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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Renting Or Buying A Ghost Home

Japan has a secret (or maybe not-so-secret) love affair with ghosts and ghouls and demons et al.

And by that, I mean that Japanese society seems to love stories about the supernatural. Heck, if you have never seen Ringu (The Ring) movie, watch it and be prepared to have the crap scared out of you.Seriously - it is one creepy flick.

But… just because Japan loves the scary stories, it doesn’t mean Japanese people want to live the scary life.

Jiko bukken (事故物件) are the real estate properties where an occupant has died, whether it be  murder or suicide or simple neglect (they died and no one realized for days or weeks) … and I assume also by some sort of demonic entity.

It actually means "stigmatized property".

Actually, here's a list of what a jiko bukken property consists of (I took it from the Tokyo Cheapo website - HERE:
  • A property where a murder, suicide or a natural death occurred (including cases where the body wasn’t found for a while); 
  • A property near criminal gangs;
  • A property constructed on top of a well;
  • A property by a waste treatment facility, or a graveyard/crematorium;
  • A property made by, or on ground once owned by, a cult;
  • A property with a history of fire, flooding or other things that caused death or injury (asbestos poisoning, gas leaks etc);
  • A property with a complicated history regarding ownership, as shown in the registry listings— multiple owners over a short period of time inherently means something amiss with the property.
Thanks Tokyo Cheapo!
Okay, back to me. In Japan, the jiko bukken properties are actually recognized by Japanese law, meaning that any real estate agent attempting to unload a murder house, must fully explain the the would-be buyer or renter if someone had previously died in the place. It really is against the law to conceal such information to a would-be consumer.

It’s done to avoid any surprises when a dripping wet teenager ghost girl comes crawling out from your television set in an attempt to see what sort of snack you are having.

But not to worry… if you are a property rental agent… you only have to warn a would-be renter who is the first person after an “incident”.

For example… if someone has died in a house, let’s say by choking on mochi, that glutenous, tasty, but deadly dangerous rice ball, and if Client A rents the place, and then decides after a few months that they want to move out, the real estate agent does NOT have to tell you about the incident, when you apply.

So yeah… let’s suppose Family A is living in a murder house with its own trans-dimensional portal in the kitchen…

They move out after a while having decided that it’s way easier to dump garbage through the portal to another dimension, than to have to pack up and move again… besides… the price was right!

So… after the father gets transferred to a new town with a new nuclear power generating facility, another family (Family B) moves in.

They don’t have to be told a thing about the murder house or even the trans-dimensional portal.

However, IF Family A, after learning about the murder house decides to move in any way, and is then themselves murdered by trans-dimensional beings pissed off at all of the garbage being tossed into their universe, the real estate agent would have to warn the next potential buyers about the death.

But murderous ghosts aside, for those looking to save a few yen on housing the jiko bukken properties provide fiscal relief.

For those who are looking to rent an apartment, a jiko bukken property can save the renter as much as half the rent money.

Besides… with Japan’s population growing increasingly older, there’s going to be more and more homes in which someone has died… which could be bad news for real estate agents, but good news for consumers.

Two people that I know of—my mother and her father (my grandfather) passed away in my current house. While there have been no supernatural incidents that I am aware of, if I was in Japan with this place, I would have to disclose the information to the real estate agent - even though the deaths were over 20 years ago - so they could warn any one wanting to rent or purchase my house.

But despite the cost savings, Japanese people really don’t seem to want to move into any place where someone has died in it previously.

I’m not talking about an apartment where a family was hacked to death by a crazed tattooed guy who simply wanted the money owed him where the blood won’t come away from the walls, or even where the screams still echo in air years later… no… Japanese people simply don’t care to live where death has been.

Look… even though the word for death is “shi” (死)… and the word for four is “shi” (四)… each having it’s own unique “Chinese-style” kanji symbol… because it sounds exactly the same, many Japanese people will say “yon” in stead of “shi” when describing the number four.

Plus… in Japan (China, too - because it uses the same characters), no one wants to live anywhere where the number four is part of the address… though what the heck… some do.

I wonder if they get a break on their purchase/rental price?

For example, in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken where I lived for three-plus years in Japan, I lived on the third floor of a family condo. Did the people on the fourth floor care that regardless if it was Floor shi or Floor yon, it was still Floor sounds-like-death.

Westerners have their own fear of the number 13, which is why it is rare to find an apartment building or office building littered with Floor 13… skipping the offensive number for the number 14… but I wonder… don’t the people on Floor 14 know they are actually on Floor 13?

Back to the house/home where death occurred.

For those brave souls willing to pay half-price or so for a jiko bukken, one does not have to put up with anything supernaturally evil or scary.

No… you can hire a Buddhist priest to come and perform a cleansing ceremony on your place to try and quell any unhappy spirits still residing there, as well as to bless this house.

I suppose such ceremony could also be considered supernatural, but in this case it is supernaturally good.

Japan’s Airbnb, may not have to disclose any sort of “incident”… at least this new housing rental scenario doesn’t seem to be part of the Japanese real estate jiko bukken law…

As usual, caveat emptor… let the buyer beware.

Andrew Joseph
PS: During WWII on the island of Saipan (across the street from Guam), rather than surrender to Allied troops, Japanese soldiers leaped off a cliff to their death while yelling "Banzai!!!" The Saipan people call it Banzai Cliff. The view is spectacular, as you can see in the photo I took when I visited there. Lots of Japanese died here, though I did not hear of any ghosts inhabiting the area. Hey... I actually asked the locals! Wanna use the photo?  Just note my name as photographer and go ahead:

PPS: Banzai, along with being a Japanese battle cry, is also a form of greeting by the Japanese emperor. You can decide which one I mean when I use it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Radioactive Cesium From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Still In Tokyo Bay

I know I’ve gone on and on carping about the complete mismanagement of things during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

The 9.0 earthquake caused a tsunami, which hit many places along Japan’s north east coast, moving over sea walls, in in this case, over and into the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating station in Fukushima-ken.

The inflow of water swamped the nuclear power site, rendering backup generators inoperable for the most part, allowing three of the six nuclear power units to nearly go into nuclear meltdown after a lack of coolant was unable to be pumped in to keep things under control. 

Look… I actually think nuclear power—if done properly—is an excellent way to generate electricity. But in Japan’s case - prior to the March 11, 2011 events, it simply wasn’t being handled safely.

Perhaps countries should consider using the safer nuclear methods used in Canada, which even uses a different type of uranium base.

But Japan’s nuclear reactors are not built that way. They follow the American style of reactor. Excellent power generation, to be sure… but…

Anyhow… would it surprise anyone to learn that even five years after the nuclear disaster, Fukushima No. 1 (of six) reactors continued to spew radioactive cesium into Tokyo Bay for five years after the initial nuclear disasters in 2011?

No. I’m not surprised. Saddened. But not surprised.

According to Yamazaki Hideo (surname first)—a former professor of environmental analysis at Kindai University (a private university in Osaka)—a study he led a study on hazardous materials being released from the Dai-ichi plant.

His team’s research showed that some five months after the triple meltdown, that there was 20,100 becquerels of cesium per square meter in mud collected at the mouth of the Kyu-Edogawa (Kyu-Edo river). This river leads directly into Tokyo Bay.

Further research shows that by July 2016, that in the same area, 104,000 becquerels of cesium per square meter from mud collected was found.

Basically, that means that the cesium released during the disaster did NOT get washed away in the subsequent five years after.

Well… they did wash away from Fukushima, but it did accumulate and stay adhered to the mud in Tokyo Bay.

Good for Fukushima and Chiba to the south, but bad for Tokyo.

Now… the average amount of radioactivity from the cesium detected in the July 2016 study was only 350 becquerels… implying that there are apparently areas where it is extremely high, and other places were it may not be found.

But is it safe?

Probably not at the points where the study found the 104,000 becquerels in July 2016.

Even at that high level, the Government of Japan will not allow soil to be used on road construction et al. In fact, it will only allow soil containing 8,000 becquerels or less for such usage.

So… is there any damage to the fish in Tokyo Bay?

Maybe… maybe if the fish caught are coming from that area there the radioactivity is through the roof, congregating in the Tokyo Bay mud… but generally speaking, there doesn’t seem to be an issue with the fish.

Apparently of the fish caught and measured in the Tokyo area, the average still appears to be less than 100 becquerels per kilogram… 100 becquerels per kilogram is considered to be the number for safe fish consumption in Japan.

So… there’s some cesium radiation in the fish… but not enough to worry the Japanese Government.

Heck… there’s even a few hot pockets of cesium radiation in the mud in Tokyo Bay… but I’m sure that’s no big deal.

Move along… nothing to see here. Yeesh.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 18, 2018

6.1 Earthquake Kills Three In Osaka - UPDATED

This past Monday, a 6.1 Magnitude earthquake—that’s a pretty strong one—hit at 8AM local time north of Osaka, at a depth of eight miles (12.9 kilometers).

Three people died, including a nine-year-old girl who was crushed by large slab of a concrete wall that fell on her as she was walking along her elementary school’s outside wall in Takatsuki. See Reuters image above. Damn.

Mayor Hamada Takeshi (surname first) apologized over her death, acknowledging that that concrete wall made up of concrete blocks, was old and not up to the more current building safety codes.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide (surname first) has ordered the Education Ministry to perform safety checks on any concrete walls near public schools—nationwide.

A man in his 80s also died after a concrete wall collapsed on him in Osaka-shi (Osaka City), while an 84-year-old woman died after a bookcase fell on her in her home in the nearby city of Takatsuki.

Additionally, 307 people have been officially listed as hurt during the seismic event, though Japanese media giant NHK says there were at least 350 people hurt. Whatever. Lots of people hurt.

Japanese buildings—especially the newer ones are designed and built with earthquake occurrence in mind, but for whatever reason, it seems, in this case, that concrete walls are NOT part of the same consideration. 

It was a pretty damn strong earthquake, but earthquake-proofing designs for seismic events stronger than that are in place.

The earthquake was strongest north of Osaka-shi, but the good news (so far) is that the three nuclear power facilities at Mihami, Takahama and Ohi—all north of Osaka—are fine, according to the news agency Reuters.

Local, express, and shinkansen high-speed bullet train and subway service in Osaka has been halted, while domestic air flights in and out of Osaka were suspended to ensure safety.

As evidenced by the fallen sign at Ibaraki-shi eki (Ibaraki City station) - see above in the Getty image - someone could have easily been killed when that electronic signage partially collapsed.

Along with small fires (broken gas mains, or cooking implements hitting the ground), thee roads in the area have cracked, along with many water pipes, bursting up through roadways, leaving many residents without water.

But it is Japan… and like people everywhere, they will band together quickly and make sure every one is looked after.

Oh... and there's no risk of a tsunami from this seismic event. 

Andrew Joseph

Japanese Donald Duck Comic Books

Unfortunately, my Father's Day present ended prematurely, as mine and my son's baseball team was ousted from the baseball tournament in the quarter-finals, losing 7-6.

So... back home, I decided I would read a few of the Uncle Scrooge McDuck books I was given by my friend Rob a couple of weeks ago.

Needing a topic for today, I wondered if there were ever any published Donald Duck or Uncle Scrooge comic books in Japan.

Strangely, in my opinion, I could only find a single example of a Disney Duck comic book - see above. And it's merely entitled Disney Land.

While the cover shows Huey, Dewey and Louie in Zorro garb, poor Donald is unable to play as chipmunks Chip and Dale are asleep in his Zorro hat. Ha-ha... very punny.

The art style looks typical for the 1960s, but I have no idea when it was published. No wait... I found a website:, that says this particular title was published between 1960-1964 by the by the Reader's Digest Japan, publishing a total of 37 issues.

That website shows a bigger list of Japanese comic book titles than I had originally thought existed - so kudos to them for the information.

But... there doesn't seem t be any sort of Disney comic book published in Japan after 2009... which to me seems like a lost opportunity for someone.

Is the list complete? Probably not... and I only say that because I did a search for Canadian Disney books on the website, and note it does not list the Dell comic books that were printed in Toronto for Canadian audiences during the 1940s-50s... They have a different indica on the inside.

Oh well... if anyone off in any lands other than the U.S. ever want to send me an example of an Uncle Scrooge or Donald Duck comic book, I would love to see it.

Heck... I'll even trade with you!

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day 2018

So... today is Father's Day - June 17, 2018, and wherever it is celebrated, today is the day... including Japan.

Father's Day is called Chichi no hi (父の日) in Japanese. And... there are two words used for "father":
  • chichi (父);
  • otousan (お父さん)
While chichi is used to refer to your own father, otousan is used when referring to someone else's father, as we as used to address your own father.

I only ever heard otousan, while I was in Japan.

As a father, I can tell you straight up that when it comes to special days, father's generally get hosed. Mother's seem to get the good stuff... the thoughtful present... dad's... we get ties... or darn it, socks.

This year, I, however, am getting a great Father's Day present.

I coach my 12-year-old son's Select baseball team.

We are in a tournament this weekend.

After driving through rush hour Toronto traffic, an only traveling some 45 kilometers in 90 minutes, we played our first game this Friday night, and won.

After returning home, we got up early on Saturday morning to travel from our home to the tournament , played two more round-robin games, and won those, too.

Last year, my Select team played a total of 34 games (including tournaments) - we won twice and tied once. This year (as of Saturday night), we are already now with eight wins and only two losses.

This Sunday morning, we get up even earlier to make that drive again to the tournament, for a quarter-final game, and should we play to our strengths, we'll play again and again in the semi-finals and finals, too.

It's been effing hot this weekend in Toronto... and we're just 20 minutes north of Toronto for the ball games.

It was 27C on Saturday, with humidity taking it into the 30s... and guess what... Sunday is supposed to be 31C, plus humidity.

We wear polyester uniforms. Coaches, too.

But you know what... not a stitch of complaint from anyone. Probably because we've been winning, and hopefully both trends will continue on Sunday.

So... that's how I'm spending Father's Day on Sunday... with my son, playing a game or three.

And winning it all sure beats a tie.

To all you dad's out there... Happy Father's Day. Go and spend some time with your kid(s), because that's really what it's all about.

You sure as hell don't need socks to have a fun day with your kid(s).

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Otaku Won't Date Other Otaku Who Don't Like The Same Anime

Otaku is the Japanese term for geek… in a good way.. whereby Otaku are heavily into anime (animation) or manga (comic books)… and in some cases having a love of one anime/manga brand means hating other brands.

Japan, as you might suspect, is actually pretty damn otaku itself, though I am sure it would be loathe to admit it… how else to explain that Numazu (沼津市, Numazu-shi), a city located in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture just last week decided it would remove all of the “Love Live! Sunshine!!” character man hold covers in the city after a vandalism spree.

Seriously… the city has manhole covers decorated with characters from an animated cartoon series?

Like, WTF?

And people are stealing the manhole covers because they want more souvenirs of heir favorite animated television program?

Look… if the crime was actually committed by teenagers, people around the world might understand… but it’s Japan… the odds are equally good that the crime was committed by an adult.

Firstly… “Love Live! Sunshine!”… what’s up with Japan’s insistence in using English… and doing so in grammatically incorrect fashion, when naming its anime?

Plus… two exclamation marks? Not one, which is enough. And not three. Two. Some graphic artist in Japan decided that one was too few, three was too many, and two was just right.

I have news for you. Seeing two exclamation marks rather than one or even three, just looks wrong.

But whatever.  That’s not what this is about… but it probably should be.

It’s about a dating service for otaku. A geek dating service.

Hey… a great idea. I won’t put the idea down. Geeks gotta love, too, right?

I was a nerd… or a geek… but I didn’t have world domination plans for any ONE anime or manga. Despite having 35,000 comic books (still), I actually enjoy reading them, and while I may like some characters more than others, I’m not fanatical about them.

I don’t give a crap if Superman is stronger than the Hulk, or if Picard is cooler than Kirk (it’s Captain Kirk). I enjoy them all, and don’t have the time to waste arguing with others over such trivial matters.

I used to enjoy going to the comic book stores once a week, just to feel superior. Not only could I out geek anyone with my comic book knowledge, I could also play, coach and talk sports, teach music, play and talk video games, and yes… I have been known to talk to girls/women… even getting a date or two. Sometimes for the same evening.   

Anyhow… in Japan, there’s Tora Con, an otaku dating service started by Tora no Ana, a anime/manga specialty retailer begun in 2017.

Surely there’s enough love in an otaku heart to love their anime/manga as well as another real person… right?

As it turns out - kindda yes, and kindda no.

Otaku are capable of human love… and not just love of the self, which is not only fun but inexpensive.

No… they can go out on dates with people, have relationships, have relations, and even get married and hacve kids.

But… while the Tora Con dating service does pre-screening of its members (ha) to ensure all are true anime otaku, what it failed to screen for was if the otaku like the same anime.

Apparently there’s a real deal-breaker going on within the site as otaku will not date other otaku who do not like the same anime they do.

It’s especially pronounced amongst lovers of the Japanese anime “Love Live! Sunshine!”… who are actually calling themselves “Love Lifers”.

If you don’t like “Love Live! Sunshine!”, you aren’t getting a date with a Love Lifer.

Now… to the rest of the world, this sounds like pure Japanese WTF material.

But I can assure you it is not.

Would a Boston Red Sox Fan want to date a New York Yankees fan? Hell no. It’s been done, but it makes the news.

Would a Liverpool Reds fan want to date a Manchester (whatever) fan. Hell no. Murders have been committed for less.

It’s like trying to decide if you should raise your child Catholic or Protestant in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

I, myself, was tired of the bar scene. No one looked at me. All the women would drool over the three hot guys (they were gay… they had to be), while every guy eye humped the three hot supermodel women (probably escorts - how much?).

I went on a telephone dating service… the Internet was around, but Internet dating was still a few years from starting up.

I put in a voice message… I even dropped my voice to the deeper, more relaxed version I am capable of, and relayed a bit about myself. Not too much… I did state that I would like to find a smart woman, someone as smart as or smarter than I am… naive is fine, stupid is not.

The problem is that the stupid don’t know they are stupid.

Now… I had 35 messages after a day, listened to them all… ignored the two guys, and picked the top 3 who had potential.

I called them in no particular order, left a message with my phone number… and then… that’s when I determined if there was anyone who could live up to my expectations.

I married one of them.

She was, by the way, the only one who actually said she liked sports. She may have lied, but she at least didn’t outright say she hated it. LOL 

What’s interesting in this Japanese Otaku dating kerfuffle, is that the anime, “Love Live! Sunshine!”, is aimed at male fans.

So… if there’s a woman out there who actually likes “Love Live! Sunshine!”… they are In Like Flint… or what ever the Japanese equivalent is for that 50 year-old outdated western saying.

But… if there’s a woman out there who is not into “Love Live! Sunshine!”, the male fans are completely offended, and even if it was the hottest AV (porn) start out there, these otaku are geeky enough to rebuff the sexual advances in order to main their “Love Live! Sunshine!” principals.

Now that’s an otaku.

On the flip side… any woman who actually meets a Love Liver who feels that way… that woman is NOT going to want to be even remotely connected with such fervent geekdom.

In the play As You Like It by William Shakespeare, the clown Melancholy Jacques is asked why he doesn’t like having sex with the country-bumpkin girl Audrey. (I’m pretty sure those are the names… it’s been 40 years). 

Jacques responds: “T’would be like putting good meat into an unclean dish.”

Yes, he’s calling Audrey a whore…  but also, he doesn’t think they have enough in common.

I fully understand the need for the Japanese otaku trying to date other otaku to ensure they get the best fit possible.

I don’t understand why some media outlets are looking at this “story” and thinking it’s a strange story that someone wants to find a match…. figuring that geeks et al would simply be desperate enough to date anyone.

Andrew Joseph 

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Walking Dead - Japan Style

So… a man in Chiba-ken goes missing.

A body is found unconscious in the Edo river in Tokyo. He’s alive… but dies later in the hospital.

The family of the missing man identifies the drowned body as that of their loved one.

Body is cremated - everyone mourns.

Then the missing man shows up alive in Chiba-ken, arriving at his home - alive and well.

What a farce by all parties involved.

The police farce: 

No DNA test was was done comparing the missing man with that of the deceased. How long does a DNA test take nowadays? Not that long. A day?

Since the body found in the Edo River was alive… there was NO bloating or environmental damage to make identifying the body difficult.

So… how does the family of the missing man confirm that “There’s no mistake” - that this was their missing husband/family?

Also… what a farce by the media in Japan.

I found this article in Japan Today (thanks Vinnie)… and since it was on-line, once has all the room in the world to write the story.The Internet's not going to become full... at least I don't think that's possible.

Not ONCE does the story wonder just WHERE the heck the missing man had been for a whole year!

Was he kidnapped?

Did he suffer a mental breakdown?

Did he just want to get away from his wife?

Did he he suffer amnesia for a year?

Has he disappeared at anytime previous?

There’s not even a mention of whether or not the missing man had looked disheveled, was wearing the same or different clothes, or if he was well-fed and well-looked after. 

Okay… at no time does the article actually name the missing man or his family. NOR does it even mention which police were involved in the original missing person/dead case.

Why not?

Who is being protected and why?

The police? The family of the missing man who disappeared for a year and then came back?And who was the dead guy, and what does his family think about their man being cremated in someone else's family plot? Have they mourned him for a year? Had they held out hope he was still alive?

There's so many elements to this story's plot, and very few of them are answered let alone looked at.

If you knew any of these two missing men, wouldn't you want the answers?

Newspapers are supposed to tell its readers stories... to keep the reader informed. To educate.

I was taught that every news story story should answer the 5Ws +1H… who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Either that’s half-assed journalism in not finding these things out and not presenting them, or it’s an embarrassing turn of events and the media is protecting them… because the media needs the police if it is to do any sort of future police beat reporting.

Here’s the story with a bit more detail as presented by the Japan Today article:

Missing man is in his 40s.

He went missing from his home in Matsudo City, Chiba-ken.

Family filed a missing person report immediately last year in 2017. What month or day?

Later on June 27, 2017 (last year), an unconscious but still alive man is pulled from the river. He has no ID on him. He later dies in the hospital. How long after does he die? I have to assume he never regained consciousness… but nothing in the article states if he did or didn’t. He may have regained consciousness but never spoke or communicated. HOW did he die? What injuries did he suffer in the water that contributed to his death? Was he dumped? Did he slip and fall? Did he try and kill himself?

Family of missing man was called in by the police to identify the dead BODY.

They confirmed it was their kin.

Police then changed the man’s status from “Missing” to “Dead”.

Family is handed the deceased’s body. Body is cremated. I assume in a family plot. I assume they paid for the services, too... and since suicide was never mentioned, was insurance paid out? If it was, do they have to give it back? All of it? I'm sure some was spent.

On June 6, 2018, the original missing family man returns home. Alive and well.

The wife calls the police (which police?) to tell them her husband that she had thought dead, and had identified, was alive.

The wife had placed the missing person’s report. She had identified the drowned man’s body as being that of her husband.

Police now begin a new investigation, as they have to figure out just who that drowned guy was. He had been cremated. Had anyone taken a DNA test on him?

Also, I would assume - though it was never mentioned - that the police (which police?) are investigating the now alive missing/dead man had been for a year. 

The police (which police?) have figured out that that the man in the river was a part of another missing person case from Tokyo… a man in his 30s. Granted… quantifying people’s ages can be tricky.

This family of the missing 30-year-old Tokyo man had filed a missing person’s report SHORTLY after the police had mistaken his body for a man in his 40s. How shortly?

Why don’t we have actual ages for these people? Or actual police department’s involved? Or names of the deceased? Or the names of the missing person and family?

The police (which police?) say that if a body is identified by family, further investigation, DNA testing or even fingerprint matching is not done or necessary. I get that. It’s a waste of resources considering the body was identified by family.

So… who’s fault is it anyway?

  • The missing man for going missing, if it was on purpose: Kidnapping or self-imposed to get away from his wife and family.

If he suffered a mental breakdown, I don't consider that his fault. He simply wasn't in control. People need to understand that about those who suffer from mental health issues.   

  • The missing man’s wife for not being able to identify her husband correctly. The deceased was alive when pulled from the Edo River. His body had NOT undergone any radical alterations to his skin or body when he died. DID the drowned/deceased man in his 30s REALLY look like her husband in his 40s? Was he wearing clothing that was similar?Is there photographic evidence of the two men alive that shows them looking alike?
Okay, I get that the deceased didn’t have ID on him. Still… the wife should have been able to correctly identify if that drowned/deceased man was her husband.

I suspect she expected it to be her husband so that in her head that was all she saw - her husband.
  • The police… if a body is brought into a hospital - should there be an attempt to identify the body? Fingerprinting, X-Ray of teeth? I didn’t say DNA test… because that’s afterwards.

Still… the timing of things must have been close enough that when the police (which police? The one in Chiba-ken, or the one in Tokyo?!) discovered a drowned person, they assumed it must be the missing man and contacted the family. Sure… the height, weight and features must have been similar… I’m sure they compared a family photo with the deceased body in front of them and thought this is the same guy.

Hell… the wife did.

Still… there should have been more of an independent attempt by the police to try and confirm deceased identity before making families come on down to try and correctly identify it. 

Police representatives (of which department?) claim they are interested in using the case as a teaching moment to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

For get learning lessons? How about the police do a better job of identifying people before dragging families in?

How about the media in Japan actually try and ask the right questions and present the reader with the best story possible?

It’s not a Japan thing. It’s a global thing - at least as far as the shoddy media reporting goes.

Perhaps I was taught better as a newspaper journalist (and student in Humber College’s journalism program in Toronto). Perhaps I knew I had to do it while a reporter at the Toronto Star newspaper.

But whatever the heck is going on with journalists - especially on-line journalists - is deplorable in many instances.

As a reader… if any news article you read can not identify and answer the 5Ws+1H, then that article is a failure.

Write in, and tell them that.

Maybe it's an honest mistake. 

Look… sometimes information isn’t available to the journalist. I get it. But make sure you state as much to avoid looking like a rank amateur.

Why the hell do you think I write as much as I can on any given topic… to present as much information as I humanly can. I’ll even note where I am guessing, editorializing, or simply don’t know something. I don’t think I look stupid doing so, and I’d much rather you have the most correct information available at that time. 

That’s sort of the news, and that was my two yen’s worth.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What's In A Name?

So... just before the posting of this here blog, I was watching For A Few Dollars More, the 1965 masterpiece spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood.

It was on the TCM channel (Turner Classic Movie) You should get it if you don't. I guarantee you that several times a month, a movie you've always heard about but never seen, or a genre you have a passion for, will appear. I'm a sucker for Westerns, war movies - preferably WWII, monster movies, hard-boiled private dick flicks, and good solid comedies starring the stars... Harold Lloyd, Marx Brothers, Abbot & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Keystone Cops, Buster Keaton et al.

It's the second movie of the so-called Man With No Name trilogy... all shot in Italy, and with Italian actors, excluding Clint and Lee Van Cleef.

Anyhow... for a series of movies dubbed the "Man With No Name", it's funny that in this movie, Eastwood's character is named Manco.

Also... since I just happened to take a look, the movie was actually released in Japan (twice)... from 1967... and its re-release in 1972.

Actually, the trilogy was made in 1964, 1965 and 1966 and released in Italy in those three years, the rest of the world didn't get to see them until 1967 when all three were released that year.

While "Manco" is Spanish for "One-Armed Man", in Japanese "Manko" (note the spelling difference, though pronounced essentially the same)... well, it means a female body part with a feline equivalent, and rhymes with wussy.

I just wonder if Japanese audiences giggled when they heard his name spoken aloud... or written out in the katakana alphabet reserved for foreign words or names when it appeared on the silver screen?

It's so ridiculous... Eastwood's character has two arms... and he sure ain't no rhymes with wussy. And... he has a name!

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What Is a Gaijin? Part 2

Without needing to beat the hafu issue to death, let me present a slightly different takes on things.

First... a hafu is, in my estimation, a derogatory Japanese term for someone who was born to one Japanese parent and one non-Japanese parent. Half-Japanese, in other words.

It’s not a term used outside of Japan to describe anyone. It is a term used by the Japanese to cement their pure Japaneseness over others they deem inferior. Because they are half-Japanese.

Oh yes it is… or why else even have the term?

In Japan, while I was an assistant junior high school teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme between 1990-1993 in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Prefecture of Tochigi), I came across one tweenager who would be today considered a “hafu” by the the misinformed Japanese, or bi-racial, by others who feel the need for a tag, or simply "tween" by those who don't need to define by race or parentage.

The term hafu wasn’t in use back then when I was there - or if it was, I never heard it uttered.

The 12-year-old, Grade seven female student attended Wakakusa Chu Gakko (Wakakusa Junior High School), an affluent school in my rural city… certainly not like some of the others populated with kids of farmers.

Although some of the farmers in my city were quite affluent.

Actually… one’s social status does not determine whether or not someone was a “hick”… so I’m actually sorry I brought up the affluence part. I blame Justin Trudeau. (You can look him up with the word Trump, via Google or Bing or whatever search engine you prefer.)

Anyhow, the girl looked Japanese to me, but she was actually born in Peru… to Japanese parents in Peru.

She speaks Spanish and Japanese - both with the fluidity of someone who is 12. In other words, if she never spoke Spanish, in my mind you’d never know about her Spanish heritage from merely living in Peru.

But now that she has moved back to Japan with her entire family, you would think that it would be status quo… A Japanese girl back in Japan. No big whoop.

But it is to the other Japanese kids… and it is to the Japanese adults she encounters.

Because she wasn’t born in Japan—despite speaking Japanese, looking Japanese, dressing identically in her school costume like the other female Japanese kids, eating and drinking the same Japanese foods et al and in the same way as the other Japanese kids—it was still pointed out by the other kids, that this young woman was considered to be a gaijin.

Gaijin is a Japanese term used to denote someone who is a stranger, a foreigner or an outsider.

She’s not a stranger to these girls.

She’s not a foreigner because she at least looks, talks and acts Japanese. Maybe.

But she is an outsider.

Having not been part of the Japanese hive mind collective since birth… and despite even her parent’s and school’s best attempts to kata-ize her to all of the Japanese elements of life, she is still considered to be an outsider.

She missed out on all of the social bonding that the primary school kids have, and even a year or so of the initial bonding they might have had together in junior high school because she was living in Peru.

Rather than be celebrated for her global jaunt as a world traveler, she is instead teased and harassed and made sure she she is aware that she is not Japanese, despite all appearances.

She is a gaijin. An outsider to the Japanese collective.

Look… I know no society is perfect, but there has to be a change in Japanese attitudes over what constitutes someone being Japanese.

Just because someone who is born in Japan and raised in Japan yet happens to have a parent who is non-Japanese—that should still make someone Japanese. Screw that "hafu" designation.

You know they ("hafu")feel Japanese… but Japanese society has a nasty habit of not letting go of the fact that these “half-breeds” to not fit Japan’s rather narrow definition of what Japanese person is.

The same holds true for the now middle-aged woman who once lived in Peru. Born of Japanese parents. Raised in a Japanese fashion. Speaks the language. Looks the part… how the fug, when she goes to Japan to live, is she not considered to be Japanese?

There is an innate fear the Japanese have, to distrust the "foreigner".

Those devils from the United States of America came with warships to threaten—ever so slightly—to open up its borders to trade back in the mid-1800s.

Before that, in the late 1500s when Portuguese sailors entered Japan’s ports they brought with them booze, guns and STDs, as they befouled their women. 

In the 1600s, even after Japan closed off its borders, Christian monks tried to convert the Japanese—only to find they weren’t welcome and were summarily executed.

Then the gaijin kicked their ass during WWII—and while the Japanese can respect that—they also hated them for stripping away the godlike power of the Emperor, and then rewriting the Constitution to give more rights to everyone (especially women). And then they propped up Japan’s economy, bought its goods, and even accepted some charity during the rebuild.

Nowadays? The Japanese still expect all foreigners wanting to do business with it to do business its way, regardless if the foreigner way may be a quicker and easier thing to do.

Granted, the foreigner way is often: “I don’t care how you do it, but do it quickly.”
Whereas the Japanese way is: “I don’t care how long it takes, let’s do it right.”

I know I like the Japanese way here.

But, when it comes to the treatment of those who do not fit the mold of what its society believes defines a Japanese person, that’s when I take offense.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Oh Baby! That Sucks!

This one is a press release - but a very interesting one. I’ve merely edited here and there for style, but it takes a poignant look at Japan and the lack of inroads within Japan for the baby formula market segment. I have provided my usual lengthy discourse at the end of the press release, explaining why making such inroads may be nigh impossible for brand owners. 

Even though Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has released guidelines for manufacturing, labeling and storage of liquid infant formula, setting the stage for its production in Japan, it is likely to be several years before the first liquid formula appears on the commercial market, says leading data and analytics company GlobalData.

While liquid infant formulae are widely used in many markets due to convenience, there are no takers for the products in Japan primarily due to lack of safety regulations and rise in the proportion of mothers exclusively breastfeeding from 41.4 percent in 2005 to 55 percent in 2015, according to GlobalData.

However, in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, a number of liquid milks were shipped, for example, from the U.S. and Finland, and these proved popular with many mothers.

This led to renewed calls for liquid milks to be allowed on the Japanese market.

The Japanese market has tended to split baby milk into two main types:
1) infant formula for babies from birth until nine months, and;
2) follow-on milks from nine months, although the last three years or so have begun to see a shift in age specifications.

Despite rising rates of breastfeeding, per capita consumption of infant formula by babies aged 0-12 months has increased in the past few years, boosted by growing demand from tourists from elsewhere in the region, and stands at 9.8 kilograms.

GlobalData research director of baby food Valerie Lincoln-Stubbs says, “Overall, the market is difficult and competitive for manufacturers, and all of them are keen to find ways to increase their sales in a market with ever fewer consumers.”

Some companies are even selling baby milk to the elderly in their quest to increase sales.

In 2017, in response to older customers adding infant formula to their diet, Japanese food manufacturer and brand owner Morinaga launched infant formula-based Lifestyle milk for women in their 50s to 70s. Bean Stalk Snow followed in September 2017 with a similar product aimed at the adult palate.

While liquid formulae could present an opportunity for increasing the number of usage occasions, manufacturers need to be aware of the crowded state of urban Japan, which means that kitchens are small and storage space is at a premium.

There is also an environmental argument against liquid formula with its high volume meaning the carbon footprint to transport it is much higher than for powdered milk.

Lincoln-Stubbs concludes: “Liquid formulae tend to command a higher price, and while Japanese consumers are generally affluent, there are concerns that these products will be unaffordable for the less wealthy. When they do hit the shelves, it is likely that demand will be limited, with small individual serving packs expected to be the most popular format due to their on-the-go appeal, their relatively affordability and easy storage.”

About GlobalData
Some 4,000 of the world’s largest companies, including over 70 percent of FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) 100 and 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies, use GlobalData’s unique data, expert analysis and innovative solutions, all in one platform. The company  helps clients decode the future to be more successful and innovative across a range of industries, including the healthcare, consumer, retail, financial, technology and professional services sectors. Company information available at www,

What I find interesting, is the attempt at hitting a different market from what the infant formulae was originally intended.
I assume the recipe is different for the older women.
In North America, products such as Boost are all the rage—I’ve bought a few of the six packs recently—but are not marketed solely to women. They are marketed as a meal supplement featuring—according to its brand owner—Nestlé—to provide "the complete nutrition you need to help you stay strong".

The drinks contain 10 grams of protein, 26 vitamins and minerals, and come in four flavors (that I know of). There are, along with the standard original formula, others with added calories, a diabetic version, and even a high protein version.

It also tastes pretty darn good.

The scenario proposed by Morniga and Bean Stalk Snow still does not show how they plan on having greater inroads with Japanese mothers, but it does show initiative to try and find an alternative customer source.

There are many reasons why some mothers prefer to stick with breastfeeding their brood, rather than opting for infant formula.

I am unsure about the validity of the various claims, but aside from the natural aspect that is preferred, breastfeeding—even for time periods when many other mothers from other nations might wean their child—is that it is thought that breastfeeding provides more nutrients and helps ensure a stronger immune system for the child.

My son was breastfed longer than what I thought was "normal", but at the same time, the kid never gets sick. Coincidence or proof?

Then again, I don't get sick either. And I wasn't breastfed for anything close to a long time, as way back when, it was incumbent that my mother get back to work as soon as possible. I believe it was three months.

Coincidence or proof?

That's the problem with facts and research. Unless we are talking about a ridiculously high percentile one way or the other, with all social factors being equal, how do you determine if breastfeeding versus infant formula is the way to go?

Even if breastfeeding, such as what the Japanese seem to prefer, is eventually considered to be the best solution, would that still be the case for the mother who doesn't eat well, or drinks, or smokes? Could any of those factors affect the potency of nutrients being passed on to the infant during breast feeding? Does exercise play into it... too much, too little, none at all, or what? Social environments such as stress or living in an area with a higher degree of smog or pollution? Water supply - not all water is created equally, you know.

Again... food... what constitutes "healthy food"? People in countries around the world eat different "healthy" foods - can you ultimately determine that what is best for one person is the best for another?

You can't.

Plus... in Japan... there is a reluctance to try new things... something that has changed in the past 30 years, but something that still exists as a big green monster for foreign companies looking to bring the next new thing to a country.

That's what GlobalData implies, but doesn't exactly state in its news release.       

"(I)t is likely to be several years before the first liquid formula appears on the commercial market," says Global data, even though guidelines are in place.

Despite the convenience factor, Japanese mothers are reluctant to give up their role of nurturer and feeder of their infant.

While other societies are glad to have an infant formula around so that the father or in-laws et al can provide some physical relief to the mother during feeding time, in Japan, the care of the child from birth to whenever, is really a Japanese mother's full-time job.

Part of that ensues from the fact that Japanese women upon graduation will find work, get married and have a child... and while views are beginning to change in the Japanese business world, it is largely assumed that after marriage, a Japanese woman will indeed quickly get pregnant, and will never return to the workforce.

It's not a 100 percent deal—but it is still the norm.

Heck... you can even see, in western society, a reluctance of employers to hire a just-married woman for fear they will lose them soon to pregnancy, and be on the hook for maternity leave... meaning someone new has to be paid, while they still (partially) pay the mother/employee. So why hire them?

I'm not saying such business practices are right are wrong, I'm merely pointing out a scenario that plays out every day.

In Japan, female workers who have a child are extremely unlikely to return to the workforce... so what are they doing?

They are looking after their child (children). As such, if that is their new "employment", they would want and need to feel completely useful. Health conscious reasoning aside, the necessity to do their mothering job takes precedent.

Again, not every Japanese woman does the elongated time of breast feeding, as some do see the benefits of utilizing an infant formula... but despite the Japanese government providing the means for manufacturers to enter this relatively new Japanese market, discovering ways to change a Japanese mindset that doesn't necessarily want to be changed is going to be the key.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 11, 2018

What Does It Mean To Be Hafu In Japan

I'm with my friend, Matthew, who Tweeted recently that he hates the term "hafu".

It's a Japanese term created by the Japanese to describe kids who have two parents: one Japanese, and one something else.

The kids are hafu-Japanese.

It's that sucky katakana Japanese language way of saying half.

It's meant as a derogatory term to put down anyone whom they feel isn't completely Japanese... they can thus only be hafu Japanese.

It's part of the Japanese kata to be Japanese... and anything less than 100 per cent kata following - including happening to be born with one parent a non-Japanese, is enough to make them not Japanese.

It's one of those incredibly ridiculous thing about Japan that I despise.

It's worse than discussing a foreigner doing their utmost to learn all the kata about Japan: how to speak; how to eat; how to dress; how to think; how to be Japanese... and then claiming they aren't Japanese even when they become Japanese citizens (or try to become Japanese citizens)... it's why so few immigrants to Japan even bother anymore.

What's the point? No matter what you do, in the eyes of the Japanese, you are not Japanese.

But with regards to the humiliating term "hafu" (humiliating in my opinion)... we have a person born in Japan... and even should that person live their entire life in Japan, speak, read, eat, and think like a Japanese, they are punished because their parents dared to love one another and create a child that is not 100 percent Japanese.

There are indeed many good kata for the Japanese to follow that will ensure that the Japanese identity continues to exist.

But ignoring the so-called hafu as NOT being Japanese enough is just plain ugly.

Here... take a look at this short CNN video that was attached to Matthew's tweet:

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Man Stabbed Aboard Shinkansen Train

For a country that has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world, every time such a crmie takes place, it attains global focus.

This past Saturday night in Tokyo, aboard a shinkansen bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Osaka, a 22-year-old Japanese man named Kojima Ichiro (surname first) attacked a man, and two women - all random attacks, in a knife slicing and stabbing frenzy.

The victims were chosen at random, according to Kojima, who was arrested shortly after police stormed the train at the next available stop (Odawara).

Why? No idea. Another case of mental illness gone awry.

Don't worry folks... not everyone with mental illness goes on a murder spree. These are special circumstances, and the only reason you hear about it is because such actions are news worthy. Most of the people on the planet who struggle with some form of mental health issue will never make the news, because their actions aren't necessarily dangerous.

Hurtful, perhaps, but not murderous.

The stabbed man was taken to hospital and later died of his injuries, meaning Kojima will face at least one murder charge.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Damn It

On Thursday evening past, Ontario, Canada got a new Premiere in Doug Ford. The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup of North American big league hockey, and Anthony Bourdain died apparently of suicide by hanging in France while filming an episode for his CNN show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

I loved to read Bourdain's books. I love to watch his various television shows, and I loved to listen to his voice as he traveled the world - teaching me, nudging me, entertaining the fug out of me.

Though a former chef - and a world-renowned one at that, Anthony Bourdain's television programs were not just about food, but about the places he visited... straying off the beaten path to give viewers a taste of the real people of whatever place he was visiting.

And while not everyone agreed with his politics (I did), he was still fair.

He visited Japan numerous times, and gave me peeks at the country I was simply not privy to...

And... dammit... he didn't know me, and I never met him... and I am sad that his inner demons caught up to him, or his depression or other mental illness reared its ugly head... and dammit all to hell... I'm going to miss him.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, June 8, 2018

American President Lines Poster - And Then Some

Make no mistake, even if there were no words to convey the meaning, we could see that the above image is indeed a travel poster - to see Japan by ship.

A bonsai tree and shoji paper screen frame a window as passenger liner sails by.

But take a closer look to the left of the bonsai tree... there's a tiny arched bridge... and is that a woman on the bridge?

Is this a trick of perspective?

I can honestly say that I have NEVER seen a bonsai tree presented in the same manner one presents a six-year-old kid's goldfish aquarium.

You just don't populate the bonsai tree's bowl with man-made symbols. The whole idea is to present it in a "natural environment".

Now... the entire concept of bonsai as a representation of Japanese nature in miniature is laughable as best.

I blew Japanese tradition out of the water when I spent a day with a local bonsai master in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan where I lived. It's apparently an old man's hobby. I was 26 when I started.

But I have an old soul (I got in for cheap on E-Bay!) ;)- I have owned four bonsai trees, and only killed two myself. Each was over 80 years of age, but it sucks because they could have lasted centuries...

Anyhow, bonsai involves taking a normal tree, and purposely "dwarfing" it by precise cuts to its foliage, roots system, and using copper wire to bind, bend an shape the limbs to the desired shape that in your opinion best represents Japanese nature.

Who doesn't love tree bondage?

Anyhow, because man is not supposed to be physically represented in real-life bonsai imagery, I would imagine that the graphic element in the poster is perspective taken out of whack. Also... that pagoda isn't to scale.

The original size of this 1957 cruise ship linen poster is 23 5/8" x 34 1/4" (inches).

To be fair, the rest of the information below features information found at the following website:

I have re-written some of it, but gosh darn it, they did all the research!
American President Lines (APL) was a major part of the global shipping industry, helping set the stage for the future of international ocean container shipping and intermodal transport.

Back in 1944, while WWII was going on, the American government constructed 16 Victory class ships to have APL help with transporting goods to various sites needing resupplying.

One of those ships was the President Roosevelt American President Lines, built in 1944 by Federal SB & DD, of Kearny NJ, U.S.

Gross tons: 18,920;
Length: 622 feet (190 meters);
Speed: 19 knots (35.2 kph, 21.9 mph);
Width: 75 feet (23 meters);
Depth: 27 feet (8 meters);
Power: 18,700 shp (shaft horsepower);
Propulsion: Steam turbines twin screw.

I am unaware if the ship saw service during WWII, or if the war was over by then, but we do know that it could hold 456 First Class passengers (and only First Class) ... and joined two other ships in 1962 with its journeys around the world too and from Japan (along the way).

The other two ships were:

President Cleveland American President Lines, built in 1947 by Bethlehem SB of Alameda, California.

Gross tons: 18,962;
Length: 609 feet (186 meters);
Speed: 20 knots (37.04 kph, 23.02 mph);
Width: 75 feet (23 meters);
Depth: 30 feet (9 meters);
Power: 20,000 shp (shaft horsepower);
Propulsion: Steam turbo electric twin screw
Passengers: 324 First, 454 Economy;
Sold in 1973.

...and the..

President Wilson American President Lines, built by Bethlehem, SB of Alameda, California,

Gross tons: 18,962;
Length: 609 feet (186 meters);
Speed: 20 knots (37.04 kph, 23.02 mph);
Width: 75 feet (23 meters);
Depth: 30 feet (9 meters);
Power: 20,000 shp (shaft horsepower);
Propulsion: Steam turbo electric twin screw
Passengers: 324 First, 454 Economy
Sold 1973.

The President Wilson and President Cleveland ships each had first class rooms and a pool on the promenade deck, while economy class contained a lounge, veranda and poos in the rear (aft) on the lower decks.

The President Roosevelt was all first-class... the first of its kind to offer such an arrangement, and all the rooms had their own private bath... which as silly as it sounds, was quite the thing back in those days.

All of the three ships had full air-conditioning.

These ocean liners normally were routed from San Francisco to Honolulu (5 days), Yokohama (14 days), Hong Kong (18 days) and Manila (20 days), with the return voyage sailing via the same ports plus Kobe. The round trip was 42 days. The slower, somewhat smaller President Hoover, added to the fleet in 1957, was sometimes scheduled to bypass Honolulu which saved her three days steaming time.

Wanna sea (sic) something cool?

Click HERE to see the 1962 Ocean Liner Sailing Schedules for the American President Lines.

Each ship literally traveled all around the world on each voyage!

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Can A Japanese Person Return To The Hive?

After recently becoming more aware of the Japanese and what makes them Japanese and why non-Japanese can never truly become Japanese, I have come to question every conversation, every interaction, every date or relationship I ever had with a Japanese person.

And it ain't good.

The Japanese are known for having two sides to themselves, one that is private and one that is public.

No biggie, we're ALL like that.

While us non-Japanese might possibly reveal intimate details about ourselves to a work or school colleague, in Japan it's just not kosher.

"How are you Andoryu-sensei?" I might be asked.

I could simply say, "I am fine thank-you, and you?"

Or, I could be more honest and say that: "I'm not feeling well because I didn't get enough sleep and I am worried that my mom is sick and I think I owe a lot of money to my credit card company."

While some people regardless of locale might claim "that's too much information", to the Japanese, any answer other than "I am fine thank-you, and you?" is considered to be too much information.

Now... (hypothetically) because I am not Japanese and do not know all the ins and outs of things a Japanese person must do to maintain their Japaneseness, IF I am dating a Japanese woman, and she asks me how I am, do give her an honest answer or do I tell her "I'm fine thank-you, and you?"

When I ask her a question, does she give me the answer I want to hear, or the answers that is honest and true?

I suppose it matters, in Japan, on what type of relationship you are in.

Then again... if I, the gaijin/outsider, am dating a Japanese woman... is she already not rejecting her Japaneseness just to date me? As such, does she tell me the honest truth all the time?

That depends on the person (regardless of nationality), and the nature of the relationship.

ONLY because I am looking for stuff to write, have I wondered if my relationship with Noboko was real.

It seems to me that most of the relationships I have ever had in my life are never as real as I thought they were.

It has me doubting me.

I really shouldn't dwell on such things I can never hope to answer, but I am that type of person. I want to know the answers to the riddles of life, the universe, of everything.

I'm naturally curious about things and people and ideas. I may only want to embrace one of those things, but that's just me.

I don't have a photographic memory, but somethings do stick out more than others. As such, I can recall in perfect detail many a conversation I had 25-28 years ago. And not just my words.

I can recall pestering some Japanese with my questions about Japanese society, customs and etiquette. Some would give me that simple, honest answer. Others couldn't and hemmed and hawed and sucked air through their teeth as they wondered if they should give away some national secret. Others merely found 47 ways to say maybe - which I knew quite early on meant "no way" was I getting something I wanted.

For example, I can recall a few Japanese women coming over to my bar table on a Tuesday evening to chat me up. Because I had a pretty good idea why they were there, I wouldn't waste too much time bating around the bush, and would ask if they wanted to come and see my apartment.

As single, female adults... they lived at home with their parents, and as such still had a 11PM curfew on weeknights. Fug... even Noboko had one.

Anyhow... since I wasn't wasting time, any valuable sack time, if they said "maybe", I knew it wasn't happening and just enjoyed my drink and remaining time with her at the bar.

Actually... it used to annoy me to no end that Noboko, who was in her mid-20s and the sexiest woman I had ever known, would tell me at 11PM that she had to go home to make her midnight curfew.

It's why, when she would sneak over to my place after work ensuring no one saw her, as soon as she got in through my door, she would jump into my arms, and wrap her legs around me and have sex as soon as we could.

Time was a premium.

That first time she slept over for the entire weekend, I thought - holy smokes, she's defying her parents!!! I really am going to marry her!

Apparently I was her girlfriend Niki who lived in Tokyo, because that's who she told her parents she was staying with.

It seems fascinating and strangely sad to me that an entire populace spends its entire existence pretending to be someone they aren't.

Forever having to hide their true feelings and desires less the hive mind find out they are actually an individual.

Even before I went to Japan, I had a tee-shirt printed with my favorites lines from a Monty Python movie, The Life Of Brian.

Brian, being confused for a messiah, tells the group of people hanging onto his every word:

"You're all individuals!"
The crowd chants back, "We're all individuals!"
One man pipes in, "I'm not."

That's Japan. It's so funny and ironic... and dammit you just want to help them escape their brainwashing... but it's Japan... its their Japaneseness...

It's what makes Japan such an interesting place... it's the people who create the culture and architecture.

The only thing Japan need concern itself about, however, is whether or not it can still maintain the hive mentality... the uni-mind (to quote from Marvel Comics' Captain Marvel), when its citizens are able to see via social media outlets what the rest of the free world is doing.

You can't suddenly stop it, or else you become similar to North Korea or China, for example, in their attempts to maintain the status quo within their respective countries. It's how you maintain the power you perceive you have.

I think the Japanese attempt to maintain its Japaneseness while still allowing it's people to see and experience the outside world is fracturing the psyche of its people.

While those Japanese who have broken with the hive to date a non-Japanese (or marry one), or who have traveled abroad to study for a year or more, or even those who speak and use English within Japan... they have gone against the strict codex of the hive.

They have disregarded the Japanese society in favor of individual "gain" or "accolades" or "advancement".

Even when someone comes back from the "dark side" those individuals are still treated differently by the rest of the Japanese group - whichever one they belonged to.

I wonder about Noboko. After dating me - and many Japanese people were well aware that we were dating and more... was she welcomed back to the Japanese hive? Was she shunned? Treated differently, and by that I mean poorly?

She was already above the usual age for marriage. She had already said no to an arranged marriage to a Japanese guy (before my time). She spoke English extremely well. She had dated a foreigner and had sex with him, because why else are you dating a foreigner (the implication is, for the Japanese, that if a Japanese woman is dating a non-Japanese man, then she must be having per-marital sex, and is thus a "slut". It doesn't matter that the majority of people are doing the same thing, it's just that she got caught "dating"... and worse "dating a foreigner".)

Regardless of her hive transgressions, she went back to the hive... but was she accepted?

I'm not taking the blame for this... there is no blame. I just wonder and hope it worked out in the end for her.

Ever heard that too much knowledge is dangerous?

I don't buy that for a second. But it does make me think.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Is A Gaijin?

For most of the folk who have traveled abroad to visit and or work in Japan, they have most certainly come across the word “gaijin”.

While most of us non-Japanese have come to describe the word as meaning “foreigner”, it actually means outsider.

IE… you don’t have to be from outside of Japan to be called a gaijin.

The word is composed of two kanji: gai (外, "outside") and jin (人, "person").

While I can’t tell you when exactly the word came about, there is a reference to it from the Japanese writings from the 13th century: Heike Monogatari, which states: 外人もなき所に兵具をとゝのへ

It means: “Assembling arms where there are no gaijin” and refers to outsiders who could be enemies of the Japanese.

The word became reinforced in public norms back in the Edo jidai (Edo era, 江戸時代) between 1603 and 1868 when the warlord Tokugawa shogun ruled. There were multiple men ruling as shogun during this 250-year period, but in Japanese, there is no plural for words… just “counters”, as in one beer, two beer, as opposed to two beers.

The entire Edo period is characterized by an isolation policy, that attempted to severely limit  traffic going IN and OUT of Japan, whether it be goods, services or people. I say “limit” because the government did allow a trading post to be set up where the Dutch and Portuguese could trade limited goods.

The ban was similar in affect to what the peoples of the former USSR and China felt. Isolation.

And yet, in Japan during this isolation, there was economic growth, strict social order (once a peasant, always a peasant), a stable population, a blossoming of arts and crafts and culture, and even no more wars with the outside world, though there were the odd battles within the country.

But back to gaijin.

The shogunate established rules for the people - many of them… but one in particular sought to halt the movement of people from one village to another.

Yes, yes, there were certainly pilgrims and even merchants moving along the so-called highways doing what they needed to do.

But, if you were Joe Suzuki in the Village of Taba, and wanted to go and live next door in the Village of Bata, you, Joe Suzuki, would not be entirely welcome.

You would be an outsider… a gaijin… someone from outside the village.
You might think you, the gaijin look like this, but in reality the Japanese might have seen you like the top image on this blog article. Man... even the horse things it looks sexy!
What’s the big deal?

Well, it goes back to the idea of the hive mind.

Joe Suzuki is from one bee hive where he talks, thinks and acts like the rest of his peers in Taba.

The people in Bata may think exactly alike as the people in Taba, but the bees in one hive don’t know how to communicate with the bees from another hive.

It creates conflict.

In the case of the Japanese—because the government said traveling to live in another town is bad, anyone seen coming to live in a new town is seen as someone who can not be trusted.

Beware the gaijin. The outsider.

In 1868 there was the ouster of the shogunate rule and a return to power by the Emperor—there was ALWAYS an Emperor, it’s just that during the Tokugawa shogunate in the Edo era, the Emperor was merely a puppet leader.

While this also meant that the rules of intermingling between village people was deconstructed and no longer policed (there’s a joke there), old habits die hard.

While Japanese strangers to its own villages was no longer seen as such a big deal (they were still considered as gaijin, however), there was a new threat to Japan.

The foreigner.

To the Japanese eyes, the real troublemaker for its society was the foreigner looking to do business within its borders, to steal its women, and impose its "western" stylings and behavior upon its naive population.
There's something funny about that image! Was she originally holding a bottle in her hand? Or was it something bulbous belonging to that gaijin? Also... the woman is hiking up her kimono to show off a bit of sexy ankle, or to provide access for some sort of purchased sexual congress.  
Naive only in the sense that the Japanese natives simply may not ever have seen such a marvel as a steam engine before. They hadn't even heard of a steam engine before the Americans came over and forced (we have big guns, you do not) the Japanese to open up its borders for mutual trade.

U.S. president may indeed be correct (though his fiscal numbers are misinformed) that most of the world has a trade imbalance with the U.S., but Japan was perhaps one of the few time America has visibly forced its imperial manifesto upon another country. (I said "visibly".)

Okay, along with Japan in the 1850s and again post-WWII, it did so in a different manner with its Native American population.

Anyhow... foreigners became the new outsider-gaijin, even as it began to embrace its own as merely being the same bees from a different hive.

While there is nowadays still the odd utterance by a Japanese person of "Gaijin!" whenever a foreigner walks by, it's not as pronounced as it once was, owing to a proliferation of foreigners invading Japan to live and work legally in its clubs, bars and classrooms... or in the case of Jake Aldelstein, as a respected journalist reporting in Japan.

I can still recall—while living in the rural city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken—a three-year-old Japanese girl looking up and seeing me approach and pointing and stomping her feet in shock and awe and perhaps some sort of Morse code warning that I, the "Gaijin!" was approaching.

Where the hell does a three-year-old learn to do that? Parents? Society? In this case, being three-years-old, her parents were her society.

Did her parents talk to her and warn her all about the big, bad non-Japanese people with strange colored skin and non-epicanthic folded eyelids, and hairy arms?

Or... did they instead talk to her about being wary of strangers—as a means of protecting them from kidnapping, sexual abuse, murder, etc.?

Okay, I guess I am about as "Gaijin!" as it comes to that little three-year-old girl.

Are they screaming at me because I'm a foreigner, or because I am quite literally a stranger... an outsider?

Did she maintain that feeling towards foreigners because she equates foreigners with outsiders now?
Obviously one of those times a drunken gaijin thought that the fat guy in diapers was only fat, and was promptly tossed on his buttocks by the no-nonsense sumo wrestler, much to the howling delight of the on-looking gaijin. Never, ever drink and pick a fight with a sumo wrestler. Or any Japanese person. The odds are in their favor that at last one of you studied a deadly martial art in junior and high school.
Granted Japanese society is nowadays permeated with far more foreign-content than at any other time in its past, and as such, perhaps another three-year-old will not see foreigners as anything other than a stranger... and not as a dangerous foreigner/outsider.

So... there you have it... the difference in what a true gaijin is—in historical terms. It has different meanings at different points in Japanese history.

I did not talk about how Japanese people who are quite obviously born and raised in Japan and look Japanese can become gaijin, owing to their failure to adhere established Japanese societal norms.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I made up the village names of Taba and Bata, and any resemblance to any such place in Japan is purely coincidental and highly likely.    

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

In Praise Of Japan - Be Careful

One of the things I discovered early in Japan, is that the Japanese do not suffer praise easily.

That means, they are embarrassed by individual praise and prefer it when you say his or her group performed well.

Now… let’s not go crazy here.

I can certainly say with confidence, “Gee Noboko-chan, your hair sure does smell wonderful.”

I can say that because she is my girlfriend, and there is nothing wrong with offering praise, especially if you want to do more than just sniff hair.

We know that, and the Japanese know that, and I’m sure—where appropriate, all compliments are welcome. Just don’t over due it or it stops losing its potency.

No…  I was talking about the group dynamic of praise.

Let’s suppose Noboko (F) and Masako (F) and Ryuichi (M) were all working together on a school project. Masako was the one who came up with a solution that helped the group present a great project.

You might say, ”Hey guys… great work!”

And that’s where you should leave it.

You should not say, ”Hey guys… great work! Especially you, Masako!”

While it may be true, it’s a no-no in Japanese society.

You have just placed the individual before the group. 

In Japan, the group mentality is all that matters. No one is better than the other (except for bosses).

By heaping additional praise onto Masako and singling her out, we have not only offended the group of Masako, Noboko and Ryuchi, but we have also embarrassed Masako… and not in a good way.

You could certainly tell Masako in private that you think she did a great job… but even then, I would refrain from calling her the star of the group.

Besides, Noboko has hair that smells of green apples.

No… remember to always praise the group, but keep private cheers for private time. 

Andrew Joseph
PS: I was going to call this one "In Praise Of Japanese Women", but that would hardly have been fair to the Japanese men for whom this group mentality also applies.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Touring Posters Of Japan 1920-1940

Because I've spent the day out coaching baseball in the hot sun and then cutting the grass, and generally feeling lazy after that, I'm just going to show off some posters I found a few months back and have been holding on until such time.

These posters are all from the Japan Board of Tourist Industry/Japanese Government Railways, as a means to drum up travel via rail through Japan. D'uh.

The posters are quite varied in design and I am impressed that they do not all harp on the whole Mt. Fuji, Cherry Blossom motifs that are so prevalent in Japanese iconography.

Some of you may be aware that as a young child, I was privy to being exposed to lovely British steam engines in London where I was born. That and my parents getting me a used 1950s train set, propelled me on my life-long fascination with trains.

I even built my own train set a few years back, building the table and doing all the electrical work - two things that I am lousy at. I can saw a log (snore) and I can change a light bulb usually without dropping the old or new one, but to do the actual construction of a train set was something so alien to me that I was surprised I could actually complete it.

I did, adding in HO scale model kits of cars and buildings and people, and even a small coal mine up a small hill... and then a house fire helped destroy it all. Oh well.

I was also lucky enough to travel a fair bit through Japan via rail - both local trains, subway lines, and shinkansen bullet trains - loads of fun, though I had to look mature enough so that people didn't see me giddy with so much excitement that I'd nearly pee myself when on board!

Anyhow... the following are some 1920-1940 railway posters I found. They are location non-specific ones, which was my plan re: presentation here.

The sun rising up to slowly burn away the mists of the early chilly morn. The fact that the colors are muted, and that the sun isn't the typical red color makes this a real winner in my eyes.
Perhaps more typical - the red rising sun of Japan, and a chrysanthemum - which to me smacks of Japanese imperialism in play. Mid to late 1930s. 
Somei Yoshino cherry blossoms in the forefront of a five-story pagoda. I actually used to like taking photographs this way... using an image in the foreground to act as a frame atop the main image I was shooting in the background!
Okay... one of Mt. Fuji and Lake Motuso ... but it's spectacular because it's NOT in color - plus they used a photograph. Black and white photography always trumps color, simply because the images do not fuzz, and remain sharp.
My favorite. The Japanese people are all dressed in modern European style clothing from the 1920/early 1930s... but it's the crowded train platform that I love. Yes, it shows the popularity of riding the rails, but it also shows that it's incredibly busy and crowded - which could make some think again about traveling by train. And... I don't know if it's meant to show this, but the people are very well dressed... do they mean it to be something even the well-heeled can use, or is this how the masses dressed back in the day - in which case we've all gone down hill.
A lovely image showing the speed of travel, with the lands to the side shown in a slightly different perspective. This one is from the 1930s, if I correctly recall the art style.
What's this one for? Well, go and visit that Buddhist temple you always wanted to see - even in winter. There's no leaves on the tree, and a stone lantern is lit, with a torii temple gateway in the foreground... and of course the silhouette of a temple in the background.
Go and see a geisha doing a fan dance, or during a matsuri (festival). The orange color of the obi (belt) on the kimono denote happiness.
Traveling to see the leaves of the trees change color is a time-honored tradition in Japan. Those red leaves are of a Japanese maple tree. I had a 80-year-old bonsai tree in Japan, and asked a Japanese friend to look after it while I was on vacation. It died. The Japanese bonsai maple tree, that is.
I once traveled to Fukushima to see the leaves turn color with some Japanese friends - but we went by car. No biggie. Just 20 minutes drive from my house in Toronto takes me to forests and parkland where the leaves do their dying. It's also a time when it means lots of raking in the backyard... on the plus side, I didn't have to do that for three years while I was in Japan!
Ahhh... wisteria flowers and Nara deer.
Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社, Itsukushima-jinja) is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima (aka Miyajima) - and is known as the floating torii gate, in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture... The area is also famous for the deer there.
Created to look like an old ukiyo-e art piece, we see a fan shaped image depicting the wide scene of Mt. Fuji (drawn in the style of legendary ukiyo-e artist Hokusai), with the close-up image of the pine trees used as the frame for the design.
Another five-story pagoda, with nature all over the foreground, including wisteria and deer. It just reeks of Japan.

Andrew "I haven't gone on a vacation in 13 years" Joseph