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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Japan Didn't Make Me

I have often said here in this blog, that Japan made me grow up... but after a recent flurry of e-mails to my buddy Vinnie, my constant state of self-examination would have me adjust that statement.

I really hate self-examination... 

Before moving to Japan to be a junior high school assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I had never lived away from home.

Not for university, college or whatever reason people have for first moving out of their parental unit's house.

I went to university and college in Toronto—both reasonably close enough to travel via subway and bus (it took 90 minutes there and 90 minutes back for university), and 30 minutes by car for university and later college.

I also paid my own way through seven years of post-secondary education - 100% paid my own way for tuition, books, travel and gas money. My parents did buy me a car and did pay the insurance, but I did pay for my own gas. Still... I get it - a huge bonus from my parents.

Then again... my parents didn't have an issue with contributing to my education in that manner, nor in providing me a place to live and food to eat.

They had done it for 18 years previous, and it wasn't like they weren't used to it... and to be honest, I wasn't exactly in any great hurry to leave home where meals were prepared for me, and my laundry was taken care of.

I still cut the grass at our place - backyard was 120 feet deep x 50 feet wide... plus the front yard... and I also cut the lawns of four other neighbors, as everyone there was well-past retirement age, and I was still the oldest and most dependable teenager on the block of silver-haired retirees.

I also did the driveways, when it came time to push the snow out of the way.

Did I get paid by those people - er...... yes... sorta. It was the 1980s, but they seemed to think it was the 1940s when it came time to pay up... $2 and some cookies or a cake, when I would have "expected" something like $10 to 20 per driveway... as these babies could place a minimum of six cars on them. Plus we would get lots of snow back then. Wet, heavy, groin-pulling snow.

I was still a non-gym lad at that time... having just grown a foot taller between the summer after I turned 17 to nearing my 18th birthday.

Yes... I was pretty damn short through high school. I wore glasses, and my mother dressed me funny - though I did get contact lenses when I was 17, and wore sunglasses in school, as I claimed the previous photo-grey glasses had made me susceptible to bright lights when I switched to contact lenses. Actually, none of the teachers knew or cared. Maybe. We'll see below.

I worked every summer from the time I was 14 to earn money for myself... having enough money to easily pay for my education after high school. Being a non-scholastic smart guy who could wow in a personal interview, I always worked for a provincial government ministry, making okay money... never anything over $7.45 an hour. I think I started at $2.45 an hour when I was 14.

I have no idea how I squeaked into university. In Ontario at that time, we had Grade 13. I was already a year ahead, and nearly two years younger than most people in school owing to my late birth date (I was 12-years-old when school started for me in Grade 9 - and 4-years-old when I started in Grade 1).

Until about Grade 7, I was usually the smartest kid in the room - at least scholastically.  By the time I got to Grade 7... and seeing what puberty had done to my female classmates... I may not have been near puberty, but I knew what I liked... and my grades dropped like my voice hadn't. My voice seemed to have cracked twice... getting deeper and then deeper still.

Being the youngest, smallest kid with glasses and the wrong skin color, in high school I was picked on quite a bit.

My school grades suffered as I gave up studying, relying on my poor short-term memory to get me through... which I did, until I decided or had it decided for me, that I should repeat Grade 12.

Yes, I had failed math, chemistry, accounting and English and probably something else. Yup... English. I had actually skipped a week of school that first time through Grade 12, and after being caught, was suspended for an additional week. Win. :)

Fug high school and everyone in it. I was angry at being picked on... and if I didn't have my head screwed on so tightly... well... you read about crap like that all the time...

Staying back a year in Grade 12 was the first time I was ever in a grade with people around my own age. No one picked on me... and I began to thrive... I was almost happy.

Still... I was no great guns as a student, and ended Grade 13 with marks in the mid-60s... not good enough for university, but perhaps college?

I applied to three of each... and got into three of each... no idea how that happened, but apparently THAT year, you didn't need to be smart academically to get into university.

I continued to prove that through my first year of university (York) as I flunked out of a math course—I'm the only brown guy who can't do math—and changed my major from business to political science... because even though I got near perfect in Astronomy, I didn't want a career where I had to work nights. So political science - whatever the fug that is - that was what I was going to get a career in.

To be honest, I just wanted to fulfill the terms of some deal my father made with me when I was flunking out of high school... "you'll not see a penny of my money if you don't get an university degree." I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

My dad was pretty soft when it came to me, but for whatever reason, I believed him about the degree thing.

So... while in university and quite aware that I wasn't going to get any type of real job with a BA in political science, I began taking night school courses at college in marketing and advertising, while continuing my own piano lessons and coaching of soccer - WHILE I was doing my last year at York University.

I had always wanted to be a guy who wrote commercial advertising... or maybe did cartoon voice-over work - I was a fan of Bewitched, and The Trouble With Tracy - one a great show that had an ad exec husband, and the other a funny, but ultimately crappy Canadian show that had an ad exec husband. Maybe I liked the job because I liked the fact that both ad execs had a really sexy blonde wife.

Nowadays, some 27 years later, I'm still a credit short in marketing and advertising at Humber College.

Since that time, it's the only thing I have never completed, as I'm a guy who always finishes what he starts.

The reason I stopped taking the courses, was because after completing my university degree (ha! Gotcha dad!) I was enrolled in the journalism program during the day at Humber College, running the school newspaper as Managing Editor, spending two days a week at a real newspaper for an internship... lived through a near six-week school strike and starting up our own replacement newspaper, and I cultivated some nine people to teach piano to in order to make some extra cash for all of that extra partying I was involved in.

Still... it's a wonder I didn't crumble, with everything I had going on at that time. I was also taking piano teaching lessons, coaching girls and women's youth soccer, coached the college's women's soccer team, and playing in a men's hardball (baseball-like) league on the weekends.

I never missed anything, either. I even did my homework. First time ever. Apparently writing was easy for me, so it didn't take me as much time as it would others.

Even then... I never thought of myself as mature... but I was becoming responsible... something I can see with old man eyes decades later.

Apparently (who knew?), being put in a position of power at the school newspaper, writing real articles for The Brampton Times, Aurora Banner and Newmarket Era..., doing that other strike-time college newspaper (I named it the Ad Hoc, as the Humber College nickname was the Humber Hawks and ad hoc means... well... fee free to look that up.)... teaching music, babysitting, cutting grass and shoveling snow - all to earn enough money to pay my way... I was mature enough to handle what Japan would throw at me. I just didn't know it.

While it would appear as though I didn't have any time to date, I was dating three women... all of whom thought of me as a friend (but they were all gorgeous and dammit, I enjoyed their attention - friendship thought it only was)... so I still had that other concern whereby I would give my virginity for a fug.

Aside from that... I lacked that one true mentor... that one older person who could take me under his or her wing and teach me about the world.

Sure... I had good people around me, like Michael Yaworski my music teacher who taught me how to be my own business (it sounds funny, but I wanted to write it like that); the many teachers at Humber College (like Cutis Rush and Geoff Spark) who encouraged me not to quit because I thought the then school newspaper was a piece of crap (they told me they were making me a leader in my second and last year, "so don't quit and you can help determine how the magazine should look and how it should be run").

I had parents who seemed to like the fact that I was now someone who tried in school.

I had floated through elementary and high school through university, without ever having to study... ohhh...

I did have a high school English teacher who showed my short story work around the teacher's office, and there was a Grade 13 phys. ed teacher—Pam Lawton—who told me to stand up for myself to not let people bully me.

I really would like to be able to tell her how much her words meant to me... even now.

There were lots of mentor instances, such as my buddy Doug McIntosh the taxi driver whom I met before leaving for Japan, while on assignment for the Toronto Star (I'm still the first Canadian College student to get into the Star's summer internship program)... but Doug, he was a guy who I decided to write a form letter to (others too, obviously)... but he was actually one of the few people who actually wrote back... so I wrote a real letter... and he wrote back... and back... 66 or so real letters before the Internet. He and Rob were the two guys who wrote the exact same number of times to me and helped keep me from being too homesick while I spent three years in Japan.

I'm not so stupid that I don't learn from the people I talk with - physically and via the Internet... so yes, some of you people, too... are mentor-like.

I have tried over the years to create a mentor-protege relationship at work... but every time I start to create one, I'm like a crapstorm... and that mentor gets laid off. I'm afraid to try any more... and besides... I think I'm too old now to be a protege...

Anyhow... while IN Japan... after surviving my first year on the JET Programme, the Tochigi-ken JET leadership asked if I would be one of the leaders to come and help get the new Tochigi-ken JET recruits acclimatized to Japan during their Tokyo initiation.

By that time I had already slept with a number of women on the JET Programme and a female Japanese phys. ed teacher... so I was no longer thinking with my brain... unless the male brain exists in his penis... I'm not sure... brain not work swell anymore.... just swell.

I hit on a number of new female recruits... I did... but wasn't as obvious about it as others... as I let them come to me for advice and whatever.

Really... with the 70+ women I dated in Japan, and the 30+ I slept with, I only ever asked out one... Noboko, the woman who became my fiance ... and the woman who made me grow up even more... as though she was my mentor... and I, as she once said, her diamond in the rough.

Like all mentors for myself, that imploded when she decided that listening to her father was better than a life with me...

When you come to that conclusion... and you realize that you are someone's second -choice... and it has happened to me sooooo many times after that, well one's ego takes a huge kick to the groin.

After Noboko's disappointing decision, my mother died... why bother saving for a rainy day, when you may not live long enough to enjoy it?

I wanted to enjoy myself now... no thinking about tomorrow.

I began a period of self-loathing back in Toronto, going to the gym six times a week, two-plus hours a night... grew muscles and grew my scalp hair halfway down my back... and began many years of dating women involved in occupations ranging from exotic dancing, to well... you name it, I dated her.

To be fair... I'm no snob... their world was just work... and everybody hates work. 

Just like Japan, I never asked anyone out... but the muscles, the hair... and the one-on-one conversational ability... I would provide a home business card... and one out of 10 times would get a call back.

Ohhhh the stories I could tell... screw 50 shades of grey. But it no longer has anything to do with Japan... so perhaps in some other blog title...

Strangely enough... I grew tired of this life... it wasn't normal to me. At least not 24-7.

Anyhow... if you think me writing about my three-year life in Japan was interesting, pity we can't discuss the five-year period after it.

Though... I'm not even sure I care to any more. I don't want to be a mentor either.

Just listen to the lyrics to The House Of The Rising Sun. You'll be okay.

Heck... I just realized that I am actually a mentor now for all the sports stuff I coach... oh crap... and that whole I'm a dad thing.  

Just rambling today...
Andrew Joseph

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Way

I certainly did things My Way while in Japan.

I didn't follow any real set of guidelines as to how I wanted to live my life - at least none that the Japanese may have suggested I follow - but rather, I wanted to ensure that while I was there in Japan, I would do everything I could possibly do as the Japanese did, only while IN my apartment, I considered it to be a Canadian territory and as such, I lived by Canadian rules there.

As such, I kept my shoes on while in my apartment when I felt like it... never at rice for dinner unless I was given some by a school lunch lady or bought some pre-cooked Japanese meal... didn't use a futon (after the first three months of my stay)... dressed with aplomb and color in my fashions... got my ear pierced... grew my hair long... wore a ponytail... never wore track suits at all at school... and as a man, kept my apartment in a state of cleanliness that confused and impressed my visiting mother (and hopefully all the guests)... bought a video game system like I was a kid... built and painted models like I was a kid... did puzzles like I was a kid... was into bonsai plants (tree bondage to create dwarf plant life) even though I wasn't an old Japanese man... did ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) even though I wasn't a Japanese women... would help the female teachers serve o-cha (green tea) to the male teachers in a fit of non-chauvinism... discussed the role of men (in Western society) as a means to kickstart a severely depressed women's movement... and so on.

Regrets, I've had a few... and you know me, I've mentioned each and every one of them... but know that I did what I had to do and aw it through without exemption... and like Sinatra sang, I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway... and yeah... I kept most of what I was doing to myself - even from my buddy Matthew... but yeah... you get the gist, I did things my way.

It was the first time I had been away from home... and like anyone in that situation, you tend to do things your own way for better or for worse... and aside from the whole woman situation... I was pretty level-headed.

That whole women thing... yes, there were times I'm sure you knew when I I bit off more than I could chew.... but I faced it all, and I stood tall (not really) and did it my way.

Okay... enough Sinatra... I'm on three hour's sleep... couldn't get much sleep last night for whatever reason... stress, I suppose... work... worrying about the kid's baseball team... was I actually getting sick? I haven't been sick in nine years... but despite all of that, I don't feel sick... and so I am not.

My advice to any foreigner thinking about going to Japan, is to make copious notes of everything... take your damn selfies when you can (avoid the bloody duckface...pursed lips... especially you women)... I look at the hundreds of photos I took in Japan... and I am in so very few of them.

Live like the Japanese do by following their rules, while still maintaining your own personal identity... you aren't Japanese... you can never be Japanese... but have fun pretending you are while knowing that.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Yakyudo: The Way of Baseball


As some of you know, I am, for the first time ever, a head coach of a youth baseball team… just a mere single rung above House League, but still, a rung above House League.

And... to be upfront, I never played baseball as a kid, but have watched it closely for well over 40 years... and probably know my baseball better than most people... but did not know how to coach it... and thus am spending a lot of time learning how to do that effectively.

I like baseball... I know more about the game's history than most people on the planet (even about the professional game in Toronto for well over a century!)... and am even now reading a biography of one of the game's most misunderstood, maligned and greatest ball players - Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen. Baseball fans should read it.

Here in Toronto, Canada, we are hampered by cold, winter weather for three months of the year, and cold, wet weather for Spring, where we can’t even use the city fields, as the field permits we have will not allow us onto the fields at least until April.We aren't supposed to use them after October, either.

So… for teams above the House League level, the league rents out school gymnasiums to get in some drill work.

In my case… since I wasn’t even around to choose my team – having the players thrust upon me as we made a second team of 11- and 12-year-olds who weren’t deemed good enough for the first Select Peewee team – I walked in without knowing the skill levels of any of the players save my own son, Hudson.

For most of these kids, this was/is their first kick at the can at something other than House League – and I don’t mean to disparage House League, because it’s supposed to be a fun time to get out and play the game (emphasis on game) of baseball that the kids hopefully enjoy.

Because of the lack of fields, when it comes to House League, there are few to zero practices… with all the coaching going on in game… meaning the kids don’t get a lot of time to learn.

Anything above House League… well… I began outdoor practices after the season ended and the teams were selected for 2017, in the chilly month of October 2016… once a week on a Sunday for two hours of getting to know the kids, and teaching them a few things.

We had November and December off until we could get our hands on an indoor facility, starting this past January on Thursday evenings, between 6-8PM… where myself and two assistant coaches (and dads) have begun to teach them the basics of baseball: from the standard four-seam fastball grip – used to throw straight and thus the preferred grip for pitchers, as well as infielders and outfielders when making a play; as well as how to bend down to receive a ball hit to them, as we well as how to catch a ball properly.

I taught them how to catch a ball as an outfielder – how to run back and receive it – angles... that sort of thing, because after watching my son play at a higher level last year, I watched him and others simply not know how to play outfield… because prior to that age, no one ever hit a ball into the outfield.

It sounds silly, doesn’t it? I’m teaching kids who have played from Hudson’s mere four years, to six for the others – the simple basics of baseball.

I can’t even teach them hitting, because we aren’t allowed to use a bat inside the school gymnasiums. But I can teach them… I’m just not allowed to.... not until we go outside onto a real baseball field.

So I spend my mere two hours a week teaching them how to play defense. And how to pitch… and starting next week, how to be a catcher…

I bring this up to describe what a typical Japanese Little League team (of the same age as my kids) goes through.

Every Saturday and Sunday, these kids spend 10 hours outside in the cold, or better, practicing baseball. Twenty (20) hours a week, as opposed to my two hours a week.

These kids are, like the typical Japanese child, just one-sport kids.

You join a club in school – whether it’s kyudo (Japanese archery), judo, basketball, singing, music, volleyball, soccer, kendo (Japanese fencing), table tennis, tennis, softball or baseball… you join that club and stay with it pretty much from elementary school through the end of high school.

As such, your school team will practice a club activity every day for about an hour before school, and up to two hours (maybe more) after school.

That could be anywhere from 35 to 40 hours of baseball instruction a week, if I include those on a Little League team.

That is yakyudo... yakyu is the Japanese word for baseball... 'do' (pronounced 'dough') is "the way of"... as in bushido (the way of the warrior/samurai) or kendo (the way of the sword).

Since the beginning of October of 2016, my team has had 24 hours of baseball practice.

Ever wonder why Japan has won three of the five past Little League World Series and Canada performs well, but isn’t in that same league (yet)?

During the 2016 Little League World Series, Japanese ball players marveled at the size of some of the U.S. 11-years… a couple of the kids were over 6’-4” and 6’-5” tall… wondering if they were coaches, and dismayed to find out they were pitchers throwing the ball stupidly hard.

To combat the size disadvantage, the Japanese kids played what is affectionately known as “small ball”… where, since you aren’t going to win with home run strength, win by bunting, stealing bases, sacrifice flies and squeeze plays (bunting the ball down first with fewer than two outs to try and bring a runner home from 3rd base, or to advance runners a base)… and I realize… holy cow… since I have a bunch of raw rookie kids… skinny, short but enthusiastic… I may have to do the same as the Japanese kids and coaches…

Of course… I still don’t know if my kids can hit. Heck... along with kids forgetting their baseball gloves, I've had some forget their running shoes (they wear winter snow boots, and change to running shoes at the gymnasium) when coming to practice.

I’ve also spent more than a few hours every Sunday taking my kid to indoor baseball clinics, where trained coaches provide assistance in training Hudson in how to pitch more effectively, and how to hit a ball with more power… even saw one of my team players there, as well… but the rest… I can hope they have skills I haven’t seen yet…

But I worry, when I have kids telling me they can pitch and know how to throw curve balls and sliders – I know that’s bullcrap… because we tell them Not to throw such pitches to prevent their arm from being destroyed at such an early age… and yet… I watch the Little League World Series, and I see those kids throwing nasty moving pitches… so who’s right?

I am… because none of my kids currently have enough skill to be professionals, so why blow an elbow out…

Anyhow… the Japanese Little League kids who practice 10 hours each on Saturday and Sunday… they apparently spend the first five hours of each day just fielding the ball… grounders hit to them… I spend maybe 30 minutes once a week (recall I only have them for two hours a week)…

The Japanese kids… after a lunch break (prepared by the kid’s parents for the kids AND the coaches), the batting cages come out and they practice hitting the ball: for power, placement, and even how to bunt.

I have spent zero hours, so far. I can tell you… after having to re-teach these kids the proper grip for the most common pitch, the four-seam fast ball, I’m going to spend many an hour teaching them how to hold a bat, batting stance, how to transfer power from the back to front legs, how to twist the hips to generate force, and Buddha help me, how to NOT throw their bat after hitting the ball.

Heck… I may have to break the rules and bring a bat and some wiffle balls just to get some batting practice in inside the gymnasium…

The toughest part for me, as the head coach, is the fact that despite the fact that I supposedly have a committed group of kids and parents on my team, they also play additional sports… and right now it’s hockey season… so they show up late, if they show up at all.

Then there are those who are in the Boy Scouts… and sometimes people leave early, or can’t come at all…

Hey… I don’t begrudge anyone from other activities... mostly because I’m Canadian and not Japanese, where I know that would never be tolerated…

I will state, however, that I played soccer for 12 years… and not once did I ever miss a practice or a game or have to leave early or arrive late. I also did judo – same. I also did music, first learning the accordion before switching to piano, and eventually teaching piano and clarinet. In high school I picked up the clarinet, and taught myself how to play tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone – well enough to play clarinet in the school orchestra, tenor sax in the band, and baritone sax in the stage band. I also brought home multiple instruments over the summer and can play every woodwind, brass and keyboard instrument out there.

When sports conflicted with music dates, we canceled those music dates or moved to another date and time all together.

I never missed a sporting practice or game. That’s the point I’m making…. in 12 years… I never missed a single moment of soccer (or judo) made available to me.

For the kids who play hockey… hey… right now, it’s hockey season… so I give everyone a pass… but dammit… as a baseball coach… it’s times like these when I truly wish I was Japanese.

I have no problem in giving up 20 hours of my weekend for these kids…

But heck… I can’t imagine today’s kids willing to spend 20 hours a weekend on just one sport… because when would they have time to play PS4 or some stupid game on their Tablet… or to watch videos on Minecraft on YouTube even though they don’t play Minecraft?

I guess I’m just bitter… because as a guy who can no longer play sports at an elite level (not sure I ever did)… I would give anything to be able to play sports again… it’s one of the reasons why I volunteered to be a head coach for my son’s baseball team (taking coaching clinics et al, watching videos, learning from the professionals who teach my son on the side – costs me money, too)…

I have no regrets when it comes to myself and sports… always offering 100%... and I’m willing to do that as an adult coach… but I don’t think the kids are willing to do the same.I know times are different, it's just...

I just hope they don’t have any regrets when they are older.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: This amount of rambling took me 75 minutes to spew out here.I spent six hours at the Toronto Auto Show with Hudson and one of his friends (they sat in more cars than I did... I think I only sat in two cars... hunh)... and I am burned out... and get to be up early for hockey, and then an afternoon indoor baseball training session for the boy... and then I get to relax... and see if I can come up with something to write about for this blog.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - 2019 film

Well… it’s about bloody time.

Scheduled for release on March 22, 2019, the sequel to the 2014 American movie Godzilla will finally come to the screens with the title: Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

The 33rd film in the Godzilla franchise, there was originally a typo on the press release sent out, indicating it was to be called Godzilla: King of Monsters… but they left out the “the”.

So… get your kaiju on… Godzilla will be back to thrill the global audiences soon enough.

I wouldn’t expect any major design change to Godzilla… but who the heck knows? That poor radioactive lizard has been changing his looks like a… add sexist comment here.

The script is written by Dougherty, Zach Shields, and Max Borenstein, and directed by Michael Dougherty.
 
Dougherty, 42, is an American film director, producer and screenwriter.

He directed: Trick ‘r Treat (2007); Making Friends (2010); and Krampus (2015).
He wrote: X2 (2003 - X-Men United); Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005); Superman Returns (2006); Trick ‘r Treat; Making Friends; Krampus; and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).

Hmm… not a fantastic track record… though I enjoyed the last X-Men flick, despite its poor reviews…. mostly because I was there at the beginning of the whole Apocalypse comic book stuff. 

Superman Returns - ugh.

While I don’t mind a good horror flick, I don’t feel inclined to seek them out… so I can’t say if the rest of his work is any good.

Production is slated to start on June 19, 2017, with shooting to begin in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be produced by Legendary Pictures, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (worldwide), and by Toho in Japan.

What we know so far, is that it will star: Kyle Chandler—don’t really know him, so I’ll reserve judgement—and as his daughter in the movie, Millie Bobby Brown… whom some of you might know from the awesome Netflix television show: Stranger Things, where she plays the psionic Eleven.

If the movie poster below is to be believed, the main baddie for Godzilla to burn will be Mothra - but it could also just be fan art.







Hopefully.

And not some other stupid insect creatures.  

I can only hope that means a return of the mini Japanese ladies singing: 



Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
      

Friday, February 24, 2017

Keeping Bloodlines Pure, 57 Monkeys Are Killed

Is this for real?

According to multiple news sources, including the BBC and Japan Times, it is reported that a Japanese zoo euthanized 57 snow monkeys because of impure bloodlines.

If it sounds like something straight out of Nazi Germany, it kind of is.

Here’s what these media outlets are saying: Takagoyama Nature Zoo in Futtsu-shi (Futtsu City) Chiba-ken (Chiba Prefecture) euthanized 57 snow monkeys at its facility (by lethal injection), after discovering that the monkey’s carried genes from an “invasive alien species.”

Apparently these 57 monkeys had been crossbred the with the non-indigenous (aka non-Japanese) monkey breed the Rhesus macaque and the native Japanese macaque (which is known by the Japanese name of Nihonzaru).

The culling took place at the zoo over a one-month period ending in early February 2017.

The Rhesus macaque is banned under Japanese law, and since its laws do not allow for the possession or transportation of any invasive species—including anything crossbred—the zoo figured it was better to kill the monkeys rather than give them to a zoo in another country.

Do Japanese zoos only have Japanese animals?

If not… like it might have a penguin, for example… is that not a so-called ‘invasive species’… why is that okay to possess and have transported into the country?

In a chat with AFP, conservation group WWF Japan spokesperson Mima Junkichi (surname first) pretty much said the culling was okay “because they get mixed in with indigenous animals and threaten the natural environment and ecosystem.”

Japan Environment Ministry’s Office for Alien Species Management also indicated to local media that the killing of 57 monkeys was unavoidable because there were fears they might escape and reproduce in the wild.

Of course, the Environment Ministry also says that an exception could have been made, had the zoo applied for permission to keep the crossbred monkeys…

Ever wonder how those monkeys crossbred? No, I’m sure some of you know he whole birds-and-the-bee thing… but rather… how did the alien species - Rhesus macaque get into a zoo where the Japanese Nihonzaru snow monkeys frolic?

The Takagoyama Nature Zoo is an open-concept zoo - not caged… so it was very possible that the Rhesus macaque—that has a habitat in China and Southeast Asia, could come across (no pun intended… maybe just a little) the Japanese species within the area.

Did you know that a Japanese Buddhist temple held a memorial service for the 57 dead monkeys? Do half-breed monkeys even have a soul? And if they do, were these monkeys followers of Buddhist philosophy?

Yes… an official at the zoo reportedly did have the Buddhist temple perform a memorial service for the 57 Ronin… er, 57 monkeys. I suppose it’s a nice thought.

The Takagoyama Nature Zoo STILL has 164 snow monkeys it believes are pure Japanese macaque.

“This is a Japanese monkey!”

The above statement will hopefully amuse anyone who has been in Japan, and has seen how proud the Japanese are to explain that such-and-such is of Japanese origin.

It will continue its due diligence to ensure the Japanese snow monkey breed will remain pure.

So… for all you gaijin/foreigners in Japan… think twice before you ask that Japanese guy or gal out on a date.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I questioned the veracity of this story because Japan killing these monkeys just seemed so unnecessary… but apparently it’s true.
PPS: Image at very top found on Wikipedia: by Yblieb showing Snow Monkeys in a hot water spa in Nagano, Japan.PPPS: Here's a 1982 video from Peter Gabriel called Shock The Monkey. Gabriel was previously a mainstay in the group Genesis.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mokuru

There’s a new game adults can play called Mokuru

Yes, they look like Crayola on steroids, or some weird Japanese sex toy I have never personally used... no... this is Mokuru.

And while I question it’s ability to be played for long in a bar, as they seem to imply it can be done: noise, room and public drunkenness come to mind, Mokukru does seem like a fun game of agility… and… fun, I guess.

For all you people who have been to Japan to teach English… do you recall your students swishing their pens or pencils around their hands and fingers in an incredible show of dexterity and ability to annoy?
Well… Mokuru isn’t like that, though it was inspired by it. Its creator even says so.   

The origins of the game go back about 50 years - back when kids in class would twirl their fountain pen caps.

A Japanese craft artist named Sato Toshio saw it and decided to create a toy version the emulated the twirling action beloved by Japanese school kids even now.

I want you to know that I can’t find any information on Sato or his twirling invention… but that doesn’t mean anything except that I couldn’t find it. What the hell was it called?!

Anyhow, that’s where Mokuru designer Node Masakazu (surname first) comes in, saying he saw that toy - made some adjustments of his own, and presto - Mokuru... or something like that...

Actually,  I was looking at the Mokuru data I was sent (I should read these things first)… and I found out that Sato created Mokuru 20 years ago… and that Node simply improved upon it and kept the name… with permission from Sato.

Sato and the new Mokuru gang did product testing, to establish the ideal size, shape and material for Mokuru.

Mokuru is described by its creator as a desktop toy made from Japanese beech wood.

It looks a lot like the old Skittle-Bowl game… no… I never played it… I just have a strange ability to recall completely random useless things. Pity I can’t make money from that.

Apparently to remember this, I forgot how to do math.
See? Then again… it’s not like anyone has a copyright on a shape... or do they? Probably not... skittle games have been around since the ancient Greek times.

Both are made of wood… but Mokuru has the words Mokuru on it… is painted in pretty colors, and has neat groove lines around the narrow necks… of the beech wood cylinder.



So… a desktop game… Mokuru is available in black, white, blue, orange and red. 

The game is meant to not only be an ideal time waster, but is something the creators say will help sharpen one’s focus and hand-eye-coordination.

How do you play?

Tip Mokuru over gently to make it flip.

No… not like this:


Man, that chick is strong! You go Grrrl!

No... don;'t flip it like that, rather flip Mokuru like this:



Once you get the hang of how Mokuru flips, now things get fun… with tricks and games for yourself and friends.

I’m not sure if it is a requirement, but you may need to wear some sort of woolen hat - even in the summer.

Gods help me, I think my son is going to be one of those… especially after I bought him a pair of hip Vans shoes - he preferred footwear of sk8r boys and girls. Yes… you have to spell it that way.

Tricks that can be contemplated by people much cooler than myself are:

BASIC TRICKS
Flip: Use one finger to flip Mokuru around from its tip from left to right
Triangle: Flip the Mokuru to draw a triangle
Square: Flip the Mokuru to draw a square 

ADVANCED TRICKS
Hold: Flip Mokuru from left to right and catch it on the back of your hand
Kiss: Use one Mokuru to flip another Mokuru from left to right and then up and down
Big Ben: Flip and make Mokuru stand
 
EXPERT TRICKS
Big Square: Use two Mokuru to draw a square using both hands
Twin: Use two Mokuru and manipulate them with one hand
Five Moves: Use five Mokuru and manipulate them with one hand

MULTIPLAYER
Vs: Using a big table, flip the Mokuru to the person across from you
Marathon: 2-10 people keep the Mokuru running continuously in a line

Right now, Mokuru is a Kickstarter campaign… and you can partake of the fun by clicking HERE.

For the record, I have not received any money or even a sample of Mokuru and can not speak directly to the coolness of the product… but it does look cool.

Banzai,
Andrew “no longer cool” Joseph
PS: More like "never was"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

And To Think That I Saw It ON TV

I must admit that when the U.S. elections were occurring this past year, I was secretly hoping that Donald J. Trump would win... no, not because I thought he was the best option, but rather because I knew he would present the best sound-bite. I'm from Canada.

Plus... I figured electing him would teach the American people to be careful what you wish for... having seen the same sort of circus with a recent mayor of Toronto. I don't wish to speak ill of the dead, so I'll just leave it at that.

In the past few weeks of U.S. president Donald J. Trump as the leader of the so-called free-world, I have no idea what his plans for the United States are, except that he seems overly concerned about keeping people out - which is fine. That's his administration's prerogative.

As an interested observer of American politics, I am curious about the number of times President Trump seems to go off half-cocked... espousing views without having the proper facts to back them up... like his recent comments about what is going on in Sweden - implying that immigrants there are causing an increase in violence... claiming he saw something about that on television.

The Swedes were not amused.  

Hence the very funny joke image above. Hopefully this will amuse the Swedes.

I see lots of interesting stuff on television... a medium once described as something that would rot one's mind.

Don't you believe that... look at what you see, and question it... find out BOTH sides of an argument and then make an informed choice on how YOU wish to proceed.

I'm not saying you shouldn't believe what your leader's say... just be aware that regardless of the country or political party... just like how the media can further manipulate a survey's scant results... slow down... and take a critical look at the facts... because yes... sometimes there IS fake news.

Sometimes the fake news is being made by people who claim fake news is real. Like I am with the photograph above.

Fake news.

It reminds me of the classic first book from Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel): And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, a 1937 story about a boy named Marco, who describes a parade of imaginary people and vehicles traveling along Mulberry Street, in a fantasy story he dreams up to tell his father at the end of his walk. However, when he arrives home he decides instead to tell his father what he actually saw—a simple horse and wagon.

Or... if you prefer, a dog and pony show.

And that is a story that no one can beat
And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

By the way... minutes after I wrote this - minutes! - a report came out from Sweden, that rioting immigrants threw rocks at police after they arrested another immigrant - damage included: half a dozen cars being burned, vandalizing of several shopfronts, and police getting stoned (and not the good way) by rock throwing youths.

Now... if I was a conspiracy theorist like some presidents, I might suspect that the whole thing was orchestrated in order to prove a point...

We all know that there are professional rioters who cause trouble at various demonstrations... just like how you can watch news on a Middle East country and see the very same people burning American flags and chanting death to the Satan America. The same 40 people who are the cause of every news riot - providing the U.S. with the right to shuffle more money and energy into defending the Middle East from itself. The U.S. economy stays strong when there's an enemy to fight. (see Grenada - bonus points if you can point to it on a map)

I mean really... you see those riots on the news? Doesn't anyone work? Someone must... are the riots caused by people who don't work - professional rioters, not withstanding?

Okay - a lot of that was fake news... and a lot of that was reality... but it's okay... you guys are smart enough to figure what is what...

But yeah... Sweden and riots... that Trump... it's like he knew it was going to happen... like he's able to see into the future or something... like some kind of mutant. 

I said "like", not "is".

By the way... since the U.S. president is retroactively correct for the moment regarding Sweden (maybe immigrants were involved), should Japan be worried?

Godzilla wasn't on AMC this week, was it?    


Somewhere on a commercial break,

Andrew "not my real name" Joseph
PS: That is my real name. Isn't it?
PPS: A dog and pony show is: an elaborate display or presentation, especially as part of a promotional campaign.
PPPS: And before anyone gets too upset with me, the photo above was sent to me by an American citizen... and I swear I thought it was real. Maybe it will be...  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Executive Order 9066

Executive Order 9066. Get used to it, because we might see its likes soon enough again.

On February 19, 1942, one of America's so-called greatest presidents signed off on an order that may have been America's (and Canada's) most horrible dark, little crimes conveniently swept under the proverbial historical rug.

Yes... there's the shameful treatment of North America's native American and Inuit nations, as well as what was done to Australia's Aboriginal peoples, or Central and South American Aztec, Inca, Mayan.. etc... and heck, let's not forget Japan and it's Ainu people... oops... almost forgot that whole slavery misunderstanding.

To be clear, that was a bit of sarcasm.

But all of the above shameful acts were merely the subjugation of countries and people doing bad stuff to others who were not of their country...

But on February 19, 1942... regardless if you were a full-blown American (or Canadian) citizen... if you were a yellow-skinned nip (Japanese), regardless of how long you had been a citizen... born there... parents born there... you were now an official enemy of the State.

Why? Because the United States was at war after being forced into WWII when Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in the still independent country of Hawaii.

I get it  - Japan very bad. Let's gett'em back for that cowardly attack. I get it. No argument. I would feel the same if something like that happened in Canada in 2017.

I felt the same way when the U.S. felt the terrorist attacks on 9-11 back in 2001. Go get'em guys!

But get whom? The U.S.... if they really wanted to be correct back after 9-11... well... weren't most of those terrorists from the UAE? No... can't attack them... we need the oil... and besides... these terrorists belonged to a group... not a country. Tough one.

But Japan attacking Pearl Harbor... that's the Japanese attacking... ergo, anyone who is Japanese is our enemy.

That makes sense.

So what the fug is Executive Order 9066?

This order, signed by Unites States president Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the U.S. Secretary of War to name certain areas a military zone... (like say in 2017, we turn Delaware into a military zone)... because we need to create concentration camps to keep an eye on all those enemy Japanese, Germans and Italians... including those who might be citizens of the United States, but have a background - say a father, mother, grandfather, great grandfather et al who was Japanese, German or Italian.

Hmm... internment camps for American citizens of Japanese, German or Italian heritage?

Well... since entering WWII, the U.S. and her allies were fighting against three main antagonists: Japan, Germany, and Italy (hey - who'sa winnin' da war? We're on dat side!" - again, I'm being sarcastic).

Now... as we are all fully aware... German-Americans and Italian-Americans (in the U.S.) and German-Canadians and Italian-Canadians (in Canada) at no time ever were they placed within an internment camp, losing jobs, homes, property... though I imagine they took their fair share of prejudicial abuse from the so-called White America and White Canada.

Stoopid wops! Dirty krauts!

No... for some reason... the Italians and Germans of American descent (and Canadian - I'm not letting Canada off the hook for its disgraceful behavior merely because it was just following the U.S.'s orders) - they were treated differently by White America and Canada...

Which I find interesting, as many Italian friends of mine discuss race as though Italians and their often darker complexion - are not White. Interesting. Do "White" non-Italian people know this?

Then again... that's a few people... and not the majority...

So... why did the United States (and Canada) decide to go through with efforts to place the visible minority Japanese into internment camps?

Racial profiling... yes... but it's as simple as the fact that it was a skin color thing...

But then why not the Chinese?

It would be more difficult to do that to Chinese-Americans only because China was not the enemy of the U.S.

Still... the point the U.S. was making was that since it was at war with Japan... and it was concerned about Americans of Japanese descent acting as spies for Japan (even if they had never been to Japan and were full-blown Babe Ruth-lovin' American citizens)... well... better safe than sorry, right... better to get rid of the entire threat now than suffer consequences afterwards.

Here's what Executive Order 9066 was:

Executive Order No. 9066
The President
Executive Order
Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas
Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104);
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.
I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area here in above authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.
I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.
This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas here under.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The White House,
February 19, 1942.
Right... so fug the U.S. Constitution. Which is fine... the United States had been hypocritical since it dare uttered the words:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

As long as you weren't no Nip or Nigger. Chink. Injun.... Spic... Wop. Kike... the list goes on...

It was only since the Civil Rights movements in the 1960s did the United States even begin to try and achieve anything as "WE THE PEOPLE".

Canada was no better. I don't know if any country was any better.

But to do such things to citizens of your own country?



So... less than one month later, U.S. president Roosevelt signed Public Law 503 to enforce his executive order 9066.  It took one whole hour of discussion in the U.S. Senate and whew! 30 minutes in the U.S. House Of Representatives for approval - meaning it's not all on the president... it was on a lot of elected officials meant to represent the voice and opinion of its populace... 

Law 503 said that violations of military orders was a misdemeanor and punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and one year in prison.

Similar to what Nazi Germany did in rounding up Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals and others for internment in their camps... Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.

Now... Nazi Germany was ruthless, and tried to exterminate a race... the Americans just took away their right to freedom... their only crime having someone in their family born in a country that was now considered their enemy.

Don't people say that loss of freedom is akin to loss of life?

I dunno... I'm asking.

Here's one I don't get... Hawaii, was a protectorate of the United States... and was still a separate country... but maybe it wasn't... it's like when Miss Puerto Rico wins a Miss Universe contest, the United States likes to claim that victory for itself... all one big happy family... right, hombre?

Anyhow... at the time of WWII's beginnings, the population of Hawaii consisted of 40% Japanese people.... so... what happened re: internment?

Only a few thousand Japanese were interned in camps in Hawaii... the rest were left alone.

Across the U.S... of the 100,000+ people of Japanese ancestry interned... 70,000 were actual full-blown American citizens. Of the rest... many had lived in the U.S. for anywhere up to 50 years... which (I wonder) beggars the question... why the heck didn't those people become citizens? Not that it would have mattered.

Did you know that no Japanese American citizen or Japanese national residing in the United States was ever found guilty of sabotage or espionage - of course...that doesn't mean they weren't sabotaging or spying...

As for what I said about Germans and Italians not being treated the same as Japanese of American decent - it is true... but I did hear that 11,000 people of German ancestry were interned, as were 3,000 people of Italian ancestry, along with some Jewish refugees

Jews? Sure... The interned Jewish refugees came from Germany, as the U.S. government did not differentiate between ethnic Jews and ethnic Germans (the term "Jewish" was defined as a religious practice, not an ethnicity).

So I was wrong... about the German- and Italian-Americans being interned... except why not all Italian Americans and all German Americans?

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
(Woo, woo, woo)
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)


Sure, Simon & Garfunkel... just not during WWII...  in 1942, while Japanese Americans were being put in what was effectively a prison, Joe, an American of Italian decent, hit .305, had 114 RBIs, and 21 HRs for the New York Yankees.

I'm not saying that's DiMaggio's fault... I'm just saying that the same rules did not apply for citizens of the United States, implying some citizens were considered less citizen-like than others.

Okay - that's all for now... oh:

On December 1944, President Roosevelt suspended Executive Order 9066. Internees were released, often to resettlement facilities and temporary housing, and the internment camps were shut down by 1946.

Those who had been interned were released to discover they had lost their homes, businesses, property, and savings.

U. S. President Gerald Ford rescinded Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1976... and U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to create a study of Executive Order 9066, related wartime orders, and their impact on Japanese American.

Released in December of 1982, the study said that the incarceration of Japanese Americans had not been justified by military necessity. The report determined that the decision to incarcerate was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership".

So... Ford and Carter were better at protecting the civil rights of American citizens that the great FDR?

Apology letters and reparation payments were finally offered up in the 1990s...

here ya go... welcome to America... start rebuilding your life... nearly 40 years too late...

Hope everyone enjoyed President's Day in the U.S. It was Family Day in most of Canada. Monday for most everyone else.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, February 20, 2017

Better Never Late Than Ever

In Japan, society as a whole appreciates and expects conformity... especially when it comes to being on time for things.

Whether it's work, enkai/party, a date, it's train, subway and bus systems, punctuality is key.

It all comes down to the Japanese belief in wa (aka harmony).

And, it actually comes down to wa/harmony in work.

The trains, subways and buses all run to the second of being on time to their prescribed schedules - it's one of those great things about Japan.

You can expect a train to arrive at the station when the schedule says it will, and you can expect to arrive at your destination when you should... allowing you to accurately assure your day runs smoothly - especially necessary when it is time to get to work.

Work is one of those things that the Japanese expect - no demand - its employees be on time for... and the only time you can NOT set your clock, is for when it is time to leave... as you are expected to leave AFTER the boss leaves to show your dedication to the cause... to work... to the family that are your co-workers... to show wa.

This past Sunday morning, we (the family) were late for a hockey game my son was playing in.

My wife had received an e-mail back in January detailing a change in schedule... from a 10:50AM start, to an 8:30AM start.

So imagine my surprise when my wife smacked me over the head at 8:15AM to scream at me that we were late and that I had screwed up the times and we had to go now.

Turns out she was the only one who knew about the time change, and had forgotten to mention to anyone else. And this is hockey... where you have to dress up in a lot of gear... so we did.

While it was Hudson's turn to be in net (he alternates with the head coach's kid), I assumed that since we were late that his boy would be dressed for goalie... so we had Hudson put on his forward's gear.

We arrive 10 minutes late (me... I'm the assistant coach - so everyone assumes this was my fault)... find out that no one is playing goalie, so Hudson has to rip off the forward equipment and put on the goalie gear... making us miss nearly the first half of the game.

Strangely enough, the score is 0-0 by the time Hudson gets in net... and we eventually win 3-1.

I'm never late for anything. It's something I have taken great pains to ensure never happens... and when something unforeseen like this... or bad traffic makes me late... well... I'm just plain embarrassed... and angry at myself for having let everyone down.

This is the concept of Japanese wa. It is something I was doing even before I went to Japan.

In Japan... I was never ever late... it just makes you look bad.

There is NO excuse for it... especially in Japan where you take a bus, train or subway or bicycle or walk to work. Cars - I just assume everyone leaves early enough to give them enough time to assure themselves of not being late - but I don't know.

All the people in Japan I know who drove... they didn't have to drive within a big city like Tokyo or Osaka... they were small town people going to their small town jobs. No problem with traffic.

Ever.

I can recall having to ride my bicycle 10 kilometers in a harsh February wind that was bone-chilling as it blew into my face the entire way... wiping my runny nose with one hand as I steered the bike along the busy sidewalk dodging other bicycle riders and pedestrians... my very dark RayBan sunglasses on making it difficult to see things in the near dark, but a necessary evil to keep the cold wind from tearing my eyes, which would have made the drive even more perilous as I would have to make sure I didn't wipe frozen snot into my peepers.

I can recall arriving at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) that first morning when I rode in... and the Principal coming out - not to see if I was okay, but to ensure that I... the gaijin-no-sensei (the foreign teacher) was on time... talking to me after school that he was very happy I was able to have made it on time to work that day.

He says he hears from many other principals at different cities how the foreigner teachers are not always as conscientious about their work.

You'll notice that in this case, "my work" had nothing to do with my "output" rather it had everything to do with appearances.

If I could show up for work late, I would be setting a bad example to the other teachers... and even though I never considered myself to be a teacher, the Japanese school system did in this instance.

See... it doesn't matter to them if you are Japanese or a foreigner... punctuality means something.

I was thanked for showing up on time... which was appreciated, but also insulting... but I guess some of my fellow foreigner teachers had helped hurt their wa with their schools... meaning they had helped hurt the wa achieved by others who dared be on time.

Wa affects everyone like one large butterfly effect. 

The following is just for those involved in the teaching profession... because the "foreigners" I know in other jobs do so in the Japanese manner.

Conversely... they know that since you are a foreigner... and do not have to work as late as your Japanese counterparts... you aren't marking tests or creating them.... you aren't creating detailed work plans in Japanese... and they are also aware that you work your 9 to 5 routine, five days a week - not having to coach or teach a club activity.

As well, they know you do not have to come in on Saturdays to work half-a-day. And then teach a club activity.

Of course... you are welcome to teach a club activity... but only if the coach says it's okay and you really, really know your stuff... because the last thing you want to do is destroy the club/team's wa.

As a junior high school AET (assistant English teacher) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme... you can understand WHY I never thought of myself as a teacher... and certainly not on par with my fellow JTEs (Japanese teachers of English)... I didn't put in the same amount of work as the Japanese... I merely did what was expected of me as a foreigner... except for being punctual.

So... my advice to any of you who are living and working in Japan at this time or are thinking about it - never, ever, ever be late for work.

It's just not wa.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: If you don't think the butterfly effect is valid, consider Chaos theory (as explained in Jurassic Park)... which is the same thing... 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tokyo Architecture In WaterColor

I'm feeling a tad burned out... work was busy this week - having to finish three feature articles, writing this blog, and trying to do a weekly blog on Pioneers of Aviation - a blog that seems like it would be easy when writing about pre-1919 aviation, but always seems to take nearly 20 hours of writing just to complete an entry.

Or more.

Such is the price of knowledge. The real problem with writing about things that are old, is the veracity of the information out there.

Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get inside.

Unless you look at the handy-dandy guide chocolate companies provide inside the box of chocolates.

That's what I try to create in these blogs... and to be honest... it's tiring... so I'm doing what I am doing now... taking a breather, of sorts, while still maintaining a streak of over six straight years+ of doing a blog every day here in Japan-It's A Wonderful Rife.

I began writing everyday as an experiment, to be sure, but also to help me become a better writer, which I have arguably become. It has helped me not only learn more than I knew before about Japan and myself, and it has also enabled me to meet plenty of new people - albeit via so-called social media.

Actually, I began writing everyday for more selfish reasons... I needed an outlet from all the crazy going on around me - some of you may know what I mean... and since a cobbler should stick to what he knows, I cobble together articles via writing.

It's a long weekend here in Ontario, Canada - Family Day on Monday... which you think would be great what with the 11C weather here in Toronto this past Saturday... but I have a magazine deadline for Wednesday... compounded by the fact that I won't be there that day as I have to go out and interview a company (for April - even though the deadline is for March), so my work has to done on Tuesday before I leave.

My allergies are kicking in... my neck hurts from whatever the hell I am doing to it... I did a load of dishes, scrubbed some pots without steel wool, vacuumed the house, watched my cat barf violently causing him to poop... never seen that before...

Caught up on some TV (watch Legion and Riverdale... yes, the two shows about an X-Men - the show is VERY trippy and VERY watchable without having to read the comic books -  and one about the world of Archie comic book characters - a kind of Twin Peaks/Dawson Creek combo, or so I hear as I never saw Dawson Creek - I have around 500 Archie comics, which always amuse me... Riverdale is a dark twisted look at what Archie et al would be like in 2017), watched my hockey team lose...

Realized I didn't have anything in particular I wanted to write about tonight... could write about some student escapade in Japan... but I'm just not feeling it.

No... let me instead merely direct you to a wonderful article sent my way by friend and blog reader Vinnie, regarding a Polish artist who created some wonderful watercolor paintings of architecture in Tokyo... and no, not the fancy modern buildings, but rather painstaking detail of buildings that simply look old and nondescript when you walk past them everyday on the street.

And yet... each has a personality, capably captured by artist Mateusz Urbanowicz - and you can see more than the image at the top over at www.mymodernmet.com.

We'll see if I feel anymore genki (active/lively/well) tomorrow... but I think I may just take it easy until such time that I don't.

Check out the art and story behind it HERE.

Before I began writing these blogs everyday, I didn't really know that I liked architecture... but I guess I did, as I took a lot of photographs of certain architectural features on Japanese buildings... windows, and roofs... I know... weird... but coming from Toronto - a huge modern city, I was fascinated by the old Japanese architecture I saw all over Japan... and was dismayed when I saw it being shunted aside for more modern western-looking architecture.

At least the link I provided here will offer a glimpse into what I saw in Japan, and what made me see how different it was... even in a simple building that people walk by everyday without a second look.

Check out Mateusz Urbanowicz's artwork, and have a second look for the first time.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Dammit... I still wrote over 780 words... or about 1/3 of a feature article for work. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Early Days Of Teaching English On The JET Programme

So... what were my interactions with Japanese junior high school students like back when I was an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme?

Pretty boring, actually.

I mean, yeah... we all had a lot of laughs... did some English learnin'... had a few more laughs... but truthfully, the good stuff happened outside the classroom.

For three years I was essentially a human tape recorder, reading English sentences from a book so the students could hear the real way English words were supposed to sound, and not the slightly stilted Japanese-accented way it OFTEN (NOT ALWAYS) came out.

It's cool... I didn't mind being used in this manner.

Sometimes I would be asked to create a game, like Hangman for the kids to play... but really... I was there to either play act a book scene with a teacher, read a passage in my perfect neutral accent, observe the kids in their speaking and make gentle assessments and corrections if warranted, and while the kids did some sort of English work I could walk around the classroom and look like I owned the place.

There was no screaming in class - except when someone wasn't paying attention - and that wasn't my domain.

Even in my one "bad school" the kids were not bad IN class - just completely obnoxious outside it... maybe being a bit unruly when they knew they had a wimpy teacher... but after the teacher reported it to their homeroom teacher, the problem wouldn't happen again for a few more weeks.

Essentially, it was pretty low key. An easy job for me... with the most difficult part being having to look interested for the two to four times a day I would be required in a classroom...

I know that some of my compatriots had more duties... including having to plan original lessons every day for every class—and more power to them. But I didn't envy them.

I wasn't a real English teacher, so having to real English teacher things would not have appealed to me.

I knew of some people who were ticked off when they weren't used like a real teacher... which I thought was funny... because weren't there to be teachers, I figured... we were there to internationalize.... to help get the people and kids used to being a part of an international community rather only Japanese.

So... let me take a look back over the next few blogs and see if I can't relate to you some of the more interesting student interactions I had... from the son of the yakuza boss, to beating the crap out of a kid at judo club, to losing student respect on the soccer field, to watching kids struggle to speak English with me... and much, much more.

And all of it outside of the English classroom.

Chers,
Andrew (I like Cher) Joseph

Friday, February 17, 2017

Say Wa - ? A Glimpse Into The Japanese Concept Of Harmony

It’s hard to believe that after 3,500+ blogs, that not once have I written the Japanese word “wa (和)" even once.

Wa is a Japanese word used to discuss its own concept of harmony, and essentially defines just what the Japanese are trying to accomplish in their life, whether successfully or unsuccessfully.

Lately, it seems that wa/harmony has been less obvious in the overall scheme of Japanese life… it’s something I’ve been thinking about since about the first month in Japan after I learned of the concept back in 1990.

For me, while a half-full kind of guy, I strangely wondered if the influx of all of us gaijin/foreigners into Japanese society to teach them about internationization, was somehow going to destroy Japanese culture.

I argued within my own echo-y brain that maybe that was a good thing, after all Japanese culture had so many faults… such as women being treated like second-class citizens… the lack of immigration… and this dull, if not boring need to point out that everything they use in their daily life is Japanese.

"This is a Japanese kimono."
"These are Japanese chopsticks."
"This is Japanese rice."

When you hear it everyday as a foreigner in Japan, not only does it become tiresome, but you start to think that the Japanese are so full of themselves, and they need to get out and experience the world of internationalization a bit more… hence the early days of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, which gave us the dual job (1990-1993) to teach their students better English, but also to let them know that the Japanese were actually a part of an international community.

We were missionaries, putting forth a belief in a different faith.  

And then, being a smart guy who enjoyed playing devil’s advocate (and still do - which is what keeps me open-minded), I wondered if my view was correct.

Pride in all things Japanese… not showing off… maybe a little… but pride.

A pride in their culture, that I found refreshing.

I have long been amazed at the fervor my American cousins to the south have when it comes to being proud of being an American, and have shaken my head in disgust sometimes at how little my fellow Canadians felt something similar about their own country.

While I did think the Americanisms sometimes went too far, and Canadianisms not far enough… I thought there could be a happy medium.

Japan.

Despite their constant prattling about Japan this and Japan that, I quickly realized that they were simply talking that way to teach me about their country… and that within their own daily discussions about the world did NOT talk about themselves in that singular “Japan No.1” way at all.   

Had they found a balance… a wa?

Sort of… if there was true harmony and everyone thought exactly the same, it wouldn’t be wa… it would be brainwashing and there would not be any concept of free-thinking… and while the uni-mind way of thinking (think, work, eat, play together) is something Japan tries to follow… I wonder if the constant influx of foreigners and their way of free-thinking has altered the Japanese concept of wa… where the country no longer has harmony.

Wa, according to Wikipedia, “implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group, in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal interests.”

Wa is considered integral to Japanese society, and derives from traditional Japanese family values.

But what are those family values? Respect and honor.

It’s why I understood why my fiancé Noboko would forgo a happy and fulfilling life with me in order to please her father, who didn’t want her to marry or date a foreigner because it would make him look bad amongst his underlings and co-workers.

Say wa - ? Sure... if his single daughter is dating a gaijin, then she must be sleeping with him, because that's what all gaijin want - sort of yeah... but so what?

Well, if she's sleeping with a gaijin (hauuuuwch - ptoieeee!) then we know she is no longer a virgin, and the gaijin brings shame upon your daughter and she, by allowing herself to be soiled before marriage, brings shame upon you... and if you can't control your daughter, how can you control the employees under you?

It does all make sense in a warped way, because in Japan... sins against wa are magnified.

For the record, I never slept with a Japanese virgin ever.

Young unmarried couples in Japan have long slept around... it's what you do... it's primarily why they have a 'love hotel' industry in that country worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The thing is... couples are pretty much expected to have unmarried sex... but they are also expected to NOT go around making it a publicly known occurrence.

If a Japanese person is dating a foreigner... they MUST be having sex, because that's just common sense.

It's not a given, of course... and in my case it was true... but how dare a culture assume a stereotype to be 100% correct?     

Not being Japanese, and not being brainwashed into such Japaneseisms, I initially had a very difficult time with Noboko not willing to sacrifice everything that made her Japanese to be with me.

Yeah... wa is a major component of what it means to be Japanese. I fugging hate wa... even though I respect it.

... just not when it affects me in a negative way. 

You know that the true definition/translation of gaijin is "outsider" - hence the subheading under the title of the entire Rife blog.

Having my own wa - don't assume the Japanese are the only people on the planet to have harmony, it's just that I don't need anyone to formalize what my harmony should look like - Japan's wa was a point of contention to my wa - not all of the time, but in just a few of the important times.   

The fact that Noboko would go out with me… would hide that relationship from her father for a long while… implies that I, the foreigner, had impacted upon her concept of wa.

Then again… she was previously engaged to be married to a Japanese guy her father had approved off, but broke it off… stepping on the family wa. Note that I was nowhere in the family picture at that time… I arrived in her life a couple of years later…

Noboko had her own concept of wa that flied in the face of traditional Japanese family wa.

So… why was Noboko already questioning the Japanese concept of wa within her own family?
Because she was a free-thinker? She was living away from home in Kobe… a long distance from her father’s sphere of wa? Maybe. Kobe was also a hotbed of internationalization in Japan… much more so than in the rural confines of Tochigi-ken

I don’t know.

But I do know that within a group: a work group… a classroom… family…. whenever an individual breaks with the established concept of wa within that sphere… the rest of the group will bring that person back into the fold by correcting them overtly or covertly…. by the leader of that group.

Wa therefor implies structure… with the lowlies following the lead of the leader.

Individuality is frowned upon in Japan… as there are rules for everything… from how you bow, to how you speak to a superior, to how you dress… to how you do everything you do, because everybody does the same thing all the time for every situation one could ever come across.

But us gaijin/foreigners/outsiders really mucked up that concept… even after all these centuries… as our free-thinking ways keep throwing a proverbial monkey wrench into the system.

That’s good, right?

From Monty Python’s: The Life of Brian:

Brian: “You’re all individuals!”
Crowd: “We’re all individuals!!!”
Lone voice: “I’m not.”  

Or, if you prefer, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

Spock: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Kirk: “Or the one.”

Kirk’s comment may sound weird… but in this case, he means the “needs of the one” outweigh the needs of the many. Sometimes that trumps all. Sometimes.

The Japanese are expected to follow a hierarchy of command… it’s military-like… then again… pretty much every culture in the world follows that hierarchy within a family… until they decide not to and form their own family where they are the boss… shunting the old, former boss (usually the father), aside.

That’s good right? Progress, right?

The major flaw with the way the Japanese concept is blindly followed in Japan is of course the fact that sometimes the leader isn’t always the smartest one in the group…

Then again… sometimes the leader is Kirk.  Or Brian.

I’m not.

But I am,
Andrew "wa-wa-wa" Joseph  

 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Sex In Marriages And Crappy Surveys And Newspaper Reporting

There's a new report by The Guardian (click HERE, if you want to later) that points out that a record number of Japanese couple live in sexless marriages... and many that do, report only having sex once a month.

Well fug me. No wonder my exploits 25 years ago seem unreal to some readers. Ha!

Let's not beat a dead horse too much here... we already know that Japan is suffering a negative population growth...

But let's take a look at what media darlings, The Guardian, is reporting and see if the study, and thus its reporting is indeed reliable.

The article is based upon a recent survey conducted by the Japan Family Planning Association… who discovered that nearly  (NEARLY - IE less than 50 percent) of married couples have not had sex for more than a month, and did not expect that to change in the near future.

Someone get these people a new crystal ball... one with a crack in it.

Josephine Suzuki: "Magic EightBall, will we have success in the near future?" 
Magic Eightball: Define 'near future'.


 Okay… so how many people did the Japan Family Planning Association ask?

3,000.

The survey ASKED 3,000 people between the ages of 16-49 at the end of 2016…

So… the key word is ASKED. How many people actually responded to the survey?

Uh… that would be slightly above 1,200 people.

Okay… that’s not much.

Let’s see… the United Nations estimates that as of February 12, 2017, Japan has a population of 126,150,318… which is interesting because the 2013 census of Japan has it at 127,300,000 or so people.

We all know that Japan has a negative population growth owning to reduction in children being born (owing to the whole lack of sex thing), as well as very, very limited immigration… 

Anyhow, of that 126,150,318 people, we know that not everyone is between the age of 16-49… 

So let me just take an arbitrary number of 40% of the entire population as being a decent enough approximation for the country of Japan, and let me do some math.

So, with a base of 50,460,127 people to represent Japan’s entire 16-49-year-old base… the study’s 1,200 people represents 0.00002378115 percent of the entire 16-49-year-old Japanese population.

That’s a frickin’ minuscule representation of (my guesstimate) Japanese population for that age range.

Can you really write a newspaper article or a study based on such piddly representation like that?

You shouldn’t.

But… let’s go a step further…

The study talked about sexless marriages… that nearly half of all Japanese marriages are essentially sexless.

Okay “The Guardian”… let’s look at the veracity of that bold and misleading statement.

How many married Japanese couples responded to the survey?  

655.

That’s right… 655 married couples responded to a survey… and let’s say it was 1/2 that said they weren’t getting much sex… well… that means these results are based on… COUPLES... did couple actually respond together? Doubt it... why are they responding to surveys instead of having sex?

So... of those 655 married couples, does that mean that there were only actually 327 people who responded? The Guardian was not clear on that fact.

Heck... let's just suppose The Guardian meant 655 individual married couples responded.  

Screw it… I’m not even going to do the math… because it’s just so bloody ridiculous.

How come the Japan Family Planning Association only sent out 3,000 surveys?

Why not to everyone… or to every couple that has an official marriage license in Japan that is still currently living there?

3,000 survey questionnaires sent out… 1,200 respondents… and of those, 655 who are part of a married couple.

Did the survey ask if the respondent was male or female? (Probably)

Would a male be more likely to tell the truth, as opposed to the female wife? Doubt it. I believe women to generally be more honest when it comes to answering intrusive and personal questions like in the survey.

And look… I just found a newspaper article in the Toronto Star (click HERE, afterward if you believe everything mainstream media tells you) based on a study that Ryne Sherman and his co-authors published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior earlier this year showing, which says that  millennials in their 20s and 30s — the so-called “hookup generation” — are anything but.

And recall that THIS is NOT about Japan!!!! This is about the U.S.... but the Toronto Star didn't really mention just which country these results were about.

Sherman, an associate professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University (Go Owls!) found that about 15 per cent of American 20- to 24-year-olds have never had penetrative sex - virgins. Been there, didn't like it, but am basically a born-again virgin.

Their parents... (IE my age), that virginal percentage was just 6 percent.
Apparently this latter data was culled from the General Social Survey, and does not specify what sex is... though I'm pretty sure in this case anyone reading a question about whether they have had sex or not, would realize it to mean full on penetrative intercourse (Bill Clinton, excepted).

The Toronto Star fails to mention anything about what the older General Social Survey was... or when it was... blah-blah-blah. Screw it... I'm not even going to look it up, because the way the article was presented was bogus.



The newspaper article says: "Researchers floated a few possible reasons for the trend: It’s a hangover from fear-based sex-education of the ’90s; It’s part of a trend toward less risk taking — today’s young people do drugs less, drink less and use condoms more than their parents did; It’s a failure to launch — economic trends have landed many millennials at their parents’ place, not the most conducive environment for sexytimes."

Lots of wonderful puns included, and yet someone still couldn't take the time to present numerical facts - such as how many people were surveyed...

Anyhow... for one minute, let's assume that the general findings of the article/study are correct... that Millenials aren't getting it as much as people like myself did a mere 25 years earlier.

Why?

Me... I blame it on the fact that people don't meet people anymore... that there's this thing people started saying back in the 1990s, that being promiscuous is bad... or that you shouldn't date anyone where you work, or other crap like that. 

There's the Internet... if you just want sex, you could probably find that... but love and a long-lasting relationship.. while not impossible, it seems like finding that perfect match is difficult... especially for people that are used to doing all of their talking via texting and e-mails or cell phones... 

People don't know how to communicate anymore. 

Trust me. 

No really. 

My gift has been the act of communication... to be able to read people... to notice things about them... a haircut... a new blouse or earrings... to smile when I talk... to be able to talk about things I know little about, but also to listen to learn about things I know little about. 

There was another study I heard about that say that because of the ways in which people get their information (social media et al) ... those same people seem to have developed an attention span of somewhere around eight seconds. 

Holy ADHD, Batman!

Eight seconds... you can't find out anything about anything in eight seconds. 

You ever notice that I don't write brief blogs? No sh!t eh? People USED to like to learn about people and things... 

Do you think that 25 years ago when I was in Japan, and was rejected by Noboko after I wrote a haiku for her, that my attention would have wandered elsewhere and I would have given up?

No... what if it was in Japan now, and texted her...  asking if she wanted to go for o-cha (green tea), and she said no... would that be it? Probably... because you can't have a conversation... can't truly express oneself adequately simply by texting, IM-ing or via e-mails. 

You can't hear the rich timbre of my voice that could melt snow during an ice storm... you couldn't see the glint in my eye... the confidence in the way I stand... how much of a slick sumbitch I was... hmmm... okay, that might have worked against me... but photographic evidence shows my confidence in winning a woman. (That sounded sexist, and I didn't mean it to be... but you know what I mean.)

If we were doing the whole digital/virtual date asking out thing, then I wouldn't have been able to see the confusion in Noboko's eyes after I handed her a haiku I wrote in 20 seconds telling her it was for her: 

Her beautiful eyes
Seem to hypnotize my soul
Capturing my heart

I wrote that within minutes of first seeing her... actually gasping audibly as I turned to another teacher to ask "WHO is THAT?"

I might be a writer... and fairly capable one... but there is no way in hell typing crap on a screen could ever equal actually being beside a person and exposing their own true feelings.

After seeing Noboko's confusion... it meant I knew what I had to do next... not really... but I did know that I had to do something, because I knew she knew I had just written her a "love haiku"... and I could see that she wasn't impressed... or she was scared...

I'll bet I was the first ever foreigner who had ever had the nerve to hit on her... the first person to hit on her immediately after being introduced... the first person to hit on her at work and not at an office enkai (party).   

I also knew from seeing her, that it was love at first sight. It happens.

How does love at first sight work via Instant Messaging? 

What would you do in 2017? How do you text someone you don't know?

Yes, I've "met" people on-line... and luckily my intelligence shines through better than most... and luckily enough, those women were smart enough to recognize that.

Does a typed love haiku have the same passion as one written by pen on paper?

I could smell Noboko's shampoo... and let me tell you... when it comes to physical attraction between two people... being able to smell one another... pheromones.

How do I love thee?   
Let me count the ways... 

The 21st century is screwed, man... and not in a good way.

Back to that survey crap... 

At no point in the Toronto Star article does it discuss HOW many people were surveyed... WHERE those surveys were distributed... WHO those people were (social background)... WHAT exactly was asked (what does "sex" imply, relative to previous sex studies - and are we talking between men and women, men or just women?) WHEN was the survey conducted... the WHY seems pretty obvious.

The Toronto Star article does then mention plenty of people commenting about how they too were virgins... but again... how many people commented versus the number of people who aren't bothering to comment versus how many people are there?  

Now... I think I did a pretty decent job in debunking the Japanese study, and have noted that the article written by The Guardian is irresponsible and misleading.

And while The Guardian did report the survey response numbers, it still implied that the data it represented was important and did indeed represent the entire country of Japan.

It does not represent the country of Japan. It represents those few married couples/people who responded to a small survey.

Do me a favor... anytime you see reports based on a survey... question how many people participated, and then determine if it is a fair representation of a block of people for the survey results to be considered truly valid.

Sigh,
Andrew Joseph
HERE