean Manufacturing, there are eight types of manufacturing inconsistencies (mura) that are important to avoid:
  1. Waste of overproduction (largest waste);
  2. Waste of time on hand (waiting);
  3. Waste of transportation;
  4. Waste of processing itself;
  5. Waste of stock at hand;
  6. Waste of movement;
  7. Waste of making defective products;
  8. Waste of underutilized workers
Basically, avoid waste as much as possible… reduce it by all means, eliminate it it all is preferable.

While I provided examples of a smithy and a restaurant, the origins of lean manufacturing are actually based on American supermarkets.

Toyoda Kiichiro
While it is true that Toyoda Kiichiro (surname first) - the son of Toyota founder Toyoda Sakichi (he’s known as the father of Japan’s industrial revolution, and worthy of a blog entry here soon enough) came up with the business concept of "just-in-time production", our man Ohno Taiichi saw that American supermarkets tried to avoid waste as much as possible, because who needs to throw out their inventory from spoilage?

The concept is:
A customer in a supermarket takes the desired amount of goods off the shelf and purchases them. The store restocks the shelf with enough new product to fill up the shelf space. Similarly, a work-center that needed parts would go to a "store shelf" (the inventory storage point) for the particular part and "buy" (withdraw) the quantity it needed, and the "shelf" would be "restocked" by the work-center that produced the part, making only enough to replace the inventory that had been withdrawn.

Yup  - low inventory levels. 

Lean Manufacturing consists of these tenets, with kaizen being the only one I had previously heard of, but didn’t know the definition of.

Continuous improvement
  • Challenge - We form a long-term vision, meeting challenges with courage and creativity to realize our dreams; 
  • Kaizen - We improve our business operations continuously, always driving for innovation and evolution; 
  • Genchi Genbutsu - Go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions.
Respect for people
  • Respect  - We respect others, make every effort to understand each other, take responsibility and do our best to build mutual trust;
  • Teamwork - We stimulate personal and professional growth, share the opportunities of development and maximize individual and team performance.
It boils down to this: Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

That's all we need to know about Lean Manufacturing... and the role Japan and American supermarkets had in its creation.

I know, I know... not my usual write-up... but Lean Manufacturing is a term that is bandied about in everyday media, and I don't think most of know exactly what it references. Bad media.

But at least we now have a better understanding...

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above is of the Leaning Tower of Pisa... a different type of lean manufacturing. Ha. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Explosive Fines

Did you know that when it comes to explosives lying around in Japan, failure to report it to the police could get you fined?

Okay… I get it… sometimes a Japanese guy can be walking down the street, spy a bag lying there between some garbage cans. He might amble up and open the bag and spy explosives in it.

You couldn’t blame anyone for taking off like a scared roadrunner… but is it possible that a person wouldn’t then call the police to warn them about the found explosives?

Just in case, Japanese law dictates that a person who finds explosives and fails to report the matter to the police can be fined ¥100… at least that’s what it was in the old days… That was about US$1…

Since then, the fine has been increased to ¥10,000… which is about $100.

I just want to know how they know if someone saw the explosives and then didn't report it? I suppose if there was CCTV (closed-circuit television), they would know...  

Bizarre, huh?

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market Catches Fire

From CBC News… raw footage of the 80-year-old Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo catching fire on August 3, 2017 (Tokyo time).

Seven buildings were destroyed, but luckily no one was hurt.

The Tsukiji "inner" market, where most seafood wholesalers are located and world-famous tuna auctions are carried out at dawn, was not affected.

The fire took place in the so-called “outer” market - the restaurant area where tourists and visitors can go and eat fresh seafood and sushi et al

As evidenced by the video, some 66 fire trucks and their crews put out the blaze that encompassed about 935 square feet of shops and restaurants.

Officials are at a loss to explain how the blaze started, at this time, and are equally confused as to how all those sea fish ended up so far in-land. Kidding.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, August 4, 2017

Modern Times

Dammit - I forgot to hit "publish". Modern times, indeed...

Want to know just how far behind the modern times Japan is?

The Japan Times recently published an article about Japanese No-No’s.

And while I get that it was written for the English-speaking audience of this newspaper, the contents of the article will provide you with a bit of insight as to how western world-1950s and earlier Japan is.

Now… not every workplace has an HR (Human Resources) department.

The company I write for has one, but I wouldn’t expect the non-retail-chain coffee shop or mom-and-pop ramen noodle shop to have one.

Every employee - at which there is an HR department of at least one member—is presented with a set of company rules the employee is expected to follow.

This can involve simple things like the number of daily hours one must put in during a work-shift, the number of sick leave days or vacation days allowed, dress code (no shorts ever, can wear dressy-casual clothing, or if on a shop floor must wear steel toed boots and a hardhat… stuff like that).

HR will also help explain the companies benefit plans—100% medical coverage, 50% eye, 80% dental… things like that.

It also presents expected rules on decorum.

Not only do these rules explain how employees are expected to act in the work place—re: social media, face-to-face interactions, etc.—but also may include expected behavior outside of the workplace—the so-called “don’t embarrass the company, bro” clause.

Generally speaking, an HR department will provide rules on how to dress and act at work as a representative of the company and its ideals.

I’m not an HR guy, so I may have mucked up the words, but believe I generally-speaking, have the meaning.

In Japan… it’s the fricking Wild West…

Okay… maybe it’s not that anymore… it used to be. Up until the mid-1990s, if you were a female co-worker and were at a company gathering (a drinkathon), the odds were pretty good that at some point in the evening you were going to get sexually assaulted.

That might mean anything from a co-worker telling you you have nice boobs, to the grabbing of the boobs or butt or worse.

As a woman, you could certainly go to the police or to the company head and make a complaint… while I would like to say I think the police might go and talk to the accused, in 1990 and earlier Japan, I don’t know if that would have done anything.

Making a complaint to a boss - that would get the accuser a bit of a talking to… it would be like “shut your mouth, and know your role.”

It was a society where to make a complaint was to stand up and be heard… but Japan is the society where it has a very famous adage:

“出る釘は打たれる” - deru kui wa utareru
"The nail that stands up, gets hammered down.”

So… even if one wanted to make a complaint against a co-worker, they would be cowed into submission by others… to not make waves…

This is a social attitude Japanese have been raised up for a long time. I don’t even know when it began, but it’s an attitude learned quickly from the earliest days of school… and perhaps even learned at home in what is legitimately pre-school.

It continues through elementary school, junior high, senior high, university, work, and until the very last breath is taken after they turn 107 years old.

So… I find it laughable that a respected Japanese newspaper bother to create an article about no-no’s in the Japanese workforce.

Now.. to be fair… Japan has been trying to be more like Canada, let’s say… I won’t say like the U.S., because it’s leader allegedly doesn’t follow the same rules when it comes to socially accepted behavior… for him, it’s just about being a member with a member… a man… it’s about being a rich man.

Canada… you know our leader is appearing on the cover of the Rolling Stone, joining such luminaries as John Lennon (on the first ever cover); Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison, ET, Bette Middler (she was in a movie I was in where I played an extra in a bar - wearing a Jim Morrison shirt - that was the movie Stella), Eddie Murphy, Boy George, Michael J. Fox, Sir Bob Geldof, U2, Bart Simpson, Jodie Foster (my first girl crush), Winona Ryder (my 20-somthing girl crush), Gillian Anderson (my 30-something woman crush); Angeline Jolie—because Girl Interrupted is just that good… and holy crap… no one alive should be able to LOOK like Lara Croft Tomb Raider… was my also a 30-something and still crush. I can watch Mr. & Mrs Smith as easily as if it was Miss Congeniality.

Anyhow… and now the Rolling Stone has Justin Trudeau… I wonder if Dr. Hook and the what’s their names feels happy with the company?

I have a copy with the Incredible Hulk on the cover from 1971. Okay… what the heck was I talking about?

Oh yeah… manners…

Let me give you an example of what the Japan Times article was talking about.

Apparently men are no longer allowed to say (at work) such things as:

Kimi no toshidashi
(You’re getting old).

Hunh. Who the fug knew?

Kekkon no yotei wa aru no 
(Do you plan on getting married?)

He’s not asking you out, rather he’s curious if you’re going to be an old maid - what with you being over the age of 28…

Rude questions, to be sure… but apparently perfectly within the social norms of the mid-1990s and earlier to be asked.

I would like to think that the influx of gaijin had something to do with that.

Yes, yes... gaijin have been entering Japan since the 1850s… and by entering I mean having sex with Japanese women.

It’s a trend that continued - well… it’s still continuing, god bless them, but it’s not just wham, bam, domiarigato-chan, foreign men are (more in the past 30 years) actually interested in having a real relationship with women and not just relations.

Who knew that it all depended on a “ship” coming in… there’s a seamen joke in there… look… in my head I could take that line about five different ways - and then create jokes depending on the way.

But… maybe I should just shut my mouth.

Actually... I think the influx of more intermarriages between the gaijin and Japanese is due to things like the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Not to denigrate other institutions that have been in Japan for longer periods of time, but on average, I would think the average JET participant (and even non-JET but qualified teachers) has a bit more upstairs in the old noggin...

While I know a university education doesn't mean one is smart... well... it's not a qualifying statement... it does mean that JET participants had to successfully go through an interview process, complete university, and have an interest in being in Japan. I didn't - the latter, I mean, but pretty much everyone else ever on the JET Programme wanted to go to Japan.

As I have stated ad nauseum here, I just wanted to get laid. Read my first ever blog for a better explanation. 

Anyhow... I'm trying to state that JET Programme invites weren't necessarily there just to have sex. They were there for a learning and work experience... and if they happened to fall in love, that was great, too.

So... while many JETs (myself included) may have acted boorishly at first, some of us grew up.

But... in Japan... this behavior that I call "boorish" isn't necessarily boorish to Japan... it's just been the way it has been.

Thanks to some male JETs (like myself) coming in and laying down information on women's rights (yes, I know it seems stupid coming from a guy who just "wanted to get laid" - but that doesn't mean I don't agree with equal rights for everybody) and equality of life... showing that a man can also do housework, or serve o-cha (green tea) to other men... I like to think that some of our western thinking rubbed off on Japan...

But maybe the Japanese took things a little too literally.

The Japan Times newspaper article doesn’t just yammer on about boorish male behavior.
Nope… did you know that sometimes a man can have a woman as a boss?

Equal rights? Sure... now Japanese women are acting as poorly as their male counterparts - again, not everyone... and I'm sure its a few bad apples...

I have been in that position (under a woman) about three times… only once was it fantastic… she was like my big sister, and looked after me after my mother died, even helping me get another job. Thanks Marina!

The others… holy crap. I once worked in a small office space with eight female co-workers, and one alpha female boss… whose job it was to make the female workers feel like slugs, and to the only male co-worker to feel lower than a slug. What made it worse, was that my boss was hot… I mean scorching… like herpes…. so I was willing to put up with the abuse because, well, I kindda thought it made her even hotter… woof.

Unfortunately, at no time did she ever ask me out. Not even for a cuppacoffee. “Dyawannagofacoffee?” Apparently that means something dirty.

In Japan, some female bosses have been accused of alcohol harassment - aruhara ( mixture of the English words involving alcohol and harassment) - which really means the female boss invites young men (lower in position than her, as well,) for coffee during work time… but instead of coffee, it’s the dirty statement above… sakuhara (another mic of English words - sex and harassment).

What? The female boss wants to have sex with me? My chance to get a head, I mean ahead? What is wrong with people? Lol! I get it… young Japanese idealists would like to recognized for what they bring to the boardroom, rather than the bedroom.

Me… I think you know where I lie/stand.

Now… lest you think that women in the workforce - even the female bosses… are only operating as their male counterparts did for hundreds of years… just like those male bosses, the female bosses are being told to stop screwing with the employees.

Companies are actually telling their women to treat the office as though it were an “upscale hotel lobby.”

WTF does that mean?

Are women in the Japanese workforce hanging around hotels?

Apparently, that statement means: no slouching, loud talking, unseemly conduct or cheap shoes.

Wait… no unseemly conduct in a hotel lobby? Of course not… we’re not savages… we can wait until we get into the hotel room… or at least the elevator.

Morahara (Moral Harassment - don’t you just love how the Japanese create new words by sorttakindda combining two words into one?) (I know what I wrote - this whole blog is me poking fun at multiple cultures)…

Anyhow… let me direct you to the Japan Times article HERE.

While I still do think it’s embarrassing that Japanese society still seems to think it’s okay to abuse its underlings (Japan has, in the past allowed bullying by length of age to be a major factor in how it’s everyday society is run)… at least the newspaper article shows that Japan wants to change, and that it is trying to encourage its employees to change…

I have long believed that Japan was easily 30+ years ahead of the world in some things, and 30+ years behind the times in others.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at the top is Charlie Chaplin in his masterpiece Modern Times, acting the mechanical jackass. I even spent the money to BUY a copy of the movie.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Loneliness Is A State Of Mind

I’ve come to realize over the years that Japan is NOT the paradox I once thought it was.

While living there, and for years upon years after having left the country to move back to Toronto, I had thought that Japan was both the loneliest and non-loneliest country ever.

Several things have come to light within the dark thoughts that routinely form within my head. 

1) I have been to quite a few countries… but hardly close to even five percent of the countries currently in existence. So how the fug can I have such a global opinion about Japan’s place in it? I can not. I can only know what I know and can not guess as to how it relates to the rest of the planet.

2) I’ve been lonely and non-lonely pretty much every where I’ve visited or lived. Japan is hardly the cause of that.

3) Am I really lonely if I choose to be alone? No. Yes. That’s a truly philosophical question… and I didn’t waste my university degree on that subject. I wasted my university degree on political science. One can obviously be philosophical with a piece of paper telling you are. And how does that make you feel? Why?

Considering how I am now… an introvert pretending to be an extrovert (Hardly a revolutionary self-discovery, I’ve been saying that since I was in journalism school (after university, and not a waste of time… though I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go into the written media field if you expect to eat regularly in the future).

In Japan, I didn’t have to feel lonely ever.

As a junior high school assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I was given a list of all the other gets living in my prefecture of Tochigi-ken.

I could, should I choose, simply call up any of them and chat… and they could do the same to me. 

Yes, this was in the pre-Internet days of 1990-1993, so hearing a person’s voice was almost as good as reaching out to touch someone. Talking to Kristine, it was more like touching myself.

Years later, it was still nice to hear she would have slept with me if I wasn’t sick that one time she traveled 500 kilometers… not to see me really, but to use my place as a home base for touring Eastern Japan. 

Anyhow… lonely… how could old Andrew ever be lonely when he spent five years describing his daily life of three years in Japan?

Exactly. He couldn’t have been lonely.

I may have said I was lonely, but that was how I felt.

If I wanted to not feel lonely, I could call up Matthew, or Colin or James or Trisha or Kristine or whomever.

For most of 1992 and 1993, I was always surrounded by some female companion… the sex-crazed Junko, or my love Noboko.

I could have used more Noboko and less Junko, but lonely… I only wished I was a bit more lonely with the constant attention Junko demanded I give to her, as she pampered me to exhaustion.

And what about all the women I slept with between them and before them?

All it took was for me to go to my local bar where they knew I liked to go… THEY knew… and almost like they had each taken a number, waited until someone metaphorically called their number.

“Now serving #47. Number 47…  hello, my name is Andrew. What’s your name?”

I never had to ask anyone out. They didn’t even have to ask me out.

Arriving at my bar table and stool uninvited and mostly unafraid, one at a time—no pushing in line… no butting… that’s my job—women would come and chat me up in broken English.

Most of the time we barely got the introductions out of the way before one would invite me to go to my place.

I know, I know… this was 25 years ago… and nowadays Japanese women don’t seem to be AS interested in sex as the women of 25 years ago were.

I think it’s true that socially Japan has changed.

I think that’s because of social media and cell phones—at least partially.

If i was in Japan now, as a 25-year-old, I would not have the same success as I did back in the early 1990s… but I still believe I would have had success.

Before re-writing of my adventures here in this blog, I had to re-read them in my diary (diaries) first… while it’s true I may be slightly more mature than I was back then, the Andrew that was me is pretty similar to the Andrew who is me.

Like having a weight lifted off me, I realize now that the song remains the same.

Maybe i liked to punish myself - beat myself up whenever I wasn’t in a real relationship… shut myself off from the world to reboot my system. To make people worried… few ever did. Matthew did.

Sorry Matthew.

Does it sound weird to state that I like to be alone... hmm... maybe I don't like to be alone... but I can handle it...

Even nowadays, it doesn't bother me... I wonder if that's a learned experience, or if  one's brain is ingrained to adore or abhor?

Whatever... check out the video above to see one how one Japanese man has found a way to combat loneliness.

As for me? I don't even know if I'm lonely... is that why I put myself in harm's way by coaching kid's sports? Is that why I blog?

And even as I reach out, why do I pull back? Do I trust people? Have I learned not to trust people?

Do I just like asking a lot of questions?

Who knows?

I don't feel lonely, however. In Japan, I think I felt lonely... but was I?

Andrew Joseph



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Japanese Architect Looks To Design Refugee Housing In Kenya

Japanese architect Ban Shigeru (surname first) is not only well known in his native country, but also globally.

His big thing is creating low-cost housing from corrugated and wood—efforts that have had his designs used in times of disaster.

For his next project, Ban has signed up to try and design thousands o shelters for use in a large refugee camp in Kenya—the Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement that over 37,000 people are living in.

Most of the refugees are from South Sudan and Somalia.

While the camp was designed to house 45,000 people, it is well under capacity right now.

The problem is that since 2017 began upwards of 17,000 people have arrived at the camp.

With fears that the camp will soon be unable to handle the rush of humanity, the UN Refugee Agency is looking to see how the camp can be enlarged…

Problem #1… the camp isn’t exactly a tourist hot-spot, meaning that it’s not near an airport or highway… in fact, if you are looking for supplies from the capital city of Nairobi, it can take up to three days by truck… so yes…

Problem #2... the environment. It is stupid hot, has little water, deforestation and, too much water when its the rainy season and the area is caught up in flooding.

The architect's bailiwick, as mentioned, is affordable emergency shelters made from corrugated (what everyone else NOT involved in its manufacture and use calls cardboard).

Japanese Architect, Ban Shigeru (in the black outfit) during recent his visit to Kalobeyei Settlement in Kakuma. You think think that you wouldn't want to wear black clothing because of albedo and how darker colors tend to attract heat. Photo by UN-HABITAT.
Ban's job is to create some 20,000 emergency shelters for families... so, for maybe 60 or 80 thousand people?

The first thing he did was get up out of his office and visited the Kalobeyei Settlement to meet with refugees.

He looked at the housing already there, and discussed their needs in order to design something that would work best in that part of the world.

Part of that was determining just how the locals approach construction... everyone has a way of constructing their own things. Ban wanted to make sure his design jived well  with the people building it, as well as living in it.

"The key thing will be to design and construct shelter where no or little technical supervision is required, and use materials that are locally available and eco-friendly," says Ban. "It's important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants."

A test, if you will, are the 20 homes Ban is constructing... to see if it passes the muster of the new locals who will be using it.

If successful with his design--whatever it is--Ban will works with the facility... if not, he'll redesign it.

I'll check back in on Ban's progress later.

Andrew Joseph