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Monday, October 23, 2017

Mountain Bike Grips Inspired By Sushi

At first glance, you might wonder just how a set of mountain bike handle bar grips is inspired by sushi—especially after looking at the image above.

However, you have to look at how sushi is made—in a long cylindrical fashion before it is sliced to the familiar medallion shape we all love to eat.

While the sushi is still in its cylindrical shape, we should note that it is usually flat on one end = perhaps to stop it from rolling away… I have no idea.

Anyhow,  cycling ergonomics expert Sean Madsen—I’ll bet you didn’t know such a job existed—says that bicycle handlebar grips work better if they're flat on top (like the bottom of a roll of sushi before it is sliced).

Madsen also points out that if the grips are narrow at the top, and have “wings”, it is even better.

So… that’ why Madsen designed these new mountain bike grips, called sushi grips because of the manner in which a sushi cone is held.

Hunh… so it has nothing to so with a pre-sliced sushi roll? Fawk… I really should read the whole thing first… BUT, if I did, then how could I share the ’surprise’ with you.

Anyhow, the new Sushi Grip provides the rider with greater control of your bike, especially in rough, technical terrain and improves your ability to dive into corners. These grips also help reduce hand numbness, aches, and forearm fatigue.

According to Madsen, when we grasp something in our hand, most of the force comes from our ring and pinky fingers, acting in opposition to the thumb. Additionally, the muscles in those two fingers are able to exert the most force when the hand is almost closed into a fist.

With that in mind, Sushi Grips are narrower at the ends – where those fingers sit – than the handlebar itself. This means that the grips extend out from the bars 65 mm per side, so users will either have to cut their bars down, or just go with a wider ride.

The wing on the outside of the grip that allows you to press more weight on the inside hand through corners. This makes the bike lean farther, tightening the turning radius without slowing down.

Because of the angled grip surface on the underside, it allows greater use of your ring and pinky fingers, resulting in more control in technical sections of the trail. By using more fingers to hold on to the bike, it means less forearm and hand fatigue, and an overall lighter touch on the bars.

The third design feature is the platform on the top of the grip. This allows pressure to be shifted away from the nerves in the wrist, which typically cause numbness. This platform supports the hand on the pads at the base of the thumb and fingers, moving pressure out of the crease of the palm. On rough terrain the impact of a round grip into the crease of the palm is the cause of sore, achy hands. Finally, this platform is much smaller than other "ergonomic" grips, providing just enough support without interfering with your control of your bike.

The Sushi Grip is smaller than the the current handlebar diameters in use today. This obstacle was overcome by designing the grip to extend past the end of the handlebar. In fact, the design extends 65mm past the end of the handlebar on each side.

With this design consideration, due care was taken to ensure the grips would be strong and withstand the most abusive riding. The material selected for the base structure is a reinforced nylon, capable of handling the works; from rock gardens to big drops and jumps. The soft sections of the grip, where texture and feel is important, will be a rubber-like compound that can handle several seasons of use.

Okay… this isn’t a blog about mountain bike grips, and anything else I write here is just going to be me stealing everything from a website.

But just in case you are one of those people whop hates to travel from one site to a possible sketchy one… or maybe you still have dial-up and it takes forever to load, here’s some advice on how to best use the Sushi Grip when riding your mountain bike…. which truthfully, I have never done. I used to ride a bike. I rode it darn near everyday while I lived my three+years in Japan… assuming I didn’t use it while sick, or on vacation.
Anyhow… for a great initial starting position, align the top platform (that your palm contacts) 2-3 degrees angled back towards you. This gets a good distribution of pressure across your palm, while allowing your fingers to curl naturally under the grip. On your first few rides, don't forget to take a multi-tool to adjust the angle slightly if needed.

Madsen is currently raising production funds for the grips, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$40 will get you a set of Sushi Grips, assuming all goes according to plan. If you'd prefer them to already be mounted on an aluminum or carbon handlebar, higher pledges will get you that.
Go check out the product over at

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Augmented Shrine

Here’s a piece of art I found on-line that I really liked.

It’s by an artist named Elijah McNeal from Texas, who calls this work “Augmented Shrine”.

Artists like McNeal and my pal Pa5cal, they like to take the organic and infuse it with inorganic.

While this infusion is mild, it certainly is augmented.

HERE’s where I found his art—the muted colors showcase a fair bit of pinks and purples, and while naught else is organic infused, they all possess that Akira/Blade Runner vibe to them - in a good way.

There seems to be more of a collection of his work over at, plenty of mech, tech and what the heck?!

Elijah - great stuff!

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Brave Racists Coming Out

On Thursday afternoon, my friend Vinnie sent me a contributed Forbes article written by Internet buddy Jake Adelstein.

We're not really buddies, but have conversed a few times via Twitter. Jake is a newspaper journalist - a gaijin who had worked the police beat for Japanese language newspapers, and then wrote a very eye-opening tale about the yakuza (Japan's version of the mob), called Tokyo Vice.

It's a very good book that anyone interested in Japan... the real gritty Japan... should buy a copy of and read once or twice. 

Anyhow, you should read Jake's latest piece in Forbes HERE.

Jake writes about a Korean prejudice that appears to be emanating from the female (her sex is unimportant, but I mention it in case you don't know Japanese names) Governor of  Tokyo Koike Yukio (surname first).

The fact that Governor Koike appears to have a prejudice against Koreans isn't in itself mind-blowing. I've found - granted this was 25 years ago - that when the Japanese talk about Korea or Koreans, they don't seem to hold them in high regard.

I discussed this with Vinnie via a couple of e-mails.

I told him how even my locals from the fair city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken - who treated me with complete respect... even going out of their way to correct others from calling me a "gaijin/outsider", telling them to refer to me as An-do-ryu-sensei (Andrew teacher)... well, when it came to the Koreans, it was a horse of a different color.

We were discussing the Hyundai motor car company, who were building their Korean car in Japan... and I asked my locals what they thought of the cool Hyundai cars... and to a person, all turned their nose up at it.

Why... because it's Korean, and therefore not as good as a Japanese car.

That might have just been self-pride. Back in the 1990s, I can confirm that the Japanese were very proud of being Japanese... maintaining a bit of snob mentality about it.

I can tell you that no one wanted to discuss their attitude in front of other Japanese... just with me, when I was alone with them. They kept their true feelings to themselves back then.

Why to me? I don't know. Why do people tell me anything? They do, though. Maybe I just ask the right questions in the right way. It's my curse. It's also why I'm quite open about myself, here in this blog.

For example, one of the plans the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme had for us foreigners, was to internationalize the Japanese... to make them discover that people are people... that they (the Japanese) are NOT superior to everyone else.

It wasn't like everyone sucks, except the Japanese, but rather more like everything about Japan and from Japan was better than everyone else.

Except when it came to the Koreans... in that case, Koreans and Korean things were inferior.

No... not EVERYONE felt that way... that's an assumption.... I asked a lot of people... and everyone felt Korea et al were inferior, but I assume NOT EVERYONE felt that way. I'm a realist. Still... these people were my friends... and my friends seemed to have racist attitudes.

As an aside... before coming to Japan, one of my very best friends - a White dude - confided that he had never had a Brown friend before... assuming us all to be curry-eating ragheads... but not me... I was different, he assured me. Fawwwwk. He wasn't even drunk when he said that... but it was meant to imply that I was okay because I was the whitest Brown guy ever and didn't speak with an accent and loved Canada, The Tragically Hip and Rush and hockey. I still do... but really... there but for the grace of God, go I because I speak proper English without an accent. You know he never would have said that racist crap to anyone else... he never did again, mind you... still, back then, I was a chicken sh!t and didn't have the balls to tell him what I really thought.

Back to me in Japan... in my story, the Hyundai were being built in Japan by Japanese autoworkers and probably Japanese robots.

All I could get was that the Japanese didn't care much for their Korean "brethren"... and no one could or would provide details. And this came from my BOSS Mr. Hanazaki... the last person I would have expected it from. 
I think that there is a deep-set hatred of Koreans in Japan. It's like the Koreans are Japan's version of the Gypsies and Jews of pre-WWII Europe.

It goes back generations and generations... and the fact that there still seems to be an ethno-divide... and this is me guessing that the Koreans still seem to identify as Koreans... well... I wonder if that's because of how Japan treats them, or if that's the Korean contingent's choice.

Anyhow... the Tokyo Governor has been supported by radical Japanese groups that whitewash Japan's WWII war atrocities... and there were quite a few of those.

Governor Koike herself also has denied that thousands of Koreans were slaughtered by Japanese mobs in 1923. She's of the opinion that history is written by the winners... or at least can be rewritten after 75 years or so after the fact. It doesn't make it any less of a farce.

My e-mails to Vinnie adds: "It's amazing how all the "haters" come out when they see someone else be unafraid... and in this case I'm talking about Trump.

"While Abe (Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo - surname first) has never been afraid to show his colors, I must admit that he seems to have backed down a bit as Trump goes off the rails... (though) I think he's quietly egging Trump on."

I bring all this up after reading about how in the evening of Thursday, October 19, former U.S. president George W. Bush had this to say:

“Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of the free markets, from the strength of democratic alliance and from the advance of free societies,” Bush said. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”
He also warned of the dangers of a worldwide pattern of countries — including some in Europe — “turning inward.” And though Bush did not refer to Trump by name during his remarks, his warning about the current U.S. chief executive was clear.
“America is not immune from these trends,” Bush said. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

While former president G. W. Bush made mention of America and Europe turning inward, with too much of a "me first" attitude, he probably could have included Japan into that mix.

Bush's dad, George H. Bush, when he was president barfed all over Japan prime minister Miyazawa Kiichi. The man was sick, but still felt it his duty to play diplomat - and I respect that, so you'll have to look up the videos of this incident without my help.

My point... heil myself, is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to look after your own, but it should not be done with complete disregard for others.

The "me first" attitude always seems to play on prejudice and bigotry, and in current politics, sexism - the complete disregard for anyone different from "me".

If it's okay for one leader of the free world to do it, why not its population? Why not politicians from other countries?

Let's just say that there were and are, a lot of closest racists in Canada and the U.S. and everywhere else... and they have become emboldened to speak their mind nowadays since their political leaders are doing it. Oh yeah... what a wonderful rife.

This is what we are seeing now. We saw it all back in the 1930s, and we ignored it until it was too late.

As the old adage goes: Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image from Forbes: Tokyo Governor and leader of the Party of Hope Yuriko Koike greets her supporters during an election campaign appearance in Saitama on October 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Behrouz MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday, October 20, 2017

American Money Prepared In Case Of Japanese Attack

A $5 bill... with the word Hawaii written in the back?

Why couldn't it have been a $50?! Yeah, like no one else was thinking about Hawaii 5-0!

What we have here, however, is the not-yet-State of Hawaii, specially marked overprint for four denominations of currency, consisting of:

One dollar silver certificate; a five, 10 and 20-dollar Federal reserve Note, that were issued on June 25, 1942… just in case Japan captured Hawaii.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—Hawaii, which was then a protectorate of the United States of America (much as Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are today), and each of those countries was allowed to vote in US elections, and could use American money.

By the way, here’s a list of FORMER protectorates of the United States of America:

    •    Liberia (1822–1847)
    •    Cuba (1898–1904)
    •    Panama Canal Zone (1903–1979)
    •    Haiti (1915-1935)
    •    Honduras (1903–1925)
    •    Nicaragua (1912–1933)
    •    Dominican Republic (1914–1924)
    •    Sultanate of Sulu (1903–1915)
    •    Germany (1945-1949)
    •    South Korea (1945-1948)
    •    Ryukyu Islands (1945-1972)
    •    Commonwealth of the Philippines (1934–1946): Under the provisions of the Tydings–McDuffie Act, the territory would become self-governing although its military and foreign affairs would be under the United States.
    •    Hawaii (1850s–1894/1898)
    •    Compact of Free Association
The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau have a similar status (associated state) since their independence.

Anyhow, just in case Japan was able to take over Hawaii, American military officials were concerned that the Japanese would then get their hands on a whole lot of Us money, which could be taken from banks or even private people.

So, on January 10, 1942 Military governor Delos Carleton Emmons signed an order to recall all regular US paper money in the Hawaiian Islands… noting, however that individual people could carry up to $200, and businesses $500 (plus extra paper money for payroll).

Then, on June 25, 1942 the Hawaii overprint banknotes were issued:
  • Series 1935A $1 silver certificate;
  • Series 1934 $5 and $20 Federal Reserve Notes, and;
  • Series 1934A $5, $10, and $20 Federal Reserve Notes from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
If you look at the bills, you Americans especially should see the color difference… each possess a brown-ink color on the serial numbers and the treasury seals.

As well, an overprint of the word “HAWAII” was added: two small overprints to the sides of the obverse of the bill between the border and both the treasury seal and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco seal, and huge outlined HAWAII lettering dominating the reverse. 
The plan: Should the unthinkable happen and Japan take over Hawaii, the American government could immediately declare any Hawaii-stamped banknotes declared worthless.

The people of Hawaii were told to turn-in all regular US notes by July 15, 1942 and were issued the new Hawaii-overstamp notes.

As of August 15, 1942, ONLY the Hawaii-overstamp notes were considered legal tender in Hawaii… except under special circumstances. 

To ensure the Japanese never did get their hands on the turned in regular banknotes, some $200-million worth of currency was destroyed in Hawaii, rather than attempt to have it shipped back to mainland U.S.A where it could have been waylaid by the Japanese.

At first, a crematorium was used to destroy the money, but when that proved to be too time-consuming, a furnace at the Aiea sugar mill was also used.

Hawaii continued to issue new notes until October 21, 1944. 

But, as of April 1946, the Hawaii-overstamp bank notes were recalled… but like in any recall, not everyone turned in the bills, with more than a few kept as a souvenir.

Denomination    Quantity Printed    Asterisk/Star Notes
$1                             35,052,000        $204,000
$5                               9,416,000        ?
$10                          10,424,000         ?
$20                          11,246,000         $54,500

I’ve never understood why some banknotes have an asterisk/star added to the right of a serial number. Until now. I have a few Canadian banknotes with an asterisk/star… and never knew what it was all about…

As I now understand, they are denoted as “replacement notes”, but these bills are already replacing the standard US currency in Hawaii. I believe it has a star added when a series of notes is accidentally printed with the same serial number—and no two notes should ever have the same serial number… and rather than destroy them (a waste of paper and ink), an asterisk is added.

Andrew Joseph


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rock'em Sock'em Robots: We Have A Winner

For those of you who are interested, Japan and America went to war on the evening of Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

They battled with giant robots.

I wrote about the hype HERE - and maybe you should (re)familiarize yourselves with it first, or you could simply skip MY hype and watch the hype AND the bout in its entirety in the video below.

No... no spoilers. I wouldn't do that to you. It's 26:42 long. 

Just watch and enjoy:


Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How A 19th Century Artist Is Helping Clean Up After 21st Century Nuclear Disasters

Yeah… you read the headline correctly, though I admit it is a bit of creative license on my part. Sort of.

Back in the 1830s, Katsushika Hokusai (surname first - but he is, for some reason, better known via his first name, rather than his surname) began using a blue ink on his paintings - such as The Great Wave Off Kanegawa (see above)as part of his epic “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” woodblock print series.

It’s a globally-famous painting, where you will often see artists copy those fingerlets of the waves into projects of their own, from standard art, to manga, to anime… I had always called it the Hokusai wave, long before I had even contemplated going to Japan.

And while the sheer ferociousness of the wave is all-encompassing, one could and should also point to Hokusai’s use of color, as an important means of delivery the image’s impact.

While affectionately called Hokusai Blue by his fans, the color is actually known as Prussian Blue…

Prussia? What’s a Prussia? Well… founded in 1525, and dissolved in 1947, Wikipedia says that “Prussia was a prominent historical German state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg, and centered on the region of Prussia.”

Okay… does it help if I say that its capital was Berlin, and that Prussia is nowadays in parts of Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium and the Czech Republic. In other words, it was a pretty big deal.

Hokusai’s blue aka Prussian Blue, aka Berlin blue, Parisian and/or Paris blue.

It has a chemical formula of  chemical formula Fe
. or… it can be written as Fe
· xH

I know… more about color than most people would ever think they would need on a Wednesday.

And why would I bother to tell you about a chemical formula? It’s true… I failed Grade 12 chemistry… apparently you are supposed to study… but never did anyone teach me HOW to study or even what studying was… but that’s a whine for another day.

So what the heck does the paint color with too many damn names have to do with helping to clean up after 21st century nuclear disasters?

Wellllll… if we take the Hokusai Blue pigment, and combine it with cellulose nanofiber (a raw material of paper), one can create a sponge that is highly successful in absorbing radioactive cesium.
Hokusai Blue Cesium Absorption Sponges

So, while useless in cleaning up after such disasters as a forest fire, mudslide, earthquake, volcano or tsunami, the next time there’s a radioactive spill of cesium, Japan’s got a sponge for you.

Developed by a University of Tokyo research team, they have succeeded in synthesizing compound nanoparticles, comprising organic and inorganic substances. This new class of organic/inorganic composite nanoparticles is able to selectively adsorb, or collect on the surface, radioactive cesium.

I was just going to present their research paper here, but I do feel I owe you a shot at turning it into something less scientific.

Now… because the combines Hokusai Blue pigment/ nanofiber was an absorber, they developed sponges from these nano particles… which actually was highly effective in decontaminating water and soil that was exposed to radiation during the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in 2011.

Apparently removing the radioactive elements cesium-134 and -137 (and others) from contaminated seawater or soil is quite difficult.

Fortunately, the Prussian blue (ferric hexacyanoferrate) pigment has a jungle gym-like colloidal structure, and the size of its single cubic opening, is a near-perfect match to the size of cesium ions.

That means it, by itself, is part of a medicine for any human being exposed to radiation, with the express purpose of absorbing cesium radiation.

But, since Prussian blue is highly attracted to water—removing it from the natural environment is extremely difficult.

If you were to take one of Hokusai’s prints where the Hokusai /Prussian Blue pigment is in play, and expose it to water, the color will not fade.

As such, the research team—led by professor Sakata Ichiro  (everyone is surname first)and project professor Fugetsu Bunshi at the University of Tokyo’s Nanotechnology Innovation Research Unit at the Policy Alternatives Research Institute, and project researcher Adavan Kiliyankil Vipin at the Graduate School of Engineering—were able to develop an insoluble nanoparticle obtained from combining cellulose and Hokusai/Prussian blue—when they formed a chemical bond between the pigment and the paper (IE cellulose).

The combined nanoparticle was created by preparing cellulose nanofibers using a process called TEMPO oxidization and securing ferric ions (III) onto them.

They then introduced a bit of hexacyanoferrate (part of the pigment), which adhered to the Prussian blue nanoparticles with a diameter ranging from 5–10 nanometers.

These nanoparticles were very resistant to water and were capable of adsorbing 139 mg of radioactive cesium ion per gram.

Field studies on soil decontamination in Fukushima have been underway since 2016.

A highly effective approach has been to sow and allow plant seeds to germinate inside the sponge made from the nanoparticles, then getting the plants' roots to take up cesium ions from the soil to the sponge.

Water can significantly shorten decontamination times compared to soil, which usually requires extracting cesium from it with a solvent.

Says Vipin: ”The amount of research on cesium decontamination increased after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, but a lot of the studies were limited to being academic and insufficient for practical application in Fukushima. Our research offers practical applications and has high potential for decontamination on an industrial scale not only in Fukushima but also in other cesium-contaminated areas."

Adds Fugetsu: "I was pondering about how Prussian blue immediately gets dissolved in water when I happened upon a Hokusai woodblock print, and how the indigo color remained firmly set in the paper, without bleeding, even after all these years.

"That revelation provided a clue for a solution," he concludes.

And that, my friends, is how Hokusai’s wave… a drawing of water utilizing Hokusai/Prussian Blue pigment, led to a revolutionary way to decontaminate radioactive soil.

Hokusai’s artwork, nearly 200-years-old, continues to inspire.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Giant Robot Battle - Let’s Get Ready To Rummmm (copyright) lllllll!

It’s been two years in the making, but it’s finally on: MegaBot vs Kuratas, U.S.A. vs. Japan.

Back on July 9, 2015, I wrote about the initial events surrounding the patriotic robot battle…. and two-years later, after lots of hype within the fighting robot community—which means most people don’t hear anything about it—both company’s have completed building their war machines and are reading to take on each other.

Scheduled to take place on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, the giant robot battle will go on, with live streaming of the event planned.

In 2015 when America’s MegaBot laid down the challenge to Japan’s Suidobashi and its Kuratas robots, they only accepted the challenge if it involved hand-to-hand combat, fearing the America robots company would be “typically American” and just slap some guns on its robot, which would only prove that American robots are attune to the U.S. of America’s 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution. Robots are people, too… right?

"Just building something huge and sticking guns on it. It's Super American ... If we're going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it," said Kuratas robot designer Kurata Kogoro  (surname first) Kurata, back in 2015.

Despite the desire for metallic hand-to-hand combat, both robots are expected to possess the ability to shoot/fire projectiles at each other.

MegaBot Specifications:
  • Height: 15 feet (4.57 meters);
  • Weight: 12,000 pounds (5,443.1 kilograms);
  • Movement: Caterpillar treads (2);
  • Cabin: Enclosed steel, but currently in a mesh format;
  • Humans: one pilot and one gunner;
  • Armament: high-powered cannons firing 1.3 kilogram paintballs or paint cans at 120 miles per hour (193.1 kilometers per hour;
  • Control: I'm guessing levers, buttons and pedals - akin to a car.
The paint can projectile could probably dent a car panel… but I wonder how much damage that would do to its robotic opponent. Of course, maybe the plan isn’t to damage it with the high-speed paint can, rather to damage it with the paint can contents… which I assume is paint, but who knows… paint getting into the gears or robotic relays… 

Kuratas Specifications:
  • Height: 13-feet (3.96 meters) - Japanese are shorter than the Americans, after all;
  • Weight: 9,000 pounds (4,082.3 kilograms);
  • Movement: One wheel each on four wide legs that raise robot up and down. It's quick;
  • Cabin: Enclosed roll cage with plexiglass covering providing better pilot protection;
  • Humans: One;
  • Armament: Two Gatling BB cannons, firing 6,000 BB pellets per minute; one water cannon (weak) that fires water-propelled missiles;
  • Control: Augmented reality display in cockpit; automated target acquisition; weapon tracking interface to ensure it continues to hit its target. Locked on is locked on.  
The event will be live-streamed on Twitch and starts at 7pm Pacific on Tuesday, October 17 in North America.

Please not that start time is 11AM in Tokyo, Japan on Wednesday, October 18, 2017.  

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 16, 2017

Japanese Egg Roll

I’m sure we’ve all heard about a Chinese egg roll… well, how about a Japanese egg roll, as seen above.

To be honest, I’m not sure how the heck it’s made, except I assume it’s a whole bunch of separated hard-boiled egg yolks squished together with plastic wrap and elongated into the cylindrical shape, and then placed within an egg white version created the same.

The now stuffed egg monstrosity is again rolled tight with plastic wrap… perhaps rolled with a small bamboo sushi making roller, and voila! A Japanese egg roll.

Or… because I can’t read the Japanese on the label, it might just be something else all together… anyone out there confident in their Japanese language skills - please learn me. :)

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hello Kitty Gets Toasted

Sometimes I see the world, and every thing seems cool.

Other times, I look and wonder WTF, Japan?

Above is a two-slice Hello Kitty Toaster that will toast your bread leaving a non-toasted imprinted face of Kitty White, aka Hello Kitty (ハロー・キティ).

You only think I’m smart enough to make this stuff up! Uh… anyone… hello? No?

Selling for US$40.85 on Amazon, or $40.99 at Walmart… or… heck, go take a look for yourself (type in Hello Kitty Toaster in Google), the toaster supposedly has wide slots for fat bread or bagels, and has an exterior that is cool to the touch, which I admit is pretty cool.

There’s also a removable crumb tray (a what? does my toaster have one? Does that man I don’t have to hold it upside down and shake it?), adjustable browning levels.

It’s not a toy! It’s a real effing toaster!

Buy one! Buy two, send me one! I’m poor… I can only afford a roster without a crumb tray.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Japanese Joke - Japanese Sex

A Japanese couple is having an argument about how to perform highly erotic sex:

Shouting Husband: “Sukitaki, Mojitaka desu!”
Shouting Wife: "Iie! Kowanini no Janku-wa desu!”

The husband replies angrily: Toka-aru! Anjo rodii roumi yakuo desu yo!”

The wife is on her knees now, literally begging: “Mimi nakanu jinga desu. Tinkoiji!”

The husband continues his angry shouting: “Kono-na miaou kina Tinkoiji!”

Get it?!

Can you believe you just sat there reading this Japanese joke… hoping you aren’t missing something in the translation… but wait… there is no translation! It's non-nonsensical!

Should I be concerned about all you horn-dogs out there? It’s like you’ll read anything as long as it’s about sex.

Andrew "like a gaijin in a kimono, the words are pretty much made up to look like real Japanese" Joseph
PS: That's me on the left, and Melissa on the right. We were never a Japanese couple or even a couple.... probably because I was a messy drinker, as evidenced by what I hope is beadlets of beer, and not sweat... though that would have been a reason, too. That and she had more sense than most. Strangely enough, after this photo taken very early in my arrival in Japan in 1990, Melisa never seemed to be alone in a room with me ever. LOL!

Friday, October 13, 2017

No Bull, Philippines Burned Its “Currency” At End Of WWII

During WWII, after Japan occupied the Philippines, the Japanese began to issue its own special money - peso’s.

Usually when one issues a paper bill, it is because it is of a large enough denomination and value.
In this case, the money was worth very little.

Kind of what post WWI Germany’s money was like, where it was actually cheaper to wipe one’s butt with the paper money, than to spend money to purchase toilet paper. Really. 

The Philippine population would use wheelbarrows to haul around the low-value money just  to be able to pay for basic groceries. They referred to the Japan-Philippine Peso as “Mickey Mouse.”

Why would they use the term “Mickey Mouse” as a slang word meaning small-time, amateurish or trivial?

Mickey Mouse as a Walt Disney creation, was hardly trivial, small-time or amateurish. Mickey Mouse - even in the WWII-era, was well known by all Allied forces… kids loved him and his cartoons and comic strips and comic books! What’s wrong with being “Mickey Mouse”?

I have NEVER understood how the term came to mean something so “demeaning”.

Anyhow… ‘Mickey Mouse’ or simply an embarrassment of non-riches, when The Philippines were liberated in 1944, and it tried to get back to a state of normalcy, they had to get rid of all that ‘dirty, dirty money’.

Just as in the photo above, money was gathered into large piles on the streets—in this case via a bulldozer driven by an American GI (general infantry) in the country’s capital of Manila—and burned.

Below, is an example of a 10 peso bill I own.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fukushima Residents Grab ¥500-Million Payout Over Nuclear Disaster

A court in Japan has ordered the government and the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to pay ¥500-million in damages to residents affected by the March 2011 triple meltdown.

I know… many of you are going - Holy fug! ¥500-million… yen… how much is that in real money?

You can look here to find a proper monetary equivalent between the yen and your country… but for my purposes (and I know many of you are lazy, or just don't like linking away from here), it’s CDN $5.564 million or, US $4.448 million.

Wow, Andrew! Each person gets that much money? It’s almost worth getting hit by an earthquake, tsunami and being part of a nuclear dumping ground.

Uh… waitaminute… each person doesn't get that much.

In this case, it’s for one particular class-action suit… one involving 3,800 plaintiffs.

So… let’s see… ¥500,000,000 ÷ 3,800 = ¥131,578.95

That sounds like a lot… how much is ¥131,578.95 in other currencies?

Let’s see:
CDN $1,464.88
US $1,170.54

There ya go! That’s… uh… not a lot of money. I won’t tell you that I once spent more than that at a strip club—but I did. In my defense, I was younger and more stupider than I am now. You know how I know that? I know what I wrote and how I wrote it. And, I know how it looks from many points of view… I’m not here to look good.

This, believe it or not, is the largest of the 30 class-action lawsuits filed by a total of 12,000 Fukushima residents—who have made these lawsuits happen because they feel that their lives were adversely affected by the events of the nuclear disaster—a disaster that they say TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany)—the owner of the dai-ichi power than that is at the crux of the matter—and the Federal government of Japan, should have known that its fail-safes and other preventive measures simply weren’t enough to prevent a triple meltdown at the reactor making it the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 year years previous.

Side trip... was Chernobyl the worst nuclear disaster ever?

If you are the type of person who maps of 1950s USSR, and compares the small villages on the maps on a year-by-year basis, you will notice a now-you-see’um-now-you-don’t thing going on.

Villages there one year, gone the next…with no evidence to suggest otherwise, except that it is long suspected that the Soviet Union often suffered nuclear kerfuffles causing the abject wiping out of whole towns and villages in the turbulent 1950s.

Of course, it might not have been nuclear reactors, and simply nuclear weaponry gone awry. Anyhow, HERE’s an example of one such USSR nuclear meltdown… maybe THIS one, too.

Anyhow… none of this is the point.

The point is, that all of these Fukushima people looking to cash in on a class-action lawsuit against TEPCO for its negligence in preventing the (near) nuclear disaster, basically received US $1,170.54 each… which if you were to divide by the six-and-a-half years it now is after the fact, equates to a not-so staggering US$180.08 for each year's worth of being "put-out". Each. 

Now… that’s not to say that the people in the suit will actually receive that total amount of US$1,170.54… don’t forget the lawyers get their share, too… and Buddha help me, I don’t even want to assume what sort of cut that might be.

Now, I suppose the people involved in the class-action lawsuit realized ahead of time that $1,170.54 is better than nothing, so there is that.

The good out of all this, sarcastically speaking, is that we now know the value of a human life… the loss of dignity et al, is US$1,170.54. Less lawyer’s fees of course. Don't spend it all in one place.

I wonder if you have to pay taxes on this windfall? You do in the U.S., and I believe the U.K., but you do NOT in Canada. Guess which one does NOT suck?

I'm not 100% sure (less lawyer's fees), but I believe in Japan, that class action settlement windfalls  come under its "occasional income" bracket, and are thus taxable.  

So really... do not spend it all in one place.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Newspaper accounts were actually unclear if the ¥500,000,000 pay-out was per person or for the entire group of 3.800 plaintiffs per THIS suit.
If had been per person, it would have been a payout (less lawyer fees) of US$4,448,052... which is what the REAL headline would have been. It wasn't, because it wasn't. 
PPS: Come to Canada... no taxes on windfalls received from class action lawsuits re: improper safety measures around nuclear reactors... and no need to worry about nuclear reactors going stupid, owing to our use of a safer type of uranium.    

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

World Mental Health Day, Week, Month, Year

It figures.

My computer at work decided to blow a gasket or whatever the computer equivalent is, and stopped performing, instead believing it was 1978 in Studio 54, flashing a strobe of light on the screen, nearly sending me into an epileptic seizure.

Anyhow... Tuesday, October 10, 2017 was World Mental Health Day...

While I appear symptom free, and am, I know far too many people who suffer from some form of mental health, ranging from within my immediate family, my wife's family, my extended family, friends, and even co-workers who were brave enough to tell me about their own struggles.

While I can confirm that I did indeed date one woman with obvious mental health issues while I was in Japan, I suspect there were more. There would have had to been. I just didn't know what the signs were at that time. Hindsight points to there being more than one. 

I have a much better opinion on what signs to see nowadays, but I'm sure many people are quite adept at hiding their symptoms from the general public until such time as they can't.

Their is still a social stigma involved for people who suffer from a mental health issue. And that from people who do not suffer from a mental health issue.

Everyone just assumes you can just shake it off... or let your smile be your umbrella when depression reigns.

It's not that simple, and shame to all the people who believe it is.

It's also not as simple as "just take a pill" for it.

That's caveman thinking, I'm sorry to say.

People seem to believe that mental health illness is one of those "invisible" illnesses... but physical pain can accompany such illnesses as depression or anxiety, via sweating, heart palpitations, headaches, stomach cramps or problems with skin, hair and fingernails. There could also be behavior changes.

For those of you who have trouble getting out of bed... waking up but staying in bed, it could depression. It could also just be you being tired, but when it happens repeatedly, and only on work days, well...

At work, I've noticed people who walk around with their eyes focused on the carpet, never looking up as people pass by. I've wanted to say hello, but feared disturbing them, as they obviously wanted to be left alone.

Is that depression? Maybe. Maybe it's a social anxiety disorder. Maybe it's just shyness. Maybe it's just a disconnect with the world as they ponder some other issue that's none of my business.

I walk around 99% of the time with a smile on my face. It is one of those endearing traits that probably make some want to punch me in the face as much as it makes others want to engage in a real conversation.

I am so much more than a "hey, how are you"... I'll give you my whole life story if you aren't careful.

But mostly, I ask the questions that give one the chance to provide a real answer and, failing that, will probe with a more poignant one. In other words, I try to bring people out of their shell.

But can you do that with depression or other forms of mental illness? I'm not sure. I know I failed miserably in my attempts in the past—mostly because I had no idea what I was looking at, and had no clue how to respond to it.

That's most of us, I'm afraid.

Let me change things up here regarding mental health. It's not just the victim's problem.

I do feel strongly about this... doctors and their patients who suffer from mental illness all seem to think that the sufferer has it bad... and they do... but let me tell ya, it ain't effin' easy knowing someone who is afflicted with mental health issues.

I have been treated like crap... and while the "victim" might eventually resolve their mental health issues, everyone around them is left to pick up the pieces... often because the sufferer has no recollection of saying or doing what they did.

I've had stuff done to me, said about me, lies spread to others... stuff that is just horrible...  

How do you apologize for something and mean it, when you have no recollection of having said or done it?

Even if they do apologize, it can feel hollow because without knowing what happened—even if told—the apology never seems "heartfelt".

Granted, that's up to the individual to forgive and forget. I don't forget. That crap eats at me every day... when things are said that have no meaning to the ex-sufferer, but if they had a proper memory, they would never say it again for fear of upsetting their friend.

But they say it... oblivious to whatever may have happened before. it doesn't affect them because it's an innocuous comment... but to you... it's another painful reminder.

Did you know that when a person who is bipolar takes the right medication to control their manic-depression, while it is a great thing for the person suffering, it's not necessarily as great for those closest... as they question if the new and improved person is the same person they liked before.

Hells, what if you met someone who was all fun and games, but unbeknownst to you in a manic high? With the medication that controls these unsettling mood swings, and the happy high never rears its head again, are they the same person? No.

Is that good or is that bad? I suppose it depends on who you are asking.

While World Mental Health Day is important... to recognize that there are people suffering from mental health issues... that it can affect anyone at anytime...

While we should all do our best to identify those around us who may be suffering from a mental health issue, I do believe we should also take care of those who have had to put up with the issues of someone with a mental health issue.

I'm just saying that there is always more than one victim when it comes to mental health issues, and always more than one person who could use a kind word. I would just like the mental health professionals to be aware of that.

You can help people get their mental health issues under control, but if there are outside social issues, won't those also have an affect on the sufferer's overall mental health?

Make sure you talk to all parties who could be involved in a mental health situation. Maybe more than one person could use some advice or help, too. 

Andrew Joseph
PS: My work computer had the blog I was originally going to present here... all written and edited... just not uploaded yet. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


It's Thanksgiving here in Canada... my family already celebrated it on Sunday, so I'm well into eating leftover turkey meat on Monday as I write this...

So allow me to be as brief as possible (for me), and tell you about the newest invention to come out of Japan since 2012... okay... it came out in 2012, and I only just heard about it today a few minutes ago when some crazy History Channel program made a 10-second mention of it...

It's the SpeechJammer, a gun-like device that is pointed at a talkative person... disable their speech process and hopefully they will shut the eff up.

It's a real thing.

While the Japanese inventors misspell the word "speech" with "speach" within their YouTube video (just once, mind you), I was intrigued by the device... I just don't know how practical it is in real life.

I wonder, however, if some government agency hasn't purchased the SpeechJammer for themselves or hired the inventors to come and work for them for some spy-related nefarious purposes.

I don't believe it can be used on Twitter commenters, which may explain why some people prefer to tweet from their oval office washroom at 6AM, than make real speeches in public.

For the full details on the SpeechJammer, click HERE.

Kan... uh... tur... uh.. key?
Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 9, 2017

Japan Backs America's "All Options" Versus North Korea

No surprise here. On October 8, 2017, Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) has given his complete backing of United States of America president Donald Trump who has publicly stated that when it comes to handling troublesome North Korea, that "all options are on the table."

Now, no one know exactly what president Trump means when he says "all options are on the table", perhaps not even Trump himself, but it is obviously suspected by everyone who has read or heard the utterance, as meaning that even nuclear options are on the table.


That must make South Korea and other countries--namely China and Russia--bordering North Korea a bit antsy.

Regardless of what those three countries may ultimately think of North Korea, no one wants to be neighbors with a smoldering hole in the ground that stinks of nuclear radioactive char.

Forgetting about the whole radioactive half-life and how long it lingers, there's the immediate concern of radioactive fallout from any sort of nuclear option... IE... just where is that nuclear mushroom cloud going should the winds kick up?

Japan is close enough to the east of the Koreas for there to be wind-blown concern.

During his speech, Abe noted that North Korea did not act on past promises to end its nuclear weapon's program made during six-party talks with Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.

The Japanese leader further claimed that: "They (North Korea) used the framework of the dialogue  to earn time so that they could develop their nuclear technology. As the result, their nuclear capability has reached to this level and we cannot afford being deceived by them again."

Now, whether president Trump means to consider nuclear war, or simply regular old, non-nuclear war is what everyone is waiting on him to decode... with Trump only saying, "you'll find out soon enough."

To me that sounds like typical Donal Trump... shooting his mouth of first before finding out if what he had in mind is even actually possible, feasible, or something that should be done.

I understand his frustration in this manner.

North Korea is doing its best to poke the bear. Poke-ah-poke-ah-poke-ah.

It's annoying... and yes, eventually the bear does react.

Trump and all else are aware that sanctions against North Korea don't hold much sway when countries friendly to North Korea (China and Russia, we're looking at you), still trade with them... but trade in goods that are not covered by various sanctions...  therefore China and Russia are not doing anything illegal (globally-speaking)...

So what's a ginger King to do?

Nuclear war was a viable option during WWII against Japan. Japan was far enough away from every other country, and Japan itself was aware it would never surrender... heck... did Japan surrender after the first so-called atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945? No. Did it surrender immediately after the second atomic bomb on August 9, 1945? No.

Japan still had to talk about it. They wanted to ensure that any Japanese surrender would still allow for the Japanese throne to be intact. After feeling that it would be allowed, Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. A good thing too, as Japan had a third atomic bomb ready.

Parts for the bomb were readied and shipped to the final transport destination, with the decision already made to drop the third atomic bomb on Japan on August 19, with U.S. president Truman saying he wanted six MORE atomic bombs ready for when the US-led Allied forces landed on Japan to systematically defeat Japan on its own soil. You can read about that story by clicking on: THIRD ATOMIC BOMB.

So... what sort of options does U.S. Donald Trump have for North Korea?

I guess we'll all find out eventually. Say what you will about the president... he doesn't back down... and, since this is far from American borders--despite north Korea's claims to have nuclear missiles capable of hitting the U.S.--taking on North Korea may help president Trump garner that much desired respect.

I wonder if president Trump is betting that when North Korea says it has missiles capable of hitting the U.S.... does he figure, as I do, that that ONLY means hitting Saipan of Guam... two countries far-and-away from the continental United States, but still close to North Korea... and Japan?

So far, that is the breadth of North Korea's nuclear capabilities that we have seen on display.

It may be why president Trump is willing to look at "all options on the table."

You know... it's because of Puerto Rico... it does seem obvious to me--I'm not speaking for anyone else--that president Trump did indeed treat the hurricane relief effort differently than he did with Texas and Florida.

Granted that may have been because Puerto Rico is NOT part of the continental U.S. (sorry Alaska and Hawaii... Alaska... we all know that all help must come through Canada)... and as a country under U.S. control but not really a part of the U.S.... priorities lie elsewhere.

The same certainly must hold true to other such territories, like Saipan and Guam.

How do I know that Puerto Rico isn't REALLY a part of the U.S.? Well... Puerto Rico always seems to have its own Miss Universe country contestant, for example... and when she wins, as has often been the case, the U.S. claims Puerto Rico's victory as its own, though not when she loses.

I know... it's the little things... but it's always good to know where you stand when all options are on the table.

I've not been to Guam... but I did see its shores while standing on the beaches of Saipan.

Andrew "I wish I had options" Joseph

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Game Of Thrones - Japanese Book Covers

George R.R. Martin is the writer and creator of a very popular book series entitled A Song Of Ice And Fire, with the first of the series' novels called A Game Of Thrones.

I'm new to the books, and new to the HBO television series, called A Game Of Thrones.

I only began watching the series about two months before the 2017 season, catching up quickly in time to watch the new season... and now feel the pain of having to wait at least another year to see possibly the conclusion of the series.

Unlike some, I also like to read the real version of things... IE, read the books to see just how different the television series is from the original vision of the creator.

I did that, for example, with The Walking Dead... reading multiple collections of the comic book - why I didn't buy that first issue when it came out I'll never know... perhaps because I though zombies were stupidly over-rated... just run faster than the shambling undead... but the TV show, and then the comic books set me straight.

With A Game of Thrones, I am aware that the TV series followed the then four books available close enough, but since Martin hadn't finished the fifth book, and a fifth television series was required, A Game of Thrones veered away from the creator's vision and created its own unique path.

I will be curious to see if the book's author will alter his own game plan to fit closer to the television series, or, if having seen the fifth season et al has decided he has a different vision in mind.

Oh... please keep in mind that I am only on book 3: A Storm Of Swords...

Anyhow... I wondered if Japan was into A Game Of Thrones... the television show, or the books.

While I don't know if Japan is into the books, I do know that they are into the television series, and have even created a manga version... well... actually... it's still the SAME Martin novels... broken up into smaller books, but with pretty cool manga artwork on the cover!

The novel covers for the Japanese books of A Song Of Fire And Ice (aka A Game Of Thrones) are below:

Book 1: A Game Of Thrones: Part 1 - Jon Snow
Book 1: A Game Of Thrones: Part 2 - Daenerys
Book 2: A Clash Of Kings: Part 1 - Arya Stark
Book 2: A Clash Of Kings: Part 2 - Sansa Stark
Book 3: A Storm Of Swords Part 1 - Margaery Tyrell
Book 3: A Storm Of Swords Part 2 Tyrion Lannister
Book 3: A Storm Of Swords Part 3 - Samwell Tarly
Book 4: A Feast For Crows Part 1 - Jaime Lannister
Book 4: A Feast For Crows Part 2 - Cersei Lannister
Book 5: A Dance With Dragons Part 1 - Daenerys
Book 5: A Dance With Dragons Part 2 - Bran Stark
Book 5: A Dance With Dragons Part 3 - Jon Snow
It's funny... people look at the Japanese art style of their beloved A Game Of Thrones characters and scream bloody murder... because they don't like the characters on the TV show.

It's true... the Japanese art stylings look very little like the characters on the HBO television series.

What you need to know, however, is that the characters on the HBO television series do NOT look the way creator George R.R. Martin created them either.

While the play's the thing--the Japanese manga version should follow the basic plot of the books (as the television show did for the first four season - mostly)--it doesn't have to have the characters look just like the book or the television show.

They should be recognizable, however, to fans of all mediums.

If you look at the cover showing Tyrion... he looks nothing like the book description, nor the stoic and heroic television version. But, and this is the important part... when you see the drawing... you can figure out who it is you are looking at easily enough.

Anyhow... if you haven't watched the television series, I would say you are missing out. Fans of hot babes and boobs will watch the first episode and be hooked... which, admittedly, is what happened to me.

Honestly... if someone had told me what the first episode was like, I would have watched the show earlier... I had liked D&D et al, and the Final Fantasy video games, as well as the Ultima computer games... I've read Conan by Robert E. Howard and all the others who came after him to further the genre. I've read Conan in the comics and watched the three movie versions - and enjoyed them all... but, despite loving the entire genre of sword & sorcery, I was leery about A Game of Thrones.

I knew the series was by George R.R. Martin... but here's the thing... a few years past before anyone had ever heard of Jon Snow or Daenerys or The Wildlings, I had read a different book written by him, and I hated it so much I couldn't finish reading... the first time that ever happened.

I mean I hated Dune by Frank Herbert... reading a few hundred pages of the novel before giving up... but I tried again... and again, before finally getting through it. It was good... I just didn't happen to care for the author's style of writing. I watched the movie, but was pretty sure I would never read the book again or anything else by the author.

The same thing happened with that other Martin book.

Happily, A Game of Thrones and the other Martin novels are not like that. Maybe it's because I watched the television shows first... and so, what I read is visually more appealing... I don't know.

But that's what I would do. Watch the HBO television series, then read the novels by George R.R. Martin, and then see if you can buy two copies of the Japanese books and send them to me as a thank-you present for getting you involved in the whole series.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Japanese Money: Infectious Diseases And The ¥5,000 Bill

In Japan, paper money is a relatively new concept, with paper money first coming to the forefront in 1893.

The paper money out in Japan right now isn’t the same as what I saw back in 1990-1993, but that’s cool, right?

We want to see some progression in our money… new designs… stuff that makes a coin and paper note collector happy.

I am providing a more in-depth look (because that’s what I do) of the the three main currencies paper-wise, namely the ¥1,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 notes issued in 2004 AD.

I was originally going to write about all of them in this blog… but after doing a bit of reading on just ONE of the bills—the ¥1,000, which you can read all about scandals and successes HERE, I feel it is imperative we do a more indepth look at each…

… and maybe question how Japan chooses who gets to be on its paper money.   

Unlike the 2004 issue for it ¥1,000 paper note, the ¥5,000 bill is kindda boring. Whew.

I also have no doubts as to why Japan chose the person they chose to appear on the bill. Deserving-ish.
The image of the Iris flowers is taken from the image painted on the screen below.

The purple-ish bill features, on the reverse, features on the left side, some flowers… irises, which seems innocuous… but they are actually painted irises done by artist Ogata Korin (尾形光琳 - 1658-June 2, 1716) who originally painted them on a large folding wooden screen (a byōbu).

The Irises byōbu is known as shihonkinji chakushoku kakitsubata-zu (紙本金地著色燕子花図), and is a pair of six-panel byōbu… and is registered as a Japanese National Treasure.

The work, done around 1701-05, depicts an abstract view of water with drifts of Japanese iris plants.   

The images are supposed to be beside each other... with the top image on the left of the bottom image. This is the famous The Irises screen painting by Ogata Korin.
There’s nothing scandalous about the life of Ogata Korin, except for the typical artist way of dying poor, but famous.

His art, however, is believed to have influenced impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh… not surprising, since van Gogh created paintings that mimicked famous Japanese ukiyo-e artwork.

And for the front of the bill, there’s a portrait of Higuchi Ichiyō (surname first, 樋口 一葉), a Meiji-era poet and writer. 

What is interesting about that, is that Higuchi is a woman.

It’s not a big deal to me that a woman is anything she wants to be. But Japan does have a well-earned reputation as being a bit misogynistic…

Just like in my write-up on the ¥1,000 bill, the person on  the front… that’s not her real name.

Higuchi Ichiyō is the pen-name of Higuchi Natsu (樋口 奈津)… who was also known as Higuchi Natsuko (樋口 夏子). Actually, Natsuko is her given name.

Using “ko” at the end of a name means child (子), and is usually placed at the end of a Japanese femnale’s name. (Mi is the other syllable placed at the end of names, written as 美, and means “beautiful.)

I’m just going to refer to her as Higuchi from here on.

She was born on May 2, 1872, living a mere 24 years, dying on November 23, 1896, and with such a short life, there isn’t much of her work available… but what she did write… it apparently is so good that even today’s Japanese public appreciates it today.

Despite being born in an era when Japaneseness was less in demand in Japan than it was abroad (People in Europe wanted everything Japanese, while the Japanese wanted Europe in their lives).

Still… Higuchi’s writing was based upon Japanese models, unlike her Japanese peers who now wrote based on Western models.

You know how nowadays you can pick up a play written in English by William Shakespeare and not understand all of the English? Well, Higuchi used the Classical Japanese language in her works.

Just like with the works of Shakespeare are not translated to modern English, Higuchi’s work is also not translated to modern Japanese… as such, many of today’s readers have difficulty in understanding her stories.

Higuchi’s parents had come to Tokyo from a nearby farming community before she was born… father trying to purchase a low-rank samurai position… but the Meiji era (1868 on) was when the samurai class was being phased out.

He got the samurai position, and then had it taken away from him. Keeping up that trend, her father got a job in a municipal government - lost it. Then he took all of the family’s savings, and invested in a business venture - it failed.

Beats me why this guy ever left the farming business, because he obviously was successful enough at it to afford losing money in one scheme and one business venture and to support his family after losing his job.

The failed investment occurred just before the then 14-year-old Higuchi began studying classical poetry.

Now… here’s the thing… Higuchi’s classical poetry studies were done at the Haginoya, which is a conservatory for poetry… meaning it costs money.

She received weekly poetry lessons and lectures on Japanese literature.

Really… dad must have done okay with earning money… just not keeping it.

Coming from rural beginnings, Higuchi felt awkward around her classmates at the Haginoya… most of whom were upper-class.

She also was near-sighted, quiet, shy, short and had thin, thin hair.
Higuchi Ichiyō.
 Aside from the hair thing, she sounds like me as a kid. I studied the stats line of my hockey team, rather than classical Japanese poetry, however.

In 1891, Higuchi began to write a daily diary… cover the last five years of her life…

It’s where her writing began to take shape. Hmm… I can relate.

She must have written about her self in a very introspective manner… as each entry was long, descriptive and contained feeling…

At that time, Higuchi, her sister and mom all did extra work performing odd jobs such as sewing or washing, but it was in 1892 when Higuchi heard about a class mate writing a novel, that she decided she would do it too as a way to support her family.

How wonderfully naive.

Higuchi met Nakarai Tosui in 1891, who at the age of 31 was a womanizer. Just wait. I already gave you a decent description of Higuchi.

Nakarai… he was an advisor to Higuchi.

She didn’t know that Nakarai was into writing popular fiction (like me… except his was popular), and hated the serious stuff… while she only wanted to write the serious stuff because she hated popular fiction. yes, how bourgeois.

Of course, she wasn't... but that was her writing style.

While Higuchi fell in love with Nakarai, he only thought of her as a little sister, and didn’t try to take advantage of her in any way, shape or form.

Higuchi realized it was a failed relationship, romance-wise… and used it in her writings… as I was always told… write what you know… though I actually didn’t know much about Japan or aviation before I started writing about each.

In 1892, Higuchi sold her first fictional story to a minor newspaper. It, and all the other stories she sold through 1894 were all written with all the pretentiousness of an English major (write what you know), as she felt compelled to write in the Classical Japanese language, even if no one else was interested in it.

While this early stuff was weak, scholars note that the beginnings of her strong style were appearing… such as her common theme of a triangle relationship:
lonely, beautiful, young woman who has lost her parents, a handsome man who has abandoned her (and remains in the background), and a lonely and desperate ragamuffin who falls in love with her.

I don’t know… it sounds pretty common… but I guess the way she wrote about it must have been spectacular. What with that whole Classical Japanese Language style.

Now... I can tell you that being a writer may sound glamorous... what with all the respect one garners (I can't even write that with a straight face! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!), by 1893 Higuchi and family... which at this time seemed to only consist of herself, her sister and mother--probably ditched that good-for-nothing man who keeps losing the family money... anyhow, they had to leave their middle-class Tokyo home and move to a more affordable neighborhood.

That neighborhood was just five minutes away from Yoshiwara... Tokyo's famous prostitution area (still around today, in various shapes and forms).

They started up a stationary store... and that failed too after a while.

So it wasn't just her father's fault. Sometimes it is location-location-location. People in-and-around the prostitution zone simply didn't write a lot of letters... at least not on fancy, scented paper. What would they write about.

"Dear Nobu-chan, 
Today I spent our family's money on a prostitute. 
I had a very good time.
PS: If you place this letter to your nose and inhale, you can smell... well... paper. But man there's some fancy stuff on the side making this look like a high-class letter. Unlike my choice of prostitute."

The good news for our featured young woman, Higuchi, is that the poor neighborhood provided her with ample experience from which to cull, later enabling her to write: "Takekurabe", (literally, "Comparing heights" which was also translated as "Child's Play" and "Growing Up" depending on which English translation one reads.

Her stories between 1894-96 maintained a focus on family struggles, as well as the poor conditions suffered by women - all easy to see in her neighborhood. She was able to write stories focusing on suffering and sensitivity. 

She also found low-life characters... which she found to be great characters to plumb.  

At this time, she penned: "Ōtsugomori" ("On the Last Day of the Year"), "Nigorie" ("Troubled Waters"), "Wakare-Michi" ("Separate Ways"), "Jūsan'ya" ("The Thirteenth Night") and "Takekurabe" ("Child's Play")--the latter two are considered to be amongst her best work.

These stories gave her fame within the Tokyo literati, and gained respect as writers, poetry students, fans, critics and editors would visit her at her home, hoping to work with her.

But... all was not well. Just like her father and one of her brothers, Higuchi contracted tuberculosis, and died on November 23, 1896, at the age of 24.

With Higuchi's portrait on the 2004 AD issue of the ¥5000 banknote, she became the  third woman to appear on a Japanese banknote, after Empress Jingū in 1881 (she ruled Japan about 1,900 years ago) and Murasaki Shikibu in 2000 (she wrote The Tale of Genji about 1,000 years ago).

Higuchi's best-known stories have been made into movies.

Hey... waitaminute... tuberculosis!?!

Didn’t that guy on the ¥1,000 bill have syphilis, go whackadoodle, and die from Yellow Fever?

Holy Hannah and her sisters!

I want you to know that I did not know that when I began writing about ANY of these topics. I can hardly wait to see what we uncover about the person on the ¥10,000 bill... forthcoming.

Andrew Joseph