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Friday, September 22, 2017

Conveyor Belt Sushi Luggage

I’m sure the above photo is just a marketing ploy by some Japanese company selling overwraps for luggage that look like sushi.

It’s funny on multiple levels seeing as how Japan invented the conveyor belt sushi shop.

For the uninitiated, at such conveyor line sushi shops, the chefs place specific color quarter plates on the line, with a couple of pieces of sushi. The conveyor belt line winds around the establishment, and at any time the customer—who is eating directly behind the conveyor, can pull off a quarter dish of their favorite sushi and eat it.

At the end of the day, you take your empty quarter plate up, and are charged appropriately.

The quarter plates are actually color coded.

For example, a yellow rimmed quarter plate always contains shrimp sushi and krab sushi (not crab sushi).

A blue rimmed quarter plate might hold a more expensive eel sushi.

Green rimmed might be an expensive tuna…

The point is, when you were finished eating, you took you empty plates up to the cashier who counted out the different color plates, knowing that each plate has a certain ¥-value.

Yellows are ¥100 yen; Green ¥240; Blue ¥175… just as an example.

Which is why placing these sushi baggage wraps atop an airport luggage container is an amusing proposition.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: The egg sushi, seen second from the lower right, is my favorite. That and eel.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Duke’s 1890 Trading Card: Flower Day, Japan

A long, time ago, in a country far away, a tobacco company created a set of cards to amuse its consumers.

In 1890, the Duke’s Cigarettes set of cards featuring the theme of “Holidays” was released, featuring 50 cards, each representing a “holiday” from somewhere around the planet.

While the art from this series is generally considered to be spectacular, holy crap does the data on the reverse leave a lot to be desired.

I collect tobacco cards—specifically the 17 sets (or so) based on the Wills’s 1910 Aviation series of 50 cards.

After the initial set of 50 cards in 1910, in 1911, different tobacco companies released variations of sets in both 75- and 85-card series, with some different cards, and some identical in every way except one has a black ink reverse, and the other a green ink reverse.

The Duke’s set… they only ever offered a particular series just the once… but it being some 20 years older than mine, it has a certain $ premium…

if you look at the reverse of the Holidays card below, you will note that at no point does it actually mention WHEN the holiday is. Even a general date… like the first Thursday of XX month. Or say when it approximately begins.


Maybe say that this is an ancient cultural aspect of Japan going back some 1500 years, and is now known as ‘hanami’ - flower blossom viewing, especially as the plum and cherry trees bloom.

That’s when people stroll about in their gay attire and sip a delicious tea and write lovely gut-wrenching poems about love and spring…

I do find it interesting that poems written (at least as of 1890), were hung “upon some friendly bough.”

Does that mean that others could come along and read your crappy haiku?

“I love’em in frills
I love’em in lace,
But I love’em the best
When they sit on my… never mind. You get the idea… people are going to judge you.

I would imagine it was the brave romantic poet who left his poetry hanging about for others to enjoy.

He stood before the judge that day
And picked his nose like fury
He rolled them into little balls
And flicked them at the jury.

or… the world’s shortest poem, entitled: “Fleas”
Adam
Had’em

I’m here all week folks. Try the veal and don’t forget to tip your server.

No... I do not claim ownership as originator of those poems. I a mean Godzilla haiku creator, however... so I recommend you do a search above for "Godzilla haiku" and see what comes up... like one's lunch. 

Anyhow… the Duke’s Holiday Card could have used some better information.  

I suppose, however, since few people had any common knowledge of Japan, seeing this card and reading all about the gay attire (I know what it means!!!) in 1890, it must have been a step across the globe for people’s imagination.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

You ever heard the old song “Anything You Can Do”, written in 1946? I’m sure you know it or have heard snippets of it…

Here… have a listen:


The song is from the 1946 musical “Annie Get Your Gun”, and should you have deigned not to have a listen to the oldie but goodie, I'll tell you that it’s a song with a single male singer and a single female singer, who are basically having an argument about who’s the best.

The best what?  Ahhh, there’s the rub.    

As most people are aware, North Korea is being a real dick right now, testing its long-range missile program every few days or so by launching a missile, causing it to fly OVER Japan… to land in the ocean

What’s the big whoop?

Well, it not only flies OVER Japan—without approval… but what if the missile fails during the flight?

It’s called a missile test… sometimes it passes, sometimes it fails. So… whenever North Korea brazenly fires a missile over Japanese lands, Japan blasts out warning sirens for its populace to take shelter, in case it fails and plummets to the ground.

Why does North Korea do this? Is it angry at Japan?

Well, d’uh… yes… it is angry at Japan. Mainly because it’s not North Korea and a not a socialist state like it is, and therefore it is weak and beneath contempt.

Then there’s the fact that Japan is an ally to the United States of America. Say what you will about President Trump, he might be considered by some within his own country as a bully, and as such he sure hates it when others then he’s weak.

It’s actually nothing personal against president Trump. North Korea enjoys testing the mettle of each new president… seeing what it can get away with… what sort of response North Korea receives… its high-stakes politicking, and Japan is caught in the middle.

And yes, it is also North Korea showing the world not to fug with it, because it is developing nuclear-delivery missiles that can hit targets as far away as the U.S., should it want or need to.

North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un is a cagey bugger. The thing to know first, is that he is smart.

It is my firm belief that he’s not stupid enough to fire a nuclear weapon at US territory Guam, as it has threatened to do.

It has no desire to actually drop a missile onto Japan—though if one should actually fail and land on Japan—oops… we didn’t mean to do that.

No.. the name of the game is intimidation.

Like all bullies, you have to continue to put it out there that you are a bad dude. You have to do bad stuff.

But, instead of smacking around some bespectacled little kid with asthma, North Korea is flexing its nuclear might.

Surely supreme leader Kim Jong-un realizes that if it goes to war against anyone, it’s own country will be vaporized with counter nuclear attacks… and woe to all those poor dumb countries unlucky enough to be near it when it happens… like China or South Korea… we know it as MAD… mutual assured destruction… and it is a nuclear detente that the world has been forced to live with since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb or two on Japan and poached as many of Nazi Germany’s top scientists as it could ahead of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic), now for better or worse know just as Russia.

So… North Korea is flexing its muscles.

What can the rest of the world do?

Countries are busting North Korean acquaintance China to try and keep them under control. They are  begging China to stop feeding supplies to North Korea. China says it will—as far as the requested embargoes go, but it will continue to trade with North Korea… mostly because it needs to for its own economic continuance. Besides… it wasn’t on the embargo list.

What do you do with a bully?

You stand up to them. You flex back and hope like hell the bully doesn’t decide to lash out. Most of the time… in real life… they say that a bully is just as afraid of you as you are afraid of them. I don’t know about that.

But if you are a big country, with lots of friends, with lots of weapons… you can create an imaginary line and flex away to show the bully that you are unafraid.

So… after North Korea performed its sixth nuclear underground test on September 3, 2017, the United Nations imposed sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea said, WTF, and in a show of “we’re not afraid” launched its latest missile over Hokkaido, Japan this past weekend… where the missile (non-nuclear) landed far off in the sea to the east of Japan. 

America said WTF… and so on September 18, 2017—and with permission—the U.S. military flew 10 total aircraft featuring advanced bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula and near Japan in drills with South Korean and Japanese warplanes….

It was done by South Korea and Japan just to remind North Korea that it has weapons and isn’t afraid to use them… and it has a big buddy in the U.S…. so don’t start none, if ya don’t want none.

Really… that’s what’s going on. Posturing. Whipping out the old penis to see who has the bigger one, and then peeing all over the place to see who can pee farthest and longest.

The Fly-by by the U.S., South Korea and Japan featured:
  • two Rockwell B-1B Lancer bombers from the U.S.;
  • four Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIF-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) fighters  from the U.S;
  • four McDonnell Douglas F-15K Slam Eagle fighter jets from South Korea.
Hmm… so what the heck did Japan send? Well… keep in mind that after WWII, Japan was not allowed to develop a military… which is one reason why Japan allows the U.S. to maintain military bases on its islands.

During the South Korean flyovers, the U.S. and South Korean planes practiced attacks by releasing live weapons at a firing range in South Korea.

The U.S. warplanes also conducted formation training with Japanese fighter jets (these aircraft are part of Japan’s Self Defense Forces… and is a fun way of saying it’s a non-aggressive military that’s not a military) over waters near the southern island of Kyushu.

This past weekend, the official North Korean state media quoted supreme leader Kim Jong-un as saying his country’s goal “is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option” for the North.

What that means, is that North Korea wants to make sure it is strong enough to repel any possible attempts by the U.S. or other forces by having as much nuclear might as others do.

Take what you want from Kim Jong-un’s statement, but it sounds like he’s saying he just wants to be
left alone.

Well… I believe that he wants to unify Korea by annexing South Korea into the glorious totalitarian regime under one supreme leader Kim Jong-un… he just doesn’t want the U.S. to get involved in any war it starts, because otherwise he’ll attack the U.S.

The plan, as I see it:
  • North Korea attacks South Korea.
  • Anyone who tries to help South Korea, gets bombed by North Korea.
That’s the plan.

Of course, North Korea has not stated such grandiose plans officially, but I’d bet heavily that that’s the plan. 

The simplest option would be for South Korea to arm itself in a similar fashion… but do we need yet another country with nuclear capabilities? No… so it could ask ally U.S.A to bring back and park its nuclear weapons in the general vicinity in a visible act of hopeful deterrence towards North Korea.

What would happen then? North Korea would threaten back… telling the U.S. to gets is missiles away from the Korean (Cuban) Missile Crisis… only unlike the former Soviet Union which blinked and backed down in October of 1962, supreme leader Kim Jong-un wants everyone to believe he won’t blink.

We aren’t there yet… but that’s my best guess as to where we are heading.

Eventually,  even a bully that doesn’t want to fight might have to in order to try and save face. That’s where we’ll see if ego is more powerful than common sense.

Uh-oh.

How much do bomb shelters cost? And… what's the best way to kill a mutant? I better watch Beneath The Planet Of The Apes again. Man, that movie sucked.

Andrew Joseph
PS: For fun, read the political analysis written by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau, Toronto Star: HERE. In it, he says: "Experts believe Kim is rational, not mad, and that he wants to avoid nuclear war. But they have long feared that Kim might be provoked by loose Trump language into miscalculating, launching a strike..." Okay... maybe you don't have to click on the link now - but I would. Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Japanese Woman Now Oldest Person On Planet

It's kind of the suckiest title to own, because it means someone has to die ahead of you... but
Tajima Nabi (田島 ナビ, surname first) is now the oldest person on Earth at the age of 117 years of age after the recent passing of Jamaica's Violet Brown on September 15, 2017 (dying at the age of 117 years and 189 days).

Born August 4, 1900, in what was once Wan Village, but now part of Kikai Town in Kagoshima, Tijima is proof that the Japanese don't really move far from where they were born, now living in Kikai, Kagoshima-ken... the same place...

At 117-years of age (and I think 48 days), Tajima is now the oldest Japanese person ever (this means oldest officially recorded and documented person). Heck, she's the oldest Asian person ever... whatever that means.

The photo above is recent (relative to 117 years), with Tajima finding out in 2016 that she was now the second-oldest person on the planet Earth... or she's celebrating VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day)... or she's simply doing the Japanese penchant (since forever) for flashing the peace sign whenever anyone with a camera shows up.

Come one... I'm sure she has a sense of humor! I'm just having fun with her. I'm hoping to make it past half her age... and who knows.

Classic zen:
Which would you rather be? The dead butterfly or the live caterpillar.
The dead butterfly... it has achieved the next stage of metamorphosis... while the caterpillar may not make it to that level.

It doesn't mean you have to die... it just means that sometimes... when someone has reached a whole new level - like say reaching 100 years of age - well... they've made it... and despite all your own current potential, you may never get to their level... we could get hit by a bus on the way home tomorrow...

Tajima, bless her, has nine kids—seven sons and two daughters, 28 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren, and 35 great-great-grandchildren.

Wikipedia also says she has great-great-great grandkids, but does not provide a number, so I will discount at this time (or simply not include them).

I don't get this part... but maybe I do... it says that as of September 15, 2017, Tajima is the last surviving person born in the 19th century... so I guess the 20th century did not begin until January 1, 1901... which I guess is what Wikipedia is getting to.

It means that all other pretenders to Tajima's silver (hair) crown were born in 1901 and later.

And... since we all want to know what the secret to Tajima's success at achieving such an age could be due to... aside from genetics she says the key is sleeping well and eating delicious things... what... like Krispy Kreme glazed donuts?

No? Has she ever had one? Tajim may not know what delicious foods are, confusing them with the term "healthy."

Let's see... nope... she likes to eat ramen noodles and rice mackerel sushi. I'm not sure why the word "rice" needs to be in the phrase "rice mackerel sushi" as I suppose a sushi requires rice... and while I'm sure there's nothing wrong with mackerel, I prefer eel.

When she says ramen... I'm assuming she doesn't mean that cup of hot water ramen noodle stuff.

Tajima has been around for the birth of the aeroplane/airplane, WWI, WWII and the atomic age, Korea, Vietnam, the first flight to the moon, record players, radio, television, transistor radios, Walkmans, personal telephones, cell phones, smart phones, Dance Dance Revolution, Women getting the right to vote, the death of Beta and LaserDiscs, 8-Track, Cassettes, CDs, DVDs, pirating stuff, 100 years of Mitsubishi, rolling a barrel hoop for fun to mind-numbing brainless fun with video games.

What fun, Tajima-san! What fun! It doesn't matter if you ever experienced any or all of that crap and fun stuff... you were there... you have a unique story to tell... oh please let her have told her story!

Even a story about a common person is uncommon now. It's a unique perceptive into living in a time long... well... for Tajima, it's not lost...

The queen is dead! Long live the Queen.

Banzai, banzai, banzai!
Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 18, 2017

67,824 Centenarians In Japan

For the 47th year in a row, Japan sets a record for a growing number centenarians, now at 67,824 as of September 15, 2017.

I’m a little disappointed.

Mostly because I read the news and expected to be about centurions - as in Roman soldiers. My bad.

While I am of course happy to see such a large number of oldsters ambling about Japan, I’m sure the government of Japan is a bit nonplussed as the country continues to grow older, require more special services, while the younger population base continues to shrink where there is now a negative population increase IE, there are now fewer Japanese people in Japan than there were the previous year.

Anyhow… the centenarian figure from the year previous rose by a total of 2,132 people according to the Japan Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on a report issued on September 15, 2017.

Today, Monday, September 18, 2017, is the country’s Respect For The Aged Day.

Back in 1963, when the survey first began, there were only (?!) 153 centenarians in all of Japan.

By 1998 there were 10,000+ centenarians.

In 2007 there were 30,000+ centenarians for the first time ever… and, now… in just 10 relatively short  years, that centenarian population has more than doubled to its current official number of 67,824.

In the past year, 2,102 women joined the centenarian list, while only (?!) 88 men hit the big 1-0-0. Women, not surprisingly, make up approximately 88% of the total number of centenarians as of 2017.

I’m assuming the men simply just don’t want to live that long.

That’s a “husband” joke. I've used it here before.

If you are a new senior citizen, and would like to hit 100-years-of-age, there are a few places in Japan where the odds appear more in your favor.

  • 97.54 people out of 100,000 in Shimane-ken (Shimane Prefecture) make it to 100.
  • 92.11 people out of 100,000 in Tottori-ken (Tottori Prefecture) make it to 100.
  • 91.26 people out of 100,000 in Kochi-ken (Kochi Prefecture) make it to 100.
Worst odds in Japan for making it to 100 are:
  • Saitama-ken (Saitama Prefecture) at 32.09 people out of 100,000.
  • Aichi-ken (Aichi Prefecture) at 35.01 people out of 100,000.
  • Chiba-ken (Chiba Prefecture) at 37.83 people out of 100,000.
Somewhere having a bag of chips and a smoke,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Back in 1992, I purchased the telephone card celebrating the 100th birthday of twins Kin Narita (成田 きん) and Gin Kanie (蟹江 ぎん) who were born on August 1, 1892. They were the first known twins to have achieved the centenary mark. Gin, whose name means "Silver" is on the left. Kin's name means "Gold", so I would assume she was born first. You usually say Gold and Silver by reason of "value", but then there's that Christmas song about "silver and gold". Damn.   








Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cuddle Bunny

I like rabbits.

Not just water-color Bugs or Roger, but real rabbits. I even had one as a kid that I named Happy. Did I mean Hoppy, and my parents heard Happy? I no longer recall.

He was a nice, common, black rabbit… and after having him for a year—he escaped outside twice—we gave him away to a rabbit farm… and was immediately hopped upon by other rabbits, which was when we realized Happy was a she.

This past year, my front yard wild garden (a wild garden is when things grow, you don’t know what they are, but it looks like you cared, but you didn’t) has been home to a light brown bunny… the back yard to a larger black rabbit with a splotch of white.

It makes me happy (not a pun) when I see rabbits bounding around my house.

And that’s the whole point of rabbit cafes—places where people can go, spend a few yen, and cuddle with a tame rabbit—in Tokyo.

Yeah… Japan… if there is a possibility that you can pet it, there’s a cafe for it: cats, birds… specifically an owl cafe, hostess clubs… plenty of things for the people of Japan to pet.

And rabbits.

Hell… I would go.

Over at the www.allaboutjapan.com website, I noted their Top 5 Tokyo rabbit cafe list—implying that there are more than just five in Tokyo, and that there are probably more in the other megatropolis of Osaka, and in other cities across the country.

So… despite the link being from 2016, I’ll still provide it HERE.

I’ve never been a reptile or amphibian guy, but mammals, especially fairly normal mammals that can be considered pets—better.

I could see how the people of Japan—locked in that endless cycle of work-overtime-little sleep-work could use a break with a snuggle bunny.

Since there appears to be a decline in actual snuggle bunnies involving human beings (perhaps due to overwork, perhaps due to a feeling of “why bother?”), I can see why cafes of cats and birds and bunnies have become popular places to recharge one’s batteries.

Shave and a hare cut,
Andrew Joseph
PS: “Shave and a haircut” - is famously used in cartoons… I last saw it used to antagonize Roger Rabbit in the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” 
PPS: You ever wonder where “shave and a haircut - two bits” came from? Two bits implies 25 cents… a quarter, if you will.
Back in the olden days, a Spanish gold escudos and silver reales could be physically broken and divided into eight bits. Pieces o’ eight - as in pirates.
One quarter of eight bits are two bits. Shave and a hair cut - two bits. It’s just slang. Got it? Good. Never say I don’t teach you anything…   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Social Class And Japanese Fashion - Sort Of

This past July 15, 2017 in a Japan Times on-line article, on the Growing paper clothes trend in rural Japan (see HERE), there was a quote from a 77-year-old Japanese woman named Sato Fumiko (surname first) that caught my attention:

“We could only have stripes,” she says, showing a scrap of fabric woven by her mother. “The people on the bottom couldn’t wear anything else.”

Say what?

Was Sato implying that one’s fashion was wholly-dependent on one’s social class?

Was this some weird Japanese Star Trek phenomenon—operations, engineering and security wear red shirts; blue shirts for the sciences and medical; and gold for command and helm…

I searched the internet looking for context to her quote—and found none.

That doesn’t mean she isn’t correct, of course…. just that the internet doesn’t have that information widely available.

This article is taking a brief look at Japanese fashion—specifically the kimono (着物)—and its role in class distinction.

I don’t know how successful I’m going to be considering I can’t find any information—but what the heck, eh?

Sato states that she grew up poor as a rural farmer’s daughter … not being called poor per se, but realizing she was poor by the fashion her class-conscious parents had her wear.

And it wasn’t because of whether or not she wore silk or cotton, the discriminating factor were the patterns decorating the clothing.

Plain or stripes for the farmers… the so-called peasant class back in the very old days…

No flowers or seasonal motifs allowed for the rural farming families. Whether it was the Emperor, the Shogun, or The Rock, they all wanted you to know your damn role:



It’s not as damning as you might think… pretty much every society has a way of determining one’s social standing by viewing their clothing.

Wearing Keds instead of Nike? Poor versus Rich, or nerd versus cool.

Chanel’s haute couture versus Walmart’s affordable George fashions.

In Japan… stripes on a kimono no longer denote one’s social status—in fact, stripes are looked upon as being pretty damn cool (I think so, anyhow)

See that photo at the very top? You can’t tell me this striped kimono isn’t a good-looking fashion statement.

However… what still exists, are how the colors of the kimono, its weave, the way it is worn, the size and stiffness of the obi (sash), and accoutrements—all tend to accentuate the social rank of the wearer.

The kimono, as we all know, is a traditional Japanese garment—though in Japan, it literally means ‘something you wear’, and is defined as “clothing”. Every type of clothing.

Eventually, the word ‘kimono’ came to denote the full-length, robe held together by an obi (sash - not a belt).

Men and women—using the old definition—wear a kimono… but this is 2017…

Ever since Japan opened its borders to international “guests” in the 1850s, by the 1870s European fashion began to creep into the Japanese DNA.

Kimono robes were no longer the norm… dresses and suits became de rigueur. But I would assume that was pretty much relegated to those working in the cities and larger towns.

Nowadays, men will wear a kimono at fancy tea ceremonies and at weddings, but women… women will wear a kimono as a fashion statement—usually important events—but sometimes just to say “look at me”—even though there is no way a woman would be able to tie herself into a kimono by her solitary self. It’s complex enough that four hands are better.

The kimono, by the way, even in the modern sense, refers to the full ensemble—up to 12 pieces for the woman, and five for the men—NOT including socks or wooden geta (下駄) shoes.


Generally manufactured with silk, there are four types of kimono:

1) Kurotosude: the most formal kimono for MARRIED women. At a wedding, the mother of the bride or groom will wear a black kurotosude kimono. “Kuro” in this term means “black”;

2) Furisode: the most formal kimono for UN-married women, it comes with longer sleeves. I saw these at the “coming-of-age” ceremonies when I stopped by a temple, once;

3) Tomesode: less formal kimono for MARRIED women, and while it can be worn to a wedding, it’s for close relatives of the bride or groom;
    
4) Hakama: less kimono-like in what we westerners picture, it is worn by men, and depending on the pattern—aha!!!!!—it ranges from the formal to less formal. While the hakama looks like western pants, it is in fact a divided skirt. Yes, for men.  

But wait… there’s more. There’s the whole summer kimono known as the yukata.

The yukata is an unlined, light kimono made of hemp, cotton, linen… and is decorated with a single different color of flower or Japanese non-magical sigil.

Worn by men, women, boys and girls—without noted class distinction—the yukata is seen worn at Japanese matsuri (festivals)—heck, if you go to a festival, someone will give you a yukata to wear… maybe even to keep. I was given one at the first ever Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken matsuri I ever attended—an o-bon festival (festival of the dead)… I lost it in the house fire a few years ago… but gave others back because it seemed the right thing to do.  

While I still can’t determine social class distinctions via what patterns adorned old-school Japanese clothing—except that plain of striped meant “peasant”, I do know that for the rest, there are specific kimono decoration patterns worn according to whatever season it is.
  • Winter (mid-November to mid February): It’s winter, so you wear a liner (awase) kimono. Colors are rich and bright—colors I prefer—and patterns will consist of bamboo (take), pine (matsu), and plum blossom (ume). You can wear the plum blossom pattern, but never when the plum tree is blossoming. The feeling is that you don’t want to take away from the natural beauty of the blooming plum and/or cherry tree (see next entry).
  • Spring (mid-February to mid-May): butterflies, cherry blossoms, plum blossoms… but it depends. For example, you can wear cherry or plum blossom patterns—but not when they are in bloom. Light and fresh colors form the base of the lined (a liner in the clothing) kimono.
  • Summer (mid-May to mid-August): Sexy time. Or as sexy as it gets when the woman remains wrapped up in fabric.  Colors are cool, while patterns include rain, flowing water, and god help you, snowflakes. It’s hot and humid in Japan, you should at least look cool… or as cool as you can in a formal kimono. Other patterns are summer flowers and autumn grasses. Remember darlings… it is better to look good, than to feel good. By the way, summer kimono is known as usamono, and can offer such breathable fabrics as lace, sha, ro, and more things I can’t pretend to know. I certainly know what lace is, having torn off certain articles of it from enough women in my urgency after having finally unwrapped a women from her kimono in the quick time of 30-minutes.  Kidding, of course. Women traditionally do not wear underwear under a kimono—regardless of the weather.   
       
  • Autumn (mid-August to mid-November): unlined through September, it is lined afterwards when the temperature gets cooler. Base colors are autumn colors of red, orange, yellow and even purple. Hemp (asanoha), red or yellow maple leaves are popular patterns on the kimono.
In all instances, the obi (sash) worn to tie the kimono together is of a contrasting color to the base color of the kimono, but could—but doesn’t have to—match the secondary color of the kimono.

Of course… no one is going to give a damn if you wear a winter kimono in the summer, but you will give a darn because the liner within the winter kimono is gonna make you sweat, even if I'm not standing near you.

Wearing a winter kimono in the summer or vice-versa is like drinking red wine with your fillet-o-fish. You aren’t supposed to. People will have righteous indignation, but will ultimately chalk it up to you either not giving a sh!t or being socially inept.

Really… who gives a crap.

And before you judge, I prefer a merlot, but the last time I drank wine was maybe seven years ago. There’s no rule against me and alcohol, I just no longer do much drinking of wine, beer or spirits.

Anyhow… should anyone have any information on what Ms. Sato was talking about in her interview in the Japan Times article—namely what patterns different social classes wore on their (old school) kimono—please let me know.

And, because I’m not American, I’ll let former U.S. vice-president Al Gore have the last word:

“We all know the leopard can’t change his stripes.”

No dessert for you if you thought leopards have stripes.

Banzai,
Andrew “Still earning his stripes” Joseph
PS: One kimono, two kimono - never kimonos. There's no visible "plural" in Japanese...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Headline Makes Things Seem Worse Than They Are


According to an article in the September 12, 2017 Asahi Shimbun on-line newspaper, after a en electrical power failure halted service on one monorail track, passengers were forced to transfer to another monorail by using a ladder.

Monorail glitch forces travelers to switch trains using a ladder.

That headline made me want to read the article.

The accompanying photo didn’t show passengers crawling over a ladder to get from the dead train to the saving train…

but imagine… having to crawl over a ladder… or having to step on a ladder making sure your feet don’t slide past the rungs.

What did they do about their luggage - after all, this was a monorail taking 40_ passengers from Tokyo to Haneda Airport.

The thing is… look at the still I took from an accompanying video… does that look like a ladder?

It’s looks like a solid metal bridge.

The passengers could carry their luggage across themselves… 

Granted… I’m sure some people were worried… even scared. The monorail was perched several meters above chilly waters…

See… a deceptive headline.



Here’s the story:

A six-car monorail operated by Tokyo Monorail Co. experienced a transformer glitch at Showajima Station  causing a power outage as it traveled from JR Hamamatsucho Station, traveling to Haneda Airport on September 12, 2017.
 
Another six-car monorail on the adjacent monorail track moved its front car alongside the stuck front car, opened the door, and placed a large, solid, metal walkway between the two monorail cars allowing passengers to move one at a time to the working monorail.

No injuries or illnesses were reported. I’m not sure if anyone missed a flight at Haneda Airport.

Passengers were taken to Showajima Station and then bused to the airport (and other destinations).

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Happy birthday N-chan.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Vandals Hit 1945 Okinawa Suicide Cave

I’m dying again.

After viewing the carnage left over after a vandal(s) ripped apart a memorial to a wartime mass suicide at an Okinawa cave, Buddhist monk Chibana Shoichi (surname first) exclaimed “(The cave) is not just a grave for people who have suffered a sense of guilt for years for surviving the tragedy. “It’s an act of killing the victims again and deriding the excruciating history of Okinawa.”

The infrequently visited cave’s vandalism was spotted on September 12, 2017 when Chibana of nearby Yomitan village in Okinawa-prefecture was leading foreign journalists to the spot.

On April 2, 1945, 83 local Yomitan villagers committed suicide rather than surrender to advancing U.S. forces—a sad fact borne out the Japanese insistence that death would be preferable to capture, telling its populace about made-up atrocities the Allied Forces would perpetrate upon them if alive.

The natural cave, known as Chibichiri, is located within a thick wooded area, and is where the suicide of all—or perhaps “mercy” killed by other Japanese locals—was a monument to their “sacrifice” to Japan.

Along with whatever articles they had with them when they died, their remains still exist in the cave.

Since then, junior and senior high school students who visited Chibichiri on peace programs have laid numerous origami paper cranes.

The vandalism includes shredding of the origami cranes, as well as smashing of the glass bottles and jars left behind by the villagers.

Recent visitors to the cave on September 5, 2017 to honor the dead during Japan’s Bon Matsuri (Festival) did not see anything amiss at that time.

In 1988, the site was vandalized when one year after it was installed as “the statue of peace connecting generations” near the cave’s entrance, the statue was destroyed by a right-wing politico.

In 1995 the statue was rebuilt and placed at the cave’s entrance, along with a sign containing a poem about the 1945 suicide.

During this most recent vandalism, the sign was placed atop the statue.
Buddhist monk Chibana Shoichi points out the jars and bottles smashed by vandals.
I hate seeing crap like this.

You can hate war. You can hate peace in the face of aggression. You can no give a flying fug.

But why destroy someone or something in the process of hate?

How does vandalizing a “memorial” to the dumb buggers of the town who were so indoctrinated by the Japanese government that they felt the need to kill themselves rather than surrender?

I wonder if this was done to send anyone a message? I don’t think so. 

I’ve always felt that vandalism is immaturity. It’s simple selfishness.

I know this goes both ways.

I’ve written about Japan being upset about a memorial to comfort women placed across the street from the Japanese embassy in South Korea.

Japan cries foul… wondering why the mistakes of 70-years ago should be brought up now.

The vandalism of the cave? That’s why. People care about what happened in the past.

As human beings, we have a tendency to honor the dead, and the living who have suffered.

To forget the past is the means to repeating them. It’s History 101.

I have no love affair for a memorial for a bunch of people who killed themselves. I think it’s tragic. I think it’s a stupid death. They didn’t need to die. But Japan made them die. They made themselves die.

I don’t have a problem with the villagers keeping the site as a place to honor the dead… because, as stupid as that mass suicide sounds to me in 2017, it was an acceptable solution in 1945 Japan. I try not to judge them too harshly… I blame the politics of pre- and WWII Japan.

But… what did these pour people of 1945 Yomitan Village do to the person or person who vandalized the site?

Nothing.

Even if we are talking about a son/daughter or grandson/granddaughter who lost someone in the cave in 1945, there’s no reason to vandalize. We’re talking about drug-addled or someone with a mental-health issue.

You can call it politics, if you want… but how does destroying a memorial to the dead and “not signing it” help your political cause? It doesn’t. My two reasons in the previous paragraph stand.

Personally, I think the souls of the dead in this case need to be repatriated into a local cemetery.

Honoring their sacrifice in the cave where they killed themselves may show honor… but it also highlights the stupidity and arrogance of 1945 Japan.

Why honor that at the cave?

Honor them at a cenotaph in front of the cave, but put their remains at the local cemetery… where their family’s remains are before them.

Maybe I’m wrong. What are your thoughts?

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

English: A Rose By Any Other Name - Commentary

I read an article in The Japan News on September 12, 2017 that decried how English used by Americans is different from that used by the Brits.

 Read the commentary HERE.

I have no idea WHY it was presented in The Japan Times, as it didn't really reference Japan.

But let's pretend it does.

English in Japan CAN be confusing for some owing to the wide range of slang or even how certain words mean different things to even native English speakers.

Heck... I have what is known as a neutral English accent, without accent. When I left Japan, my replacement was from Scotland. Can you imagine my students learning English from someone where the natural English has a Scottish accent and the "r's" are rolled.

There's no hard "r" sound in the Japanese language... as the alphabets: ra, ri, ru, re, ro and ryu sounds, for example, are softer and nothing like what an 'R' sounds like throughout North America.

In The Japan Times article, while the commentary itself is extremely weak in my opinion, offering such LOCALIZED terms as “skee-ball” from New Jersey, “funnel cake” from the eastern U.S. and Canada (Canada wasn’t mentioned, but I know of it), and even water ice, which is that Italian ice treat that I’ve never had, but I assume it’s like a Lola (flavored chunk of ice) that I used to have as a kid in Canada.
These are called by the brand name of "Icebergs". I suppose the Lola brand name is dead. Just like my friend's grandmother. See below.
Regarding skee-ball… I’m sure most people have played the game in North America, but have no idea what the game is even called, nor do they even care.


The only important thing to note when describing terms to the Japanese, is that there IS a big difference between water ice and ice water (water with ice in it).

Heck… water ice is actually a localized New Jersey term… not necessarily heard anywhere else.

I don’t see how water ice is flavored ice/Italian ice. Is it water or is it ice? I didn’t even take into account an Italian-American New Jersey accent when pronouncing water ice. Maybe the folks from New Jersey need to fuhgeddaboudit (forget about it).

Of course, “lola” is also what my Filipino buds growing up used to call their “grandma”.

Ehhh, yo! It's Ice, Flavored/Flavoured Ice, water ice or Italian Ice. This image is from www.rockysitalianice.com, and is considered Nashville's favorite Italian ice. Take that "Joisey".
The article says that people in the UK would never know such North American terms. Sure.

I bet a lot of Americans and Canadians et al wouldn’t know some of those terms.

To be fair, the article also points to some British terminology such as “shore” or “seashore”, which d’uh means the “beach” for us colonials, and something called crazy golf… which is what we North Americans know as miniature golf.

Big frickin’ whoop.

How often are ANY of these terms going to come up in a classroom in Japan? Once? Ever?

The article also mentions UK candy floss - which is cotton candy… but I’m pretty sure us westerners know both meanings.

The point of the article, while not specific to Japan, was meant to show language differences between the US and UK, and not necessarily how it is presented in Japan… and so I am confused as to why it is presented in The Japan Times.

What the article FAILS to point out are classic word differences such as “chips” in the UK, which are what North Americans call French Fries.

Potato chips or chips in the west are known as “crisps” in the UK.

Crisps is nothing in particular in the West, but we do enjoy crispy foods.

That might be confusing… but the Japanese know what French Fries are… or certainly what fries are, owing to the proliferation of American fast food restaurants, and a decided lack of British fish and chips shops. That’s also why many people know that “chips” are UK “fries”.

American spelling of certain words is also different from the UK. Canada shares its spelling with the UK.

There’s the obvious UK inclusion of a “u” in such word as “humor”, “colour”, and “neighbourhood”. Then there’s weird spellings of the color grey/gray or theater/theatre and even defense/defence.

I believe that a long time ago, in order to save ink and space in newspapers and magazines, American printers got together and decided to omit the British “u” in words.

I don’t believe it was done maliciously after the American Revolution, but by doing so, the American English language became an entity unto itself.

I tend to use the “American spelling in this blog and others only because I have more American readers (and friends) than I do UK or Canadian.

In Japan, I am pretty sure that their English-language books use Americanized spellings et al (I thought I’d toss in some Latin there).

What does it mean for Japan (and why else, I repeat, is this commentary in The Japan News?

Not much.

It’s “much ado about nothing”… the title also of my favorite William Shakespeare play. Heck… we didn’t even talk about archaic English words or terms or spellings.

The fact that UK people were unaware of some North American terms is nothing to worry about.

It certainly doesn’t make one culture appear stupid relative to the other.

In fact… usage of the terms specifically listed in the article are quite banal.

Skee-ball? Yeah… it is something you pretty much only see at kiddie arcades or at fairs/exhibitions where it’s not all rides. I wonder if skee-ball is called by other terms relative to its location in North America?

I’d be curious to hear how and why ANY of terms used as points of confusion in the article were even uttered in Japan.

Heck... I think there's even a difference in the usage in North America and the UK with the terms "millions" and "billions", and just what the heck the "first floor" of a building really is. But I'm not going there.

In Japan, there are many instances where they use English terms to describe Japanese things… words that can confuse native English speakers.

I’m NOT talking about such katakana Japanese terms like “see-ta” or “aakeido”… go on think about it… those are “sweater” and “arcade”. For you Brits, a sweater isn’t just a portly guy in an un-airconditioned bar having his 10th pint without food… no… a sweater is a “jumper”.

Air-conditioning in Japan, by the way, IS known as "ea-kon". Even using "english" alphabets, it looks impossible to understand!

When I first heard those katakana words meant to SOUND like the English equivalent I had no idea what the heck the Japanese were talking about.

Rather, I am talking about such terms as “sea chicken”.

This IS my favorite Japanese term… pronounced as “shi-chikan”.

The Japanese said they loved to eat this food… something that until recently (as of 1990), they had not eaten much of before.

It was explained that when it comes to such cuisine as tuna, the Japanese only used to eat red meat of the fish.

The white meat was considered “garbage”.

For anyone NOT Japanese, red tuna meat was an expensive delicacy eaten by only the brave, as it was usually raw and placed within sushi or sashimi.

So… when the Japanese finally got into eating the white tuna meat, it was given the strange name of “sea chicken”.

Now… this is where the Brits et al might get confused, as I am unsure if you guys have ever come across this…

In North America (not necessarily including Mexico), we have a brand of canned/tinned white tuna fish called Chicken Of The Sea.

I can still recall the commercials from the 1970s: What’s the best tuna? Chicken of the sea!”


Chicken of the sea… sea chicken… shi-chikan. I'm not even sure if this is a widely-known term in Japan... but for one afternoon in 1990, it managed to kill an  entire English lesson. 

And... this is why the English language is screwy. Not because of skee-ball.

Kanpai,
Andrew “ice water in his veins means something different” Joseph

PS: Happy birthday.
 PPS: Image at top of blog from http://www.freakingnews.com/King-Chicken-Of-The-Sea-Pictures-141136.asp

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Japanese Stray Cats Ride The Rails

I like cats.

I might be a dog person, but I’m sure I am now also a cat person.

Allergies and all.

My last two cats - Fred and Daphne - have been quite the pals. Fred (purchased after Daffy’s tragic accident a couple of years ago) is the last one I see before I go to bed, the first one I see upon waking up, and the first I see when coming home, meowing a greeting before anyone else musters a ‘hello’.

The cat we had before—Spek—she came with my wife, and I quickly became the go-to person  whenever she wanted/needed something. I suppose if you are always feeding and changing the litter box - they know.

All three were cats purchased from local animal shelters.

My first cat, Sam, who was strong enough to handle three Rottweilers, he was left in my dad’s tennis bag at a local tennis club, and was only discovered when he was driving home in the car when his tennis bag started to mysteriously meow… which nearly caused a car accident.  

Sam used to sit with us at the dinner table and so he had his own dinner mat… would accept one item of food - a shrimp or a piece of spaghetti, would eat it and then bugger off. Weirdest thing I ever saw with a cat and food. 

So yeah… cats.

Japan has a problem… it has too many stray cats, which has led to culling of the stray cat population.

I wrote about a group, The Japan Cat Network, HERE who has helped rescue cats. In fact, if you type in ‘cats” under the search parameters of this blog, you’ll find numerous articles on the feline subject.  

Anyhow, a local civic group called Kitten Cafe Sanctuary in Ōgaki-shi (大垣市, Ōgaki City) in Gifu-ken (Gifu Prefecture) has teamed up with Yoro Railway Co. Ltd… to allow 30 stray cats roam about the inner workings of the train to raise awareness in the culling of stray cats.

On September 10, 2017, passengers aboard a local train rode beside the cats, who were comfortable enough to share food with the human, or just mingle.

While an awesome event—I do question the angle.

A public train? What about people with allergies to cats?

Okay… they don’t have to get on the train… but that’s an inconvenience. Also… cats do shed… and the remaining cat fur and dander could pose an allergy threat to unsuspecting passengers either later that day after the cat/train event or the next day should a clean-up crew not done a good job.

I’m assuming there was a clean-up crew.

That’s my negative take on what is otherwise a great concept to bring people’s attention to.

I have cat allergies. But they are not severe. But others might be. I don’t know if the organizers thought about that or said screw it, let’s do it anyway.

While Japan has a cat population of about 9.8 million—beats me how they know—and is this a number based on a human survey on cats owned?

In 2016, the number of cats in “the pound” had decreased by 70% from numbers in 2004.
  • 2004: 237,246;
  • 2016: 72,624
Which is great!

Those numbers reflect a drop in cat culling from over 200,000 in 2004 to 45,574 in 2016.

Obviously, the cats-on-a-train event was meant to keep the culling of cats issue in people’s mind… hoping more people would adopt stray cats.

Heck… I even did my best when I was in Japan. See my stray cat back when I was on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in Japan HERE.

Cats-up!
Andrew Joseph
PS: I stole the story news from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/well-trained-cats-let-to-roam-on-local-japan-train-to-raise-9202890 but did re-write it a heck of a lot, and expanded it to make it personal.  

  


Monday, September 11, 2017

Japan's Fastest Man

While I believe some women have complained about their men being too fast, surely none would take issue with Kiryū Yoshihide (桐生 祥秀, surname first) who became the fastest Japanese sprinter ever with a 100-meter time of 9.98 seconds.

Shattering the Japanese record of 10.0 seconds set in 1998 by Ito Koji (surname first), Kiryu set his new record at an inter-collegiate race in Fukui-shi on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Of course, he is a long way from recently retired super-sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica's mark of 9.58 seconds - he of the best name for a sprinter, ever.

Still... Kiryu is young, born on December 15, 1995 - still only 21 and has time to improve on his mark... but I sincerely doubt he will approach the world record mark - ever - thanks to only standing 1.75 meters (5'-9") in height. What made Bolt special, was his 1.95 meters (6'-5") height and long legs that he was able to pump as quickly as a much shorter man, meaning every stride he took was greater in length.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Inflatable Godzilla Costume

I've just spent my Saturday doing baseball. Coaching a game as an assistant for my son's Peewee house league, and then helping another coach run a try-out for midget (16 & 17-year-olds)... and am mentally exhausted.

Realizing I need to come up with a hot topic for this blog, I of course found one in Godzilla.

I know... you saw the photo above... but what has this to do with baseball.

Absolutely nothing (say it again!).

Believe it or not... what we have here is an inflatable Godzilla costume.

Yup... an inflatable Godzilla costume you can wear... for under $100.

The good folks over at Hot Topic have this fully licensed costume that comes with an attached fan to inflate the costume while you are in it.

I guess it's kind of like those inane Sumo wrestler suits... except this is way cooler because it features Godzilla.

The only downer is that you need 4 AA batteries - which are not included.

It's also made of polyester... instead of muscle and lizard scales, but who cares... it's an inflatable Godzilla costume you can wear. 

I'm unsure if it is something one could utilize in the boudoir, but I'm sure a truly creative person could come up with a way.

To purchase your own inflatable Godzilla costume from Hot Topic - from whom I have purchased a butt-load of geeky, otaku tee shirts - click HERE. Maybe they deliver to your neck of the woods.

Somewhere with an idea,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Japan Hiring Vietnamese Students To Work At 7-11

With apologies to Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Mr. Kim, why the heck is Japan schooling Vietnamese interns on how to run a convenience store?

Okay… those are just plugs for The Simpsons and Canadian comedy Kim’s Convenience (respectively), but seriously, Japan 7-11 stores are being used to instruct Vietnamese interns on the art of saying Thank-you, come again.”

Turns out that because Seven-Eleven Japan (aka 7-11) is having a devil of a time recruiting Japanese labor to act as store clerks, its going overseas to bring over Vietnamese university students as work at its convenience stores in Japan starting in mid-2018.

I’d laugh, but it’s not funny.

It’s a prime example of Japan’s crappy immigration policies and difficulty in allowing non-natives to become Japanese citizens. If there’s no gold at the end of the rainbow,  why make the journey?

Seven & i Holdings (owners of 7-11) has created a partnership with six universities in Vietnam, with two or three students from each school—up to 20 people—going to Japan.

Students chosen will already have some Japanese language skills, and will be third-year students.

They are expected to work 40 hours a week—paid!!!—in a greater Tokyo area 7-11 store.

Forty hours? I believe Apu once worked 96 hours straight at the local Kwik-E-Mart, so 40 hours in a week should be a snap for the Vietnamese gaijin.Of course, it wasn't without repercussions...



Now… while it is true that 7-11 seems to have a clerk shortage in Japan, the Vietnamese students will also get course credit out of this.

The interns will learn store management, merchandising and ordering inventory from suppliers, and more… and will have the chance to make the prepared meals sold at the stores. That sounds better than it is. You go in for a day or two and check out what the unskilled food processing worker is doing for even less money that the intern makes.

Anyhow… the use of gaijin labor at the 7-11 stores in Japan isn’t exactly new.

According to a Nikkei Asian Review newspaper: "about 24,000 foreigners were working at the 20,000 or so Seven-Eleven convenience stores in Japan as of August, accounting for 6.5% of the overall store staff."

I’m going to call bullshirt on those numbers.. . 

But… the implication is that 7-11 has a fair number of gaijin working within its 7-11 walls.

Assuming it’s 6.5% number is correct and that the other numbers are screwy, is it high ONLY in the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka because of a larger immigrant/gaijin population base?

Are there fewer immigrants/gaijin working at more rural 7-11 locations?

What type of gaijin are currently making up that 6.5% foreign worker number at Japan’s 7-11 stores?

Is their level of compensation commiserate with their Japanese peers? It should be… but considering many first world countries appear to have non-equal pay for equal work (re: men vs women, for example) - even though it is illegal…

The Japanese generally do not talk about salary with peers or friends… so would anyone know?

Anyhow, I just found it interesting that Japan had to go outside its native lands to find student interns. Is there not something similar going on student program-wise in Japan? 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, September 8, 2017

What Japanese Kids Like To Do In Their Time Off

When I was first chosen in 1990 to go to Japan as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I was told that while teaching the locals English was a key part of the job, internationalization was also a prime focus.

Internationalization, it was explained to me, was the art of getting the Japanese to realize that Japan wasn't so different from the rest of the world. To stop believing they were superior to everyone, even.

The Japanese certainly were a proud folk.

All the time it was "This is Japanese rice." Or "This is a Japanese kimono." Or "This is a Japanese chopstick." Or "This is a Japanese bridge."

Yeah, each was certainly different than what other cultures/societies had/have - there are differences in rice, kimono, chopsticks and bridges... I could see that... but why were they so proud to point out that such-and-such was 'Japanese'?

I spent my three-plus years in Japan trying to show the folks in Japan that I was just like them, and hopefully that they were just like me.

I had a lot of success. I had a lot of failure.

That's okay. That was my wonderful rife in Japan.

Two evenings ago, I spent a couple of hours with my friend John, with whom I will co-coach a Peewee Select baseball team next year.

He told me of a buddy of his, a Canadian-Japanese guy, who went to Japan in 1994 and essentially never came back.

During one of the jaunts John made to Japan, he found out some interesting things.

For example, his friend was a CIR on the JET up in a small town in Hokkaido for a while before starting up his own juku (cram school) and even a daycare.

His friend once asked his students what it was that they liked to do in their time off.

A curious question.

I had long assumed it was go to school on a Sunday and pester their club activity teacher to train them in their school sport, such as judo or baseball...

But no.

To a man, each one of the kids - whether in junior high school or senior high school - answered...

... sleep.

Proof once again that Japanese teenagers are exactly the same as western teenagers... and that Japan, despite enjoying this silly notion that they, as a people, are sooooo much different from the gaijin (foreigners)... are just like us.

They didn't need JET to become internationalized. They just needed JET and other foreigners to prove to them that they already were internationalized.

Somewhere wishing I could sleep more,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I have to talk to John's friend and pick his brain about Japan. A new plan has been born.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Japan And India Working Together Against China

While the U.S. is banking on both China and Russia to use its ties to try and muzzle North Korea and its aggressive behavior - namely flying test inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) over Japanese airspace and ground testing of hydrogen bombs et al, Japan and India are working together to try and figure out ways to stem China and its aggressive tactics.

Along with North Korea shooting missiles overhead as so-called tests, China and Russia have had increased incursions into Japanese waters, breaching past international boundaries as a means of testing Japanese determination to hold on to the disputed southern Senkaku Islands (by China) and the Kuril Islands (by Russia).

To help it against Chinese aggression, India and Japan have teamed up yet again.

India and Japan are now a permanent part of the trilateral Malabar naval exercises with the United States as of July of 2017, and are now decided to combine their own combat military exercises, per Japan defense minister Onodera Itsunori (surname first) and the last official act of India defense minister Arun Jaitley before he is replaced on Thursday, September 7, 2017 by Nirmala Sitharaman.

India Defense minister Arun Jaitley (left) shaking hands with his Japanese counterpart Onodera Itsunori (surname first) at the Japan-India bilateral defense ministry talks in Tokyo, on September 6, 2017.
The exercises are reported to include ant-submarine warfare—apparently Chinese subs are making regular forays into the Indian Ocean Region

The two sides also agreed to commence technical discussions for research collaboration in the areas of unmanned ground vehicles, robotics, and Japan’s US-2i amphibious aircraft (see photo at top of blog). Designed and built by Japan's ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. (新明和工業株式会社, Shin-Meiwa Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha), the US-2i is a STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft designed for air-sea rescue operation.

India is interested in seeing the US-2i aircraft in action, as it is considering purchasing 12 of them. Okay… it’s been thinking about buying them since 2013… and so far nothing, so maybe they are just being polite. The price tag is rumored to be around US$113-million PER aircraft.

For a country without a military, Japan sure has some neat-o killing tech.
 
The agreement between India and Japan was done during scheduled annual bilateral defense ministry talks in Tokyo, ahead of Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first)’s visit to India later this September.

India defense minister Jaitley was thrilled with Japan’s offer of military might, including P-1 maritime patrol aircraft with anti-submarine war tech, built by the Kawasaki Heavy Industries Aerospace Company (川崎重工業航空宇宙カンパニー, Kawasaki Jūkōgyō Kōkūuchū Kanpanii).

The Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft.

As well, India and Japan agreed to conduct a joint field exercise with their armies (or whatever the hell Japan has now) as part of a counter-terrorism game, to be held in 2018.

I recently reported on Japan backing India against Chinese aggression in Bhutan - HERE.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sharp Announces 8K-ready TVs

Sharp Corporation announces the release of the AQUOS 8K Series of 8K-compatible TVs and displays, a world first.

Positioned as the core of the 8K Ecosystem, Sharp’s key medium-term strategy, these products will be released in China in October, in Japan in December, in Taiwan in February 2018, and in Europe in March 2018.

Sharp Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation that designs and manufactures electronic products, headquartered in Sakai-ku, Sakai, in Osaka-ken (Osaka prefecture). Since 2016, it has been an integral part of Taiwan-based Foxconn Group.

8K is a revolutionary technology for ultra-high-definition images with 16 times the resolution of full-HD which could not be expressed with 4K images.

It reproduces images at ultimate reality, with ultra-fine details even the naked eye cannot capture. Apart from displaying TV broadcasts and other media contents, 8K will dramatically impact many aspects of our lives: medicine, business, security, signage etc. - which is what the Sharp press release blah-blah-blahed.

8K… I actually heard about 8K technology BEFORE I heard about 4K technology—which was about ONE month before Canada actually had its first 4K broadcast (of a hockey game).

I wrote about 8K technology back nearly two years ago on September 20, 2015 HERE. It’s worth a read, if only to let you know just what 8K tech means.

Let’s be clear here (not much of a pun intended), these TVs and monitors offered by Sharp are not 8K televisions and monitors.

They are 8K compatible.

Sharp says that its AQUOS 8K Series television WILL upgrade a 4K and or HD televised broadcast to “force” it to appear in 8K. I suppose it will do the same for the monitors.

I suppose that will have to do for now… because yeah… right now… there is no way for you to use your 8K television to actually watch 8K-created programs…

With this latest release from Sharp, and its AQUOS 8K Series, Sharp is releasing the expensive technology to what they hope is an eager market in Japan and China, as well as the world’s first 8K displays in Taiwan and Europe.

Sharp is also complementing its 8K TVs by accelerating development of 8K broadcast receivers, 8K cameras, and other 8K products to lead the world by establishing an 8K Ecosystem.

To understand that last paragraph, let me offer a completely different example. When electric cars first debuted, people wondered how they were going to “fuel-up” if they were away from home… and to help, electric car companies began working with businesses to create electric “fuel” stations.

So, in a similar vein, Sharp will be working with companies to develop other 8K technology which will allow for the “filming” of 8K programming.

Sharp has been leading the industry by releasing 8K-related products in Japan. In October 2015, the company released an 85-inch 8K monitor using an 8K LCD panel, and the advanced wide-band digital satellite broadcast receiver compatible with 8K ultra-high-definition (UHD) broadcasts in 2016, followed in June 2017 with the release of a 70-inch 8K monitor.

Because I am often late to the Ball, as it were, when it comes to bringing you the latest in tech (never been my forte, as I only got my first portable phone about eight months ago), I am quite proud to toot my own horn (seeing as no one else will), to repeat that I brought you 8K information a whole month before Sharp’s initial 8K release in October of 2018. ;)-



As usual, the Japanese-language website and press release details far more information than the English one.

Here are some images from it showing you the difference in picture quality:





And, here’s the link to the Japanese-language Sharp press release HERE


Like any new technology for the consumer, initially it’s going to be damned expensive. My first VCR in the late 1970s (that’s a Video Cassette Recorder) cost me $527… and that was on the early second-wave… I recall a comic book dude, Captain George of Memory Lane, bought one a couple years earlier for over $1,000.

I couldn’t spot a price tag for the new AQUOS 8K Series 8K TVs or monitors… but if you want one, pay attention to this old adage: If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.

I still only have an HD television, and as my eyes get older, I’m sure they will appreciate the sharper (no pun intended) 4K and 8K systems, when it 1) becomes more affordable; 2) when my current television kicks the bucket.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labour / Labor Day - Time To Roll Down The Sleeves

Since yesterday, Monday, September 4, 2017 was the non-communist sounding Labour Day... or Labor Day for you wonderful Americans, here's a little tip.

While we all know you are NOT supposed to wear white after Labour/Labor Day - I think that's stupid.

I think it should just be limited to NOT wearing white pants. There's nothing wrong with a crisp white shirt - something the Japanese will agree with me on.

But white pants? Especially on a guy? Unless you are rocking out to the 1980s stylings of Crockett from Miami Vice, a guy should never wear white pants.

God help me, in the late 1980s I was wearing white pants and sports coat, a turquoise vest (maybe a purple shirt - but that was optional) and Italian loafers sans socks. I was also rocking at least four gold chains... five if I include the one I had around my diamondback rattlesnake cowboy boots that were gold tipped at the toe and heel...

Hmmm... maybe I'm not one to give fashion advice.

Still... that was the 1980s... and it may also explain why I didn't get laid that decade, but unfortunately for me, it only partially explains things.

Anyhow... I don't think white pants are cool anymore.

I know... I had to wear white polyester pants as a head coach on my kid's baseball team this year. White. Polyester. Pants.

Anyhow... while us westerners are not supposed to wear white pants or a shirt after Labour/Labor Day, the Japanese have no such national compulsion.

While I am pretty sure no Japanese businessman outside of an athlete or kid's coach would ever wear white pants, they wear white shirts.

The thing is... they wear white short sleeve shirts UNTIL Labour/Labor Day... and after that... white LONG-sleeve shirts.

It seems sensible enough to me.

Granted the weather in Japan is still quite hot, generally speaking in Japan in September... so they may actually roll up their long-sleeve white shirts... or use a clip to hold up the sleeve... but every male will wear a long-sleeve white shirt.

You will notice that I continued to say "white" shirt.

The white shirt is a custom of most Japanese businesses...except for maybe those cool, younger hip places that will no longer suffer the strict white shirt non-official edict.

While I was in Japan, I stood out like a sore thumb.

Yeah, I was a gaijin... but I refused to dress like the Japanese did... which I found, in the business setting, to be boring and predictable.

While my Japanese co-workers at the schools and Board of Education offices, and City Hall and at the bank, and other salaryman had to wear white shirts, I was parading myself around in blue silk with purple threads or my green silk shirt with red threads (both of which I had made in Singapore, along with black raw silk pants and a red silk sports jacket that in hindsight looked like a car jockey's outfit at a fancy restaurant) that shimmered into different hues as I moved through the light.

Hmmm... not only did I have jeans painted striped in blue, purple and black verticals, I also brought back in 1992 a teal jacket... a then brand new color in Canada and Japan. Please note that that Mighty Ducks movie wear the kid's hockey team wore teal... that came out in October of 1992, so I was either ahead of the fashion curve or a fashion mistake.

The point was I didn't bother with the Japanese tradition of wearing a white shirt... sure I had one, and wore it, but that was because I had to wear one thanks to the limited laundry selection I had in Japan.

Being my size - IE, on the large end of the Japanese scale - it wasn't like I could go out and buy new clothing in my size... and again... I would be limited to their boring color scheme.

I was the type of guy who's pony-tail hairband had to match my shirt color. I suppose I was a metrosexual before that term existed... if it was 100 years later, I suppose I'd have been called a dandy... which isn't as cool as it seems.

So... what was point? Maybe I should or shouldn't be writing about fashion... 

Anyhow... after Labour/Labor Day... in Japan... for the salaryman, it's long sleeve white shirt time until... hmmm... when?

I guess I have a few months to find out... but what's the date six months from now... that would be my guess.

I'll have a bit more tomorrow on Japan, clothing and business attire.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Princess And The Kei

Japanese royal Princess Mako, 25, the oldest grand-kid of current emperor Akihito has said she is leaving the royal family--giving up her royalty--in order to marry her former International Christian  University beau Komuro Kei (surname first) also 25.

Women are not allowed--currently--to assume Japan's Chrysanthemum throne, so no big deal there... but in order to marry the commoner, Kei, Princess Mako must lose her royal status, as FEMALE royalty is only allowed to marry royalty. A Male royal may marry a commoner without affecting one's royal status.

Sexist? You betcha.

As an aside, prior to 1985 in Canada, if a First Nations' woman married a non-native, she would lose her First Nations indigenous status. Bill C-31 of The Indian Act changed that, however... so Canada finally caught on to the sexism of that. There's still a lot of screwy stuff going on in Canada, however, re: indigenous status...   

Regular reader here will note that I have always said Japan is about 20-30 years behind the rest of the world.

As such, in 2016 a Japanese government panel is seeking to amend the legislation regarding female Japanese royals and their ability to marry commoners without losing their royal status.

Unfortunately for Princess Mako, that legislation amendment hasn't come about just yet, with no time-frame in place for saying whether it will be amended or not.

Kei and Princess Mako have been engaged to one another since December of 2013... which in today's day and age seems pretty young, but what the heck do I know. More power to them and any like them who have found love regardless of age.

Princess Mako's aunt Princess Sayako, 48, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito, married a commoner and had to give up her royal status... oh... and her royal monetary allowance.

Current Emperor Akihito, 83, says he wants to abdicate, but until June of 2017, Japanese legislation forbade him from doing so... once you are the emperor, you are the emperor until you die... regardless of your physical or mental health... which makes me think of Game of Thrones for some reason.

But since that change, it means two things... Akihito can abdicate per his decision, in 2018, and two; holy crap... Japan can change the way it does things.

It has always had an affinity for either NOT changing the way things are done even if a better solution presents itself--and I'm no just talking royalty, here OR it simply seemed to take its sweet time to analyze a situation ripe for chance in the hopes that people would forget about it eventually.

I used to ask people in Japan why they do "this" when they could do "that" instead, and I'd enjoy watching them tilt their head in contemplation, suck air in between their teeth and ponder why but also just how they could explain why they don't consider such things in a manner that a dumb gaijin like me could fathom.

It used to bother me... they don't do change for the sake of change... which I think we do too often in the west... but sometimes, change IS good... and why weren't more Japanese people interested in effecting change to make things better?

I wondered just how researchers ever created anything new in Japan... and then I realized that most of the inventions I had seen coming from Japan from the 1950s on, were simply Japan taking a concept already in existence and then finding a way to make it smaller... Transistor radios... Automobiles... Walkman's.

I know I'm exaggerating, but it's based on truth.

Anyhow... royals in Japan. It's a shrinking job opportunity.

Japan's Line of succession 
  • Akihito is the emperor. He has one son;
  • Crown Prince Naruhito is the oldest male and son, and next in line. He only has a single child--a daughter, Princess Aiko;
  • Prince Akishino is the second-oldest son, and second in line;
  • Akishino's son Hisahito is third in line for the throne. He was born on September 6, 2006, making him 11 in a couple of days. Happy birthday, your Grace;
Princess Mako is Akishino's first child and oldest daughter. Princess Kako is the next oldest child and daughter.

So... let's see... the Japanese royals... at the time of Hisahito eventually becoming emperor will only have him... two sisters, and one female cousin.

What if he, Buddha forbid, dies before he has kids... or the other princesses all marry commoners and give up their royalty... is that IT for the Japanese lineage, thanks to an inability to sire a male heir?

While not yet panel-worthy, some are calling for another change in Japanese legislation allowing either female royals to keep their royalty if they marry a commoner, and better yet, allow a woman to assume the Chrysanthemum Throne in much the same way that Great Britain/United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II has done since 1952 or Denmark's Queen Margethe II since 1972. Netherlands' Queen Beatrix abdicated in 2013 after a reign of 33 years.

I'm just pointing out, Japan, that it is possible to have a Queen/Empress as your ruler.

Your glorious past notes you've had some previously:
  • Empress Jingū r. 206–269 —legendary/mythical; removed from the list of Emperors in the 19th century - apparently she held the future emperor in her belly for a three-year gestation period... and when he was born, said she would remain Empress until he came of age... and yet she managed to remain Empress for 69 years before dying... and she may have had a hand in killing her husband the Emperor;
  • Empress Suiko (554–628), r. 593–628—first ruling empress;
  • Empress Kōgyoku (594–661), r. 642–645—previously Princess Takara (Empress Consort of Jomei);
  • Empress Saimei (594–661), r. 655–661 (same person as Empress Kōgyoku);
  • Empress Jitō (645–702), r. 690–697;
  • Empress Genmei (661–721), r. 707–715;
  • Empress Genshō (680–748), r. 715–724—previously Princess Hidaka;
  • Empress Kōken (718–770), r. 749–758;
  • Empress Shōtoku (718–770), r. 764–770 (same person as Empress Kōken);
  • Empress Meishō (1624–1696), r. 1629–1643;
  • Empress Go-Sakuramachi (1740–1813), r. 1762–1771—most recent ruling empress.
As you can see, a Japanese female Empress - as the leader of the nation - is not unheard of.

I would say that current Japanese legislation re: royalty, is simply a means of the Japanese male keeping power for himself as well as a means to keep the Japanese female down.

That same Japanese government legislation of 2016 to allow an Emperor to abdicate, also delicately danced around and away from female succession... probably because to do so would require a lot more serious thought rather than the thought of not being a sexist nation.


Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: And there... a 10 minute article is turned into a two-hour write-fest researching more things (Canadian First Nations, global female regents, Japanese royal legislation, Japanese history) than I figured I'd be doing.
PPS: Image taken from the Asahi Shimbun.