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Monday, February 28, 2011

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Here's an article about Japan that was written over 20 years ago that speaks volumes about the Japanese female and their efforts to over come generations and generation and generations of being a second-class citizen of that country.

Although I worked as a reporter for The Toronto Star, this one was not written by me. It's a Reuter's article I found published my mother found published in The Toronto Star daily newspaper on December 27, 1990, while I was celebrating my first four months in Japan.

It was eye-opening to me, because while the article speaks of Japanese women asserting themselves, I sure as heck didn't see any of that while I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken in Japan as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme as an AET (Assistant English Teacher).

But the fact that someone else noticed it and madse a story about it doesn't mean the phenomenon didn't exist or that it hasn't progressed a heck of a lot more since then.

Have a read, and please let me know what you think.Click on the photo image below to get the whole thing on your screen.

And there you have it. Interesting, I think. If anyone has any further developments on Japanese women, I'd love to hear from you. Takako? If you're out there... I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Somewhere looking at women,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is brought to you by: Cyndi Lauper: CAPTAINLOUALBANO.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tip-Toe Through The Tulips

Here's a tale from Gail Thompson, a very attractive young woman who was an AET (Assistant English Teacher) in the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme with me in Tochigi-ken, Japan.

It appeared in the September 1991 issue of The Tatami Times English newsletter of which I was the editor and chief onani-ist

Hello and welcome to everyone! So what do you think about Japan so far? I love it and hope you will all have a great time here. The reason I m writing is to tell you all about the Primary/Elementary Students English camp that was held recently (I'll assume in August of 1991: Your Way-back Editor) in Awano-machi (town of Awano), near Kanuma-shi (city of Kanuma). Steve Heyd, Michael Pilarski (another AET: Kindda foggy Editor) and I were privileged to be asked as assistants... and apart from a few interesting incidents (how ominous: Ominous Editor), we had a grand time.

Imagine a bus load of food, eight kids all nervous but excited, three very nervous board of education people (they were really nervous) and three AETs ready to speak English or communicate in any way possible, and you have the scene of the first morning of the camp.

We all got on the bus and headed for a mountain in the depths of Awano-machi. The ride on the bus was an adventure that I don't think Michael will especially forget. It started off okay. We did the usual introductions and reviewed a few songs (to be sung around the campfire that night) and the kids were really good.

However, the road started to turn more and more as we slowly wound our way up the mountain - and we teachers started to look a little green around the gills. But the kids were reading, eating sweets and generally looking extremely genki ('fine': Yer Dictionary Editor).

When we finally reached our destination, the kids all tumbled out of the bus eagerly waiting for lunch, while we teachers crawled out with a not so good attitude towards the prospect of eating anything for the rest of our collective life.

But lunch was a great success, and we soon started our hike through some beautiful Tochigi-ken (Province/Prefecture of Tochigi) countryside. The kids weer having a great time catching dragonflies, and we spent our time prompting them to speak English.

Steve, Michael and I looked splendid in our black garbage bag make-shift rain coats, as we hadn't brought along a million and one essential things needed for a camp - and despite that, our luggage was twice as big as the kid's. Where do they learn the art of packing and can I enroll in a class??? Of course, it started to rain. We abandoned the hike - well, actually the three board of education people got very nervous that the kids would catch a cold, but we tough AETs were most willing to go ahead. FIGHT-O! (I think that is the way the Japanese say 'Fight' - Confused Editor).

Dinner soon rolled around and the cordon bleu Steve prepared was delicious. Actually it was red beans and rice, and we all enjoyed it. But the kids?! Let's just say they preferred the standard camping dinner of toasted marshmallows.

Now it was time to sing our songs - Michael did a great impression of a teapot, and was the star of the show.

You would think that the kids might be a little tired by now, but no! But guess who was?

We finally settled down and the voices of little munchkins saying (in English) Good Night rang in my ears, and I fell into a deep sleep with a smile on my face.

All too quickly, it was 5AM, and these kids (at least the girls in my cabin - who the nigh before had graciously laid out my futon - good girls! - were up and running.

After breakfast, we carved pumpkins and ate watermelon, packed up and were soon on our way home. I'm sure the kids were happy and that they had learned something. It was probably the first time they had ever spent two days in close company of people from the USA and Australia, and I know that I certainly learnt a lot about kindness and communication from my time with them.

If you have an opportunity, please go on a camp or some sort of international exchange activity. It will be a great challenge, but an excellent chance to share fantastic experiences with wonderful people.

Thank-you very much, Gail. You see people? Japan isn't just about drinking and getting laid - despite me implying so very often in this blog. It's about sharing your time and enriching the life of others... heck... that's what we should be doing anyways, regardless of what country you are in.

Somewhere wondering what the toilet situation was like,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is sung by the late great Tiny Tim: FALSETTO

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Judy In Disguise

The Japanese like to dress me up.

No... I am not talking about the time (100% true) I rode my bicycle around Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan where I lived (Zuiko Haitsu was the name of the apartment building) while wearing a T-shirt that had a fairly visible rip along the side. While I sure as heck didn't see it, apparently a plethora of Nihonjin (Japanese folk) did. The next day, pushed into my mail slot were three brand new T-shirts: Blue, white and grey.

There was no not attached to it indicating who it was from, so I couldn't even thank them for their generosity. More importantly, I couldn't ask them where the heck they bought the shirts!

After a year in this place (It's now July of 1991), I have yet to find a shop in this place that sells clothing in my size. I'm hardly a giant (mental giant, perhaps). I'm 5-11 & 3/4" and 175lbs. My shoes are 30cm or a size 10-1/2 US. But, nowhere here have I been able to find clothes! And yet, one day after seeing my ride my bike around town with a rip in my shirt, someone goes out, buys me three shirts and drops them off at my place! In one stinking day. That means it has to be close. Nertz.

Despite the introduction to this blog with that story, that's not what I meant when I said the Japanese like to dress me up. Nope. They like to dress me up in something outrageous and then take pictures of me. Why? Perhaps to show everyone that all gaijin (foreigners) are idiots aka baka (mostly true by my reckoning)? Perhaps to have something to do after a dinner invite rather than talk - which would be tough considering my crappy Japanese language skills, and their crappy English-language skills (though that isn't true about everyone, of course)?

Click HERE and see for yourself.

I don't know what's more bizarre 20 years later: Me actually doing stuff like that or the fact that these people had the costumes in their home already?

Somewhere wondering whose pantyhose that was,
Andrew Joseph

Today's title is sung by John Fred & his Playboys WITHGLASSES

PS: Obviously I was a willing participant in playing Mr. Dress-up, but I do believe alcohol may have been involved. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome To The Jungle

Hello Amanda Goodsell!

How are you enjoying your first month here in Japan in the large city of Ashikaga-shi, Tochigi-ken? You're a real pretty woman - I love your long blond wavy hair - okay, okay, I'm backing off. Yeesh.

Okay darlin', you've got the most beautiful mouth I've ever come across (that sounds dirty!), so how about you give me your first impressions of life in Japan as a 5'-8" blond from the U.S. who decided to come here in August 1991 as an Assistant English Teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme?


  • Big bugs
  • Small people
  • My kitchen sink is at knee level
  • Perma-smile (boy, this hurts)
  • (What am I doing here) 
  • Why is there a sink in my toilet?
  • I'm sorry I forgot to take my shoes off.
  • How can anyone wear pantyhose in this heat?
  • Praise-be for bilingual television!
  • (But I never would have been excited about Knight Rider before.)
  • Which way does the hanko go?
  • (Are those rice fields?)
  • I'm so happy my predecessor was perfect.
  • Why don't they wear sunglasses?
  • More packets of JET information? Why THANK you!!!
  • What do you mean, "The directions are in Japanese?"
  • I need more omiyage (gifts to give out) Tobu department store to the rescue!
  • I come from the galaxy - not Mars, OKAY!?!
Somewhere wondering if I should hit on her,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is rocked out by Guns N Roses: FUN&GAMES
PS: Amanda was quite obviously shell-shocked upon arriving here in Japan. I did not actually try to hit on her. I knew it wouldn't work, as I believe she told me so after first saying hello to me back in Tokyo when I went down to scope out the chicks - I mean welcome the JET newcomers to Japan.
PPS: Amanda recovered quickly enough and soon became a power fixture in our Tochigi-ken, taking over for me as editor of the monthly Tatami Times JET newsletter after I got tired of the politics (and was depressed over the whole girlfriend thing and quit being the Editor). I was getting regular sex from a lot of different women - but I had no girlfriend. I'm sure I'll explain more later.
PPPS: The cover image at the top was from the September 1991 issue of The Tatami Times. I'm unsure now where I got the image from, but I certainly had students who acted like The Three Stooges! This is the cover to the issue Amanda's First Impressions was first printed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dressing Up

This one is for my buddy Matthew.

I've mentioned Matthew quite often in these blogs - not just because he and I got into a lot of stupid stuff (we did), and not because we did a lot of good stuff together (we did), and not because we hung out a lot (not enough, but we did). Actually, I suppose those reasons are why I've mentioned Matthew quite often in these blogs.

This time, however, I have not come to bury Matthew, but to praise him (to totally twist a speech made by Marc Anthony in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar. (Actually, in the play, the real words denote Marc Anthony talking of coming to bury Caesar, not praise him).

Okay... let's start over. This blog is to pay homage to Matthew, who was and is my very good friend. We walked each other home when we were drunk. We shared our food with each other. We shared movies. We even shared wome... no, actually we did not  share whatever word it was I was going to write. We're very good friends - just not fantastically very good friends.

Let's just say the boy helped keep me sane - such that it is. I am repaying him by recalling things that went on in Japan that he has no knowledge about thanks to the ravages of Father Time. He must be in his mid-40's now. Dammit all... so am I. But I kept detailed notes on everything.

For example, I still have this note from Matthew that he signed and gave to me. I lent him some money, but really because we are friends, I never expected it back - because that's what friends do... even though I'm pretty sure he still owes me that ¥10,000 borrowed from me back in 1990, at 7% daily interest (and that's being very nice, because we are very nice friends)...and even though he never paid me back. It's actually a lot of money, and I still consider him a good friend.

You may have noticed I removed the qualifier 'very' part, as I have just gone to a website and calculated what he still owes me.

At 7% interest since August 23, 1990 until February 23, 2011 - that ¥10,000 yen = $100 is now actually $418.82. Bugger.

Okay. Screw that. We have come to bury Matthew, not praise him.

Somewhere pulling Matthew's leg,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Katy Perry. It's not rock and roll, but the lyrics are so funny when taken completely out of CONTEXT.

PS: Obviously this blog is me having some fun with Matthew. He really was a godsend, and I thank him for his friendship and support lo these many, many, many, many years. Thanks, brother!
PPS: Actually, Matthew did borrow money from me - at or around the date specified. He, like most of us, had only brought enough money with him for a couple of weeks. His bored of education office was a little slow in getting his pay to him - unlike my OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office who clearly thought more highly of me than his did of him. Hee-hee.
PPPS: Even though Matthew did pay me back very quickly, I think the above photo is payment enough for any lost interest... though judging from our expressions, clearly the wrong type of interest is being shown.
PPPPS: In the photo, I am pulling Matthew's leg. It was taken at the home of the woman (Takako) who would, in three short years, be his wife. She's still beautiful and they have two fantastically beautiful kids. Not sure about Matthew, though. Can I come for a visit with my wife and kid? I promise... I don't snore anymore. Really.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's The End Of The World

Welcome to my 300th It's A Wonderful Rife blog. I really didn't think I had that much to say about Japan. Who knew?

Here's a short story (sorta short, sorta not) that I wrote while in Japan. It's about my vacation to the island of Saipan that I actually went on with my friend James (Jimmy Jive) Dalton of Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada. Wikipedia has some information that hopefully is correct: HERE.

The story is about me and a starfish I actually found - a wonderfully large, royal blue one. Now, some of you may be aware that I collect, or rather, did collect comics up until financial concerns made that impossible. Still, I have about 30,000 of them. In the very first Justice League of America adventure back in Brave & The Bold #28, the super heroes Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, The Flash and I believe teenaged mascot Snapper Carr, went up against a giant Starfish from outer space. That's the backgrounder.

It was originally entitled: The End Of The World, and until now no one besides myself has ever read this - well, maybe my friends Rob and Doug, as I sent them a copy of it back when I was in Japan.

It's my fault really. I mean, I suppose it is. Although I didn't, y'know, like push the button or anything radical like that. All I did was go to Saipan for a vacation. Saipan is a small island north of Guam... look it up yourself, I'm busy.

(Okay, the flashback is beginning, so pretend that everything you see for the next seven seconds is wavering up and down and side to side. For those of you who have been seeing this effect for years... put down the ink blotter and step away from that iguana. It's not yours.)

My trip to Saipan was not very interesting until I wandered along the sharp coral-infested beach near my cabana-cum-hotel. To escape the ravages of the hardened sponge, I stepped into the warm waters of the Pacific, and gashed myself just hideously on the knee, as I had forgotten about the ravenous coral live - whoops! - die under the water's surface. The cut, combined with the salt water, added up to some intense pleasure that I would normally have to pay through the nose for. That is something best experienced over describing.

The time had come for me to finally go all the way and dip my head under the water. I was extremely reluctant, because the last time I had been on a beach, there was no water. One of the drawbacks of living in the desert, I guess. I took a deep breath and submerged. I opened up my eyes and promptly felt my contact lenses slip cleanly from my eyeballs. Let me tell you, it was no easy job looking for something that is see-through, water permeable and invisible when you have the eyesighte of an inkblotter in heat.

That was when I met him. As he tapped me on the shoulder, I turned around and squinted into the indigo image of...


(This is the point ion the story when the music gets really pompous with lots of trumpets telling you to be scared. The clarinets though, whine that the trumpets are always too loud and drown out their pleas for better reeds. as for the violins? Well, who cares? I never could stomach violins. They sound like someone ordering a ham on rye at the deli on 47th Street in New York City whilst choking to death on a piano wire that happens to be wrapped around their neck by a guy named Cecil.)

At first he seemed like an okay guy. he had found my contacts and held out a solid arm to show me. As I reached for them, he playfully pulled them out of my reach. We laughed as he held them out for me yet again. As I lunged for them, he quickly threw them into another suction-like arm and held all five of his rays behind his back. Or was it his front? It was so tough to tell, what with the fact that Staro (I gave him that name, as starfish don't usually have one) still had my contacts.

Cursing his blue hide, I threw myself at his taunting frame. My sudden attack caught him off balance and sent him spiraling into a large mass of brain coral. He wasn't lodged in there or anything, but the continued lapping of the waves made balance an impossibility. I plucked my contacts from his icy grip, inserted them and laughed heartily as I picked his struggling form out of the water.

I brought him back to the cabana with me and let his body lie on my writing table, bereft of water. Needless to say, after a couple of day, the stench of his decomposing body and my roommate's flatulence caused me a momentary lapse of motor control. I spilled my bottle of COORS beer on Staro. Cursing my stupidity and those stinky farts, I tried to drink as much of the fallen suds as possible. But, with unhuman swiftness, Staro slurped it up (not really surprising since it's not a human ).

I watched in amazement as Staro grew and grew and grew. Then he grew some more. With blinding speed, Staro grabbed my friend who was attempting to fire up blue angels and deposited him in his pink and green maw. I'll never forget those crunching and farting sounds - not to mention Staro's raucous belch.

Staro then looked at me and grinned. Quite a sight, let me tell you. He picked me up in his sinewy limbs and held me close to his stinking maw that smelled like... like... uh, like... (Well now pause for a few minutes while the storyteller tries to locate a thesaurus amidst the rubble that was once civilization. You people might want to step out for a bite to eat. Might I suggest the deli over on Madison and Greer? They've got these bagels with this special homemade cream cheese that would absolutely to die for if everybody wasn't already dead. Don't order the iguana tartar. It was a little dicey and stunned the trumpets into a muted muffle.)

... like... like a... starfish mouth? Anyhow, I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but then I discovered it was indigestion brought on by a bad bacon-iguana and violin sandwich. Staro spoke to me in a voice that shook the fillings out of my mouth. Boy, did that hurt! He said he was going to keep me around because he needed someone to arm wrestle with. Oh the horror! The horror!

Star was true to his word. He didn't eat me, and I arm-wrestled him between his munching of cities. Apparently the beer gave him super strength and radioactive breath that smelled like farts that enabled him to defeat the nuclear armies of Earth. Needless to say, he beat me most of the time in arm wrestling, too.

(This is where we end the flashback. everything is wavering up and down and side to side. The lizards are no longer speaking in flicked tongues, but the world is totally aflame. Melancholy clarinets play somber rhythms as Staro has apparently eaten the overbearing trumpet section. Apparently, he hates brass as well as mankind and rhubarb pie - which he blames for his sister's limp.

So there you have it... the story of how our planet came to be destroyed by a 19-foot, five-armed, blue starfish from Saipan. Of course, since he and I are the only living creatures left on Earth, I have absolutely no idea whom I am talking to. Hey you! The ink blotter! Ya got a few minutes? I got a story for you and your violin-playing iguana. It's your mother? Sorry.

Somewhere wondering what I would write if I did drugs,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by R.E.M. and can be heard by pressing THEBUTTON.
PS: I really don't do drugs, and I sure as hell don't write while drinking - although I am having a rum & coke while I type out this... but this is typing, not writing.
PPS: I have no idea what my fascination was with ink blotters, deli's or iguanas. I do play the clarinet and I do dislike string instruments. However, my uncle Harold Joseph (when alive) was the conductor of the Delhi Symphony Orchestra amongst other things: NAMEDROPPER and I do have his violin.

PPPS: My buddy James had this ability to fart on command - not that any body I know actually commanded he fart - but I suppose it was his command. Jimmy Jive was such a fun individual and I hope he is well and somewhat gassy. Just not too gassy.
PPPPS: Staro did have beer spilled on himself by me in the cabana, but the beer did not revive him. It made him tipsy, and let me know he was still alive. I felt stupid about trying to kill such a magnificent creature and returned him to the Pacifc Ocean alive and a raging alcoholic.
PPPPPS: DC Comics killer starfish is spelled Starro. I wanted to avoid a lawsuit should this ever become a fanous work of short semi-autobiographical fiction. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm On Fire

If you'll recall... back in October of 2010, I told you about my first meeting with Noboko - the Japanese Teacher of English who would become my first Japanese girlfriend and a very short time later, my fiance. You can read about that event HERE - and check out a photo of us taken that first day when it was quite obvious that despite my love-at-first-sight meeting of her, it sure as heck wasn't reciprocal.

What you didn't get to read about, however, were all of the haiku (poems) I wrote for her in five minutes as I desperately wanted to impress upon her (well, I wanted to press something on her) that I was smitten for this kitten.

So... since the only person I have ever shown the following poems to is my wife (three days ago), allow me to share my puppy love with the rest of the world. Feel free to borrow any one you like in the pursuit of that significant other - just don't forget to let me know if it worked out for you.

A haiku is a three-lined poem, with the first and third lines consisting of five syllables, and the second line a whopping seven syllables.
Here we go, in the order in which it was written that day:

Her beautiful eyes
Seem to hypnotize my soul
Capturing my heart.

Long and lonely nights
Have passed by the wayside now
That I have found you.

Lost in a Romance
Her Smile intoxicates me.
I know what love is.

I can see the light
Emanating inside.
We are together.

Inside and Outside
Lovely legs and ruby lips
Kind at heart are mine.

Needless to say, I think I got progressively worse as I continued - it's why I dislike editing my own writing. Often the first bunch of words coming out of my mouth or keyboard is the most heartfelt and thus, the best.

Somewhere trusting myself,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by: Bruce Springsteen: HOTSTUFF
And, for your viewing pleasure, here is a video of Robin Williams doing Elmer Fudd singing Bruce Springsteen: WABBIT.
I also do a mean impression of Robin Williams doing Elmer Fudd doing Bruce Springsteen, but there's no video of that. I'm weally, weally shy, unfortunately.
PS: I'm sure my wife was impressed by my out-pouring of love for this strange woman she never met and was duly impressed that I had not done the same for her. Fear not... I made her cry with my own love letter to her the next day. In this case, 'cry' because it was good.
PPS: The image down here - well, that's the original sample of my haiku writing that day. As you can see - no scratch outs. Get'er done right the first time. You can also see that the sheet of paper somehow survived the fire at my house a few years back.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Strange Ways

One of the best things about being a man in Japan - especially a foreign man - is that there are a lot of beautiful women who want to talk to you - get to know you - and perhaps find out if you are worth hiding from their family while you enjoy a relationship.

Girlfriends. Lovers. Romper Room partners. Consorts. Afternoon Delight. Whatever the heck you want to call them - the women in Japan were great. Now... this blog isn't an ode to Andrew's sexual prowess - though perhaps one day I'll write about that... no, perhaps a three-part series in hardback, of course... no, rather this blog is about a lost opportunity.

Within three days of arriving in Japan, I had a girlfriend. An American girlfriend named Ashley Benning, whom I adored while she was there. Unfortunately, it was only partially reciprocal, as I'm sure I was a jealous ass every now and again. I was insecure, as she was only my second ever girlfriend, and I was 25.

Almost within the first month of setting down my luggage in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, I began teaching night school English language classes on the side.

And that's where I met her. Her name was Shoko. She was tall - close to 5'-8", slender, brown eyes, black slightly wavy hair. She like to wear hats, was stylishly dressed - and had a nice tan-coloured skin that seemed to me to be flawless.

When I saw her, my heart skipped a beat - but I quickly put her out of my mind because she was too beautiful for me. There was also that language thing... she was in my beginner's English conversation class, and I was certainly a beginner in knowing anything about Japan, let alone the language.

Oh yeah... I also had the proverbial albatross around me neck. My girlfriend, Ashley.

It was the beginning of October 1990, and Ashley and I had only had one argument by this time though that would change with alarming frequency come late October.

And yet... there was Shoko. It turns out this cutie -patootioe could actually speak more English than she let on - and probably should have been in Matthew's more advanced English conversation group. But she continued to smile, glance up at me when I wasn't staring at her, and put up with my lousy teaching techniques.

I was free to be the dog I had always pictured myself to be, as Ashley was not part of our extra-curricular teaching activities - having been asked, but preferring instead to stay-it at home and get some sleep.

While I admire Ashley's desire for sleep, I had arrived in this country with one purpose in mind. Well, actually with several purposes in mind. Along with getting laid (mission accomplished), I wanted to learn as much about Japan as possible by talking to the so-called common folks.

Oh gentle reader, it's true that I can teach you a load of stuff about Japan - but like any real student that seeks to surpass the master (me), you need to go there yourself and experience it first-hand.

Anyhow... week after week, Shoko and I would play our ever flirtatious eye-contact game with each other. I couldn't even talk to her after class, as she would quickly run out, eyes cast down, books hugged tight to her small bosom.

But then, one day Suzuki-san (mister Suzuki)... no, not that Suzuki-san, the other one... the one who is a farmer in Ohtawara (Suzuki is a terribly common name in Japan) ... he threw a party for all the local gaijin (foreigner) in the city (about seven of us), plus all of the members of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association - at his farm.

I, of course, had to accompany Ashley to the event. Fortunately, she was mad at me for something she says I said or did, or didn't say or didn't do - who knows? She never really said what it was or wasn't that I did or didn't do... so she left the party early - probably to take a nap.

Just as well... I had been force fed a steady diet of alcohol and alcohol-related products there, as everyone wanted to see the stupid foreigner (including Matthew and myself) get hammered. Who were we to deny them their fun?

Little did I realize, that sipping on a beer, Shoko had been watching my interactions with Ashley. With Ashley gone, Shoko came over to me and began pouring beer into my half-filled cup - because, in Japan, that is what polite people do for others.

She stopped suddenly as she realized I wasn't drinking beer at the moment. Bowed many times in quick succession and ran away holding her face in her hands.

I didn't know what to do. But my heart and groin did. I put down my mixed drink, and slowly walked over to where she had gone to hide.

I gently called her name: "Shoko." She stiffened (and I have to admit, I did, too). She still held her face in her hands, and wouldn't look up at me. But, quite audibly - in English - I heard her mutter: "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

At first I did a Japanese-thing, as I couldn't figure out what Japanese word she was saying over and over again... but... I realized she was speaking English?

I smiled, took another step closer to her and before she could yelp, or move away or pour more beer in my non-existent drinking vessel, I hugged her, resting my chin on a spot just above her right ear.

And then I kissed that spot.

Through braided fingers, she looked up at me and smiled - reached up a couple of inches and kissed me on the lips. Just a brief touch.

And then... nothing.

That kiss was just long enough to know that despite our physical attraction to one another, we didn't feel that spark.

We both awkwardly moved away from each other. Smiled and turned in the opposite direction.

She didn't show up for my English class again.

Somewhere guessing this is what it feels like to kiss your sister,
Andrew (no-sister) Joseph
Today's blog title is by KISS. You can listen to this song here: ACE.
As well, here's a Megadeath version of the same song that sounds HEAVIER:
PS: A sister kisser is best described as a hard fought tie... no one loses, but more importantly, no one wins.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rubber Ball

When it rains, it pours. And it does in Japan.

And despite Japan's insistence on being known as a decent society (which it is), there is also a hidden underground of sex - everybody does it, but no one talks about it. From prostitution, Love Hotels, trying to hook up with rhyming gaijins (foreigners), sex in anime (cartoons) and manga (comic books) sex is part of the way of life in Japan. Hell, they even have phallic symbols all over the place that they like to sight see or parade around in. Hmm... that will be a blog topic very soon.

In this case, our topic is about condoms - the recent theft of some 700,000 condoms (aka rubbers or add your own favourite term here). And I am here to add to my condom-nation of this event.

The condoms were stolen en route between Malaysia and Japan. The ship, while loaded with preventative measures (the condoms) failed to adequately protect itself even though the cargo was placed into a shipping container and locked while in northern Malaysia. Forced entry is suspected, as the container was empty when it arrived in Tokyo, though the locks had all been replaced by the cunning ballsy thieves.

The police are baffled as to why the locks were replaced, though your humble author suspects it was to prevent the customer from knowing it had been violated and thus provide a longer amount of time to pass for the crime of raping the ship of its precious cargo to be discovered. If one doesn't suspect there is anything wrong, then there is nothing wrong.

“We are unhappy over the incident. This is the first time such a thing has happened since our Malaysian production started in 1997,” said Sato Koji, manager of the Sagami Rubber Factory.

Sagami officials claim that the condoms are unlike others of their ilk as they are 14 per cent thinner than conventional ones (not necessarily larger, however), and on the Japanese market retail for $1.5 million or about $2.25 a toss. As I've always suspected, sex sells.

“There are locks, seals and checklists provided by freight forwarders and shipping lines for every part of the journey from factory to destination, so it is very easy to find out where and when they were tampered with or changed,” said Walter Cullas, president of the Air Freight Forwarders Association of Malaysia.

The Malaysian police are doing their best to uncover the condom culprits and are quite aware that goods shipped out of Malaysia often go missing. It is suspected, however that if they do find the culprits, rubber bullets will be used in the apprehension of the criminals.

Unfortunately, the police don't really have any suspects, but your It's A Wonderful Rife correspondent suggests they search Malaysian teenagers with extra wide grins on their faces. No gaijin are considered suspects - even to purchase in the underground market - as, in this case, one size will not indeed fit all.

There is no word yet as to how Japan will react to the condom shortage.

Somewhere, glad I don't fit the profile,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by Bobby Vee - I used to like this one when I was a kid, and played my K-Tel record over and over again: BOUNCYBOUNCY.
PS: Click HERE to try the condom selector tool. Those are their words, not mine.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Only Women Bleed

Because I'm still bagged from being sick for lo these past 12 days, I'm going to offer up a pair of Seaman's Shorts - that's what Jeff called his column in The Tatami Times - an English JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme newsletter for AETs (Assistant English Teachers) and CIRs (Co-ordinator of International Relations.

Though undated (I forgot to add the friggin' date to the cover), it was from August 1991, with an awe-inspiring cover drawn by my friend Matthew Hall.

Jeff, originally from Yuba City, California was - after myself - the next to create a monthly column for the newsletter. That was when I created It's A Wonderful Rife - yes, some of what you are reading was written before... but I only did about 80 columns... check it out... I've done about 280 so far... so you are getting some original content.

Now this piece, as mentioned, was published before... so forget about all that crap I wrote about original content...  as well... me being an ego-maniac (and a damn great one at that), along with my Rife's, I also did a monthly Thoughtless column, as I liked how Jeff presented his.

Enough background, here's the foreground.

Jeez, I take a lousy month off and my 'format' is 'stolen'. Do I get any royalties, A.J.? (Ed. Note: I have no idea who he is talking about).

  • My favourite definition: In a third-year junior high school class, the JTE (Japanese teacher of English) asked for the translation of "Miss". The student stood up and with a huge smile forming on his face, said in English: "Virgin."

  • I'm leaving for California in August - not sure which is more apt: my Leaving for Home Countdown or I'm Getting the Hell out of Japan! Countdown?

  • I hope you all caught the article about the girl who was banned from competing in the really important sumo matches - after kicking the butts of, I believe, six boys. (Ed. Note: No Jeff, what was the article about?). As you all know, of course, females are prone to that whole 'bleeding thing' - that's why they are impure - and we just can't have a female getting up on the dohyo (sumo ring), lifting one leg for the shiko o fumu (lifting of leg and stamping it down - it's part of the sumo warm up done prior to each match) and squirting blood all over the place. You know, they really should invent something to soak that stuff up.

  • Upon complaining about the ungodly summer in Japan, a teacher said to me, "Don't whine; In the Olden Days poets used to write poems praising the Rainy Season."

So... with that in mind, I now humbly offer you an:

"Unmetrical Ode to Summer in Japan"
"To Japan I unfortunately did go,
To learn about this thing shitsudo (humidity).
Shitsudo how I love thee;
My pores they do flood me
When the humidity reaches 80 percento."

Thanks Jeff... you're starting to write like a poet even though you don't rhyme like you know it.

Somewhere wondering if women have got that bleeding thing fixed yet,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is sung by Alice Cooper: RUNNYMASCARA
PS: In Jeff's poem, the term 'percento' is the way the Japanese say the English word 'percent'.  
PPS: It's just a coincidence that Matthew drew the sumo cover upon which Jeff's piece first appeared.
PPPS: Here's a related link to an article in the news on Friday (yesterday!): KICKBUTT

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Million Vacations

As a writer of a somewhat comedic blog - and as a person who can rip a quip at people with virtually no thought at all - I pride myself on my comedic timing. However, I'm not a comedian (though I do play one on tv). As such, my timing isn't perfect yet.
Hence this particular blog.
Sure I got Valentine's Day correct - and probably did the same for Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and maybe even Halloween. But sometimes I just miss the mark.
Today's topic du jour was plucked from the department of redundancy department, and is about public holidays in Japan.
So... why do I state that I lack timing? Well... upon racking my brain for a topic, I thought of this particular one - d'uh... me like to right of holly daze. Anyhow, there's no reason to do this one today... there's no actual public holiday in Japan. I'm so sorry. I have shamed myself in front of you and the rest of the world.
There... that's what a Japanese apology would sound like if it was done in English. Long-winded and kind of confusing. That has nothing to do with anything, of course. I'm just padding the soon to be over-sized blog.  

Public Holidays in Japan
Did you know that the Public Holiday Law (Kokumin no Shukujitsu ni Kansuru Horitsu) of Japan was established in 1948.
There's a whole lot of who-hah regarding how some special days actually get to be a day off - but that's for another day, poor pun intended.
I just wanted to perform a good public service announcement and let you all know about some of the more interesting Japanese holidays.
As well, Japan only just moved to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. Until that time, dates of holidays were based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. New Year's Day (the first holiday mentioned below), was actually celebrated as the beginning of Spring - just like China, Vietnam, Korea and others.

Ganjitsu (New Year's Day); January 1, was officially established in 1948 - though I'm pretty sure Japan did celebrate it before that. This is the first day of Shogatsu (the New Year season) that, depending on the region, refers to the first one, three or seven days of the year. Before 1948, this date was called Shiho-hai, a national holiday with imperial worship being the focus - after all, until the end of WWII, the Emperor was considered to be a God.

Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day); fluctuates, but is the second Monday of January. This national holiday was devised to congratulate men and women who have managed to survive the rigors of life to hit the big two-oh (20).

Kenkoku Kinen no Hi (National Foundation Day); February 11. This event was first held in 1967 as a way for everyone to show their love for Japan. Between 1872 and 1948, this day was used to celebrate Kigen-setsu - celebrating the ascension of Emperor Jimmu as the nation's first Emperor.

Shunbun no Hi (Vernal Equinox Day); at or around March 20. Established in 1948 to force the people of Japan to appreciate all things involving nature and the love of living things. I would imagine no one is allowed to cut their lawn that day - if anyone in Japan actually had a lawn, of course.

Showa no Hi (Show Day); April 29. This day was established in 2007 to reflect on events of the Showa-jidai (Showa era) that encompasses 1926-1989. Showa refers to Emperor Hirohito. Showa jidai actually mans 'period of enlightened peace and harmony.' Seems like they forgot about Japan's Imperialism into neighbouring countries and that whole WWII thing. Anyhow, April 29 was Hirohito's birthday. After he died, the day was changed to Greenery Day, but that day was moved to May 4, with April 29 reverting back to Showa Day. Coincidentally (?) April 29 is the start of Golden Week... it's akin to the West's March Break.

Kenpo Kinenbi (Constitution Memorial Day); May 3. A national holiday begun in 1948 to commemorate Japan's new post-war constitution.

Midori no Hi (Greenery day); May 4. yet another day for Japan to feel good about nature. Geez... is there any nature left in Japan outside of a few national parks?

Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day); May 5/ Established in 1948, this day is to celebrate kids and to plan for their happiness. I don't know about other countries, but in Canada, Children's Day is every frickin' day. Anyhow, on this date, families with a boy fly carp streamers and decorate their homes with armour and samurai dolls.
I'm unsure how you celebrate if you have a girl. Probably make the girls do servitude labour for the boys. Do I sound bitter today?

Umi no Hi (Marine Day); Third Monday of July. First held in 1996, this is a day of thanking one's lucky stars for the oceans and seas and for the prosperity of the maritime nature of Japan. You can't make stuff up like this.

Keiro no Hi (Respect-for-the Elderly Day); Third Monday of September. Established in 1966 to pay homage to the aged. Again... is this not something that should be done every day? To be honest, Japan does seem to look after their senior citizens a lot better than other countries.

Shubun no Hi (Autumnal Equinox Day); On or around September 23. Established in 1948 to honour ancestors and to remember the dead. Prior to 1948, this was a much celebrated festival called Shuki korei-sai and was for much the same reason.

Taiiku no Hi (Health and Sports Day); Second Monday of October. A national holiday to celebrate sports and the cultivation of a healthy mind and body. You get a day off for this? When did Japan become communist? Established in 1966, it was chosen because the date of October 10 was the opening date of the Tokyo Olympics. In 2000, the date was altered to ensure people got a long-weekend.

Bunka no Hi (Culture Day); November 3. As a gaijin (foreigner) who is constantly bombarded by all things Japanese, this seems like over-kill. However, the date commemorates the 1947 signing of the new Japanese Constitution, and is meant to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture.

Kinro Kansha no Hi (Labour Thanksgiving Day): November 23. There is no turkey involved with this date, which is good because I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no turkeys*. Another 1948 national holiday, that celebrates all that is good about labour, production and thanks to one another. I was going to make a joke about how people are actually afraid to take the day off from work in case their boss was there, but that would be in poor taste.   

Tenno Tanjobi (Emperor's Birthday); December 23. What present do you get for a guy who has everything? Who knows. Just work harder and buy more Japanese-manufactured items to help resolve the countries crippling debt. This date celebrates the birthday of current Emperor Akihito, who was born in 1933.

Anyhow... there you have it. Consider this a way to plot your trip to Japan. Do not try and travel during Golden Week, or sail to Japan on Marine Day, or buy a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Somewhere wondering why I felt the need to pad this blog entry,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is by Canadian rockers Max Webster. No there is no Max Webster in the group. KIM
PS: The photo above was taken in Saipan (it's across a small expanse of water from Guam - and is also a U.S. protectorate. The Japanese tourists are having their photo taken in front of some old blown up Japanese weaponry left over from WWII when they took over the island before being kicked out by the Americans. Yes, it seems a tad odd to have one;s photo taken in front of a place were a lot of Japanese were killed...
 PPS: *Under Kinro Kansha no Hi (Labour Thanksgiving Day): November 23, I make a crack about: "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no turkeys". This is a bit of a rip from the classic movie/book Gone With The Wind. I replaced the word 'babies' with 'turkeys'

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TV Dinners

This is what we call - interesting timing.

The school my son goes to here in Toronto, is holding a rather self-serving event called staff appreciation lunch, where parents bring in food for the teachers.

First of - what the fug?

I don't really have a problem with parents wanting to do something nice for their kid's teacher, as this does allow for a good time to suck up for Junior's need for better grades in Senior Kindergarten. Still... this appears to be a school event: Like please feed us. we're poor teachers and can't afford our own food.

Anyhow... the whole exercise was just a way to segue into the topic of the day. 

This past Tuesday, nine schools in Japan were hit with what appears to be food poisoning, brought on by the ingestion of a school lunch.

So far, over 1,000 students and teachers at nine elementary and junior high schools in Iwamizawa-shi (City of Iwamizawa) in Hokkaido, Japan have been hit and hit hard, causing the closure of the institutions since Monday.

According to reports, Salmonella bacteria has been detected in fecal samples from five stricken children with the number of people with symptoms including nausea and fever rising to 1,048 on Tuesday, including 998 pupils and 50 teachers and workers.

The pupils started exhibiting the symptoms on Friday after eating lunch the previous day which was cooked in the school kitchens for some 3,100 students.

So... do the teacher's at my son's school really want to be fed by the parents?

Somewhere wondering what the heck they ate in Hokkaido,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is barfed by ZZ Top: SAUCEISNOTTOOBLUE

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Here's another entry from Kevin Blackburn, a CIR Co-ordinator of International Relations) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme who lived in nearby Bato-machi (Town of Bato) in Tochigi-ken (the Province/Prefecture of Tochigi) in Japan.

The following tale by Ken was published in the JET newsletter The Tatami Times back in September 1991.

The Lighter Side

Murphy's Law #431 says: If Kevin hangs his laundry out to dry, it will rain.

At first I was discouraged by this discovery. Now I've applied the scientific method to the problem, and through experimentation have found a foolproof way to change the weather in Bato.

If Bato's gone for too long without rain, I can generally end the drought by hanging out a full load of laundry. A couple of pairs of underwear (my own, mind you!) and a pillowcase guarantee a light sprinkle.

One pair apparently does nothing (although the high school girls walking by stop and giggle).

If I put my futon (Japanese bedding) on the veranda to air out, a thunderstorm is guaranteed, and generally starts when I'm in a meeting I can't sneak out of.

Thanks again, Kevin, for writing about your wonderful rife in Bato.

Obviously this rain thing isn't just Kevin's domain. I, too, am the cause of many a thunderstorm - which is something my father, Odin, likes to tease me about.

However, for me, as the unabashed King of rain... when it pours, I reign... I get all wet and moist  - well, pretty much all of the time, as Tochigi-ken seems to get more than its fair share of bad weather. That may be Kevin's fault for doing so much laundry.

Naw... for me... it only seems to rain when I'm traveling. Traveling to a teacher's conference, vacationing, checking out sights around town ... that sort of stuff.

It really is so bad that both the foreigners and Japanese about Ohtawara-shi (where I live) have taken to calling me Ame otoko. Depending on the Chinese/Japanese kanji symbols used, it either means 'candy man' or 'rain man'. Guess which one I am.

Granted I didn't arrive in Japan and suddenly become all wet. Nope, the transformation began after I was first hit by a car while riding my bicycle in a typhoon. Here's ONE STORY  I did previously. Here's ANOTHER.

Now, some of you might be wondering what the hell a person would be doing riding a bicycle around in a typhoon... well, all I can say is, if you have to ask, you have never lived in a country where hurricanes (typhoons) are a common occurrence. Not having a car, the bicycle is the main form of location for gaijin (foreigner/ outsider) like myself in and about town. Since I had to get to school to teach, I used my bicycle - it's what all of the students were doing, if they can do it, so can I.

Somewhere with my own private weather system,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is brought to us by me thinking of Travis: PLOP

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Born Too Late

Today's blog was originally care of one Kevin Blackburn, a super nice guy I wish I had gotten to know better over my years in Japan. He lived in a tint widdle town called Bato in Tochigi-ken, and was a CIR (Co-ordinator for International Relations). He spoke fluent Japanese, and I think fluent English.
For the August 1991 issue of The Tatami Times, he provides us with a nice slice of life.
The Tatami Times was a monthly newsletter published in English by myself as part of the fringe benefits enjoyed by Tochigi-ken's many dues-paying JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme people.

So... with out much more further ado, here's Kevin's:
The Lighter Side
In my day, girls said "What a fox!" Later, it became popular to say, "What a hunk!" I'm afraid I've been away from the U.S. too long, and don't know the right phrase for today. Probably something like, "What a bart Simpson!"
But in Noborito, Japan, a few steps from Mukogaokayuen-eki (train station), in front of the pachinko parlour, on June 15, 1991 at 5:17 PM, witnesses can attest that the word was "KAKKOII!" (pronounced ka-ku-wee). 
I've mentioned in this column before (or at least old Andrew has), that foreigners are usually called gaijin--outsider--sometimes in a derogatory manner.
But not last Saturday evening. 
I finally found a young Japanese lady who appreciated my worth, and wasn't afraid to say it in public.
So, to the anonymous seven-year-old who both embarrassed and encouraged me: thanks!

And to you Kevin Blackburn - thank-you for your wonderful rife.

Somewhere wondering if Kevin knows his admirer is now 26-years-old or so,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Poni-Tails: KAKKOII!
PS: Ode to Kevin Blackburn... In the photo above, Kevin Blackburn is on the left, your 'great legs' author Andrew Joseph beside him, Jeff Seaman, Matthew Hall and Tim Mould on the far right are drunk and belting out a karaoke song: according to the tv prompter, it's: Take Me Home, Country Roads, one of approximately six karaoke songs in English available in Japan between 1990-1993... and probably up to whatever year it is now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Down Under

One of the things I love about being in the time I am living in (whatever year it is that you happen to be reading this), is that I live in an era where we have maps.
And not just any old maps, but rather ones that are fairly accurate.
Of course, on any given day, that brand new map or globe one bought yesterday could be woefully out of date as yet another country declares its independence before seeking global financial aid.
Anyhow, that is a poor segue into my topic du jour:

One day while I was sitting in the teacher's lounge having a dry martini while waiting for my clothes to dry after being forced to ride my bicycle to work in a typhoon (hurricane for those in the western hemisphere), one of the teacher's who shall remain nameless, because I have long forgotten who he is - if I ever knew - came up to me to talk to me in Japanese.
I was at Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) in Ohtawara-shi (City of Ohtawara, Tochigi-ken (Province/prefecture of Tochigi) in Japan. I was an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme who was probably over-paid to teach the local kids English while working with a Japanese teacher of English.
Now, as you may or may not now, I did not know how to speak Japanese before arriving in Japan - except for maybe the cliche 'domo arrigato, mister roboto.' And, after nearly two years here, my level of conversational Japanese had improved 100 per cent as I now knew eight Japanese words.
Regardless, knowledge of the Japanese language was not really necessary as I saw this History teacher approach. He had in his hands a long tube that had a strap so that he could carry it over his shoulder - even though he wasn't doing that, as it was in his hands.
He wanted to show me... the tube?
"Sugoi (neat-o)," I said.
He scowled at me and said something or another in Japanese, and then popped open the tube and pulled out a rolled piece of laminated paper.
It was a map.
"Sugoi (neat-o)" I repeated.
He continued to scowl at me and moved my martini out of the way by drinking it in one gulp.
He then unrolled the map placing some previously unseen full martini glasses down to hold it in place.
He was an ass for drinking my drink, but a gentleman for providing me with more.
However, seeing either the map unfurled on my desk, or perhaps sensing the plethora of booze in front of me, other teachers poured over to my desk to see what was going on.
With everyone sufficiently happy with the knowledge that there were enough drinks for every man, someone yelled at the closest available woman - the science teacher - and bade her to go and make some more drinks - shaken, not stirred, of course. I'm just assuming that last part, because no one had, until that point, said anything in English.
Another teacher - this one who spoke a modicum of English - looked at the map, sipped at his martini and said: "Ah so-ka. A Mapu." Which if my Japanese translation skills are any good means: "Oh yeah...  a map."
I chugged my martini lest the map guy try and suck it back for me, and looked about for another. Fortunately, the science teacher was smart enough to call all of the other female teachers to ask for help, and I had a beaker full of vodka (I prefer vodka over gin martini's) to guzzle.
I looked at the map closely, perhaps for the first time. My vision was either blurry from whatever chemicals were still in that unwashed science beaker, or this map was messed up.
The continents were upside down, but the English writing wasn't.
My English speaking anonymous friend said: "Ahh, thisu mapu izu ahpu-sidoh-down-mapu."
I read the inscription on the map (see photo above), and discovered that regardless of whatever the heck he had said, this map was an upside down map. Freaky.
While it was easy enough to spot Canada, I had great difficulty in finding Japan. It just wasn't oriented correctly, no pun intended. Or maybe it was.
Luckily the class bell rang and one of my English teacher's came into the lounge, ordered up a martini and came over to see what all the hub-bub was about, bub.
He said: "Ah so-ka. An-do-ryu sensi (Andrew teacher), thisu mapu izu ahpu-sidoh-down-mapu."
His English was understandable, unlike everyone else's in this school - probably because he wasn't drunk yet.
He said the map bearer had gone to Australia a few years previous and brought back this interesting map, as he was the Geography teacher and liked maps almost as much as some writers like to write the word 'map'.
Apparently I got what subject he taught wrong, too.
What the heck is in this martini beaker?
Anyhow, all of the teachers stood around wanting to know why Australia has a map like this.
"Jodan," I replied while smiling as my beaker was refilled.
"Jodan?" asked the English teacher not sure what English word I had uttered.
"It's a joke," I further explained, this time in English rather than Japanese.
"Ah so ka! Jodan!" yelled the English teacher.
"Jodan!?" yelled the rest of the teachers.
"Hai. So desu," I said.
Blank, deathly silence.
"Yes. It is," I repeated, also this time in English.
My English was translated back to the other teachers and everyone had a good laugh.  

And that  - excluding the made-up stuff about booze in school - was a typical day in Japan for me.

Somewhere wondering why no one understands me when I speak Japanese,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by: Australia's Men At Work: VEGAMITE
PS: By the way, in an effort to bring in and show me that wonderful map, that Geography teacher went out and spent the equivalent of $700 Cdn on that carrying case. Of course it was made of the skin of some animal that had just gone extinct, but I think he got his money's worth on the day's event.
PPS: I also have difficulty in understanding a lot of the Australians. But not the New Zealanders for some reason. Perhaps it's because the New Zealanders I met in Japan were usually my bartender. 
PPPS: I also prefer Marmite over Vegamite. Not really.
PPPPS: I forgot to post the photo on yesterday's blog. It's steamy hot.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jet Airliner

Here is a semi-public service announcement for some friends.

The JETAA (Japan Exchange & Teaching Alumni Association) - Toronto chapter is championing a smoking hot Art & Photo Show.

The theme for this year's event follows the official 2010 kanji character of the year in Japan: 暑 (sho) meaning 'hot'.

Who the hell comes up with a kanji character of the year? Personally, my choice for kanji character of  2011 would be: 馬鹿 (baka - 'ba' and 'ka' mean 'horse' and 'deer', respectively) meaning 'stupid'. I know it's actually two kanji symbols put together to make one word. Horse + Deer = Stupid. How wacky is that?

Anyhow, artitistic blokes and blokettes have until February 20, 2011 to submit a heat-inspired original amateur art or photography. What the heck does that mean? Well... the JETAA says you should think: "hot springs, fireworks, sunsets, fire-breathing dragons... or really anything your hot little heart desires!"

Successful entries will be displayed at a smouldering hot evening of art, music and good times. Attendees can vote for their favourite piece and winners will be announced at the end of the evening. (Feel free to bring all of your friends and campaign for their vote!)
Send your submissions, including your name and contact information, to For a look at last year's winners visit this link. Also, see the Rules and Regulations below.

Date: Saturday, March 5, 2011
Time: 7:30 til Midnight
Place: Gladstone Art Bar, 1214 Queen St. West, Toronto, just down the block from the Gladstone's main entrance (map)
Refreshments: Cash bar and food at The Gladstone, down the hall
Entry Fee: $5 for JETAA members / $7 for non-members

Rules and Regulations: 
    •    For photos, please send the original/largest file size your camera is capable of taking to ensure the best quality print;
    •    If you want to submit a painting, sculpture, printed photograph, etc., then we can make arrangements for that as well. Just drop us a line with the details of your piece and requirements for display;
    •    Limit of 2 entries per person;
    •    Deadline for submissions is February 20, 2011;
    •    JETAA Toronto reserves the right to display names and images on our website, newsletter, and other official JETAA media and publications;
    •    You must be the sole owner of the copyright of any work submitted.

And that, as they say, is that. Good luck to all participants. I'm suddenly developing hot flashes and may or may not enter myself. Uh, my photographs, that is. If I entered myself, well, that would be #1) quite painful not to mention anatomically impossible for me; and B) horse+deer.
Somewhere hot,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is brought to us by The Steve Miller Band: JET
PS: The photo above is hot. It's the Blood Hell at Beppu (one of the magnificent seven Hells of Japan - another was my girlfriend's kitchen).

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Girl Like You

This one is for the ladies. Really. Boys... buzz off. Last year (2010), Japan officially opened up its first lesbian-only escort service.

The Garden of Lily, is a new chain of escort services available for the discriminating woman who prefers women. You go girl!

Seriously. I have no problem with this. My only query is what the heck took Japan so long?

Of course, the Garden of Lily claims it is a site devoted to lesbians, but I assume bi-curious or bisexual woman with cash could also partake of the services. Okama (tranvestities), probably not... but then, who knows?

Female escorts for men are essentially illegal in Japan. That the female 'escorts' are paid to be escorted is fine, but should you actually be paying for sex in the boudoir, then one is actually paying for unadvertised sex. The Garden of Lily advertises.

What the hell am I doing? You guys know what escorts/hookers do, right? Anyhow... why is it illegal for a man to hire a woman for sex, but it's legal for a woman to hire another woman for sex? I'm assuming it is also illegal for a woman to hire a man for sex. No clue if it's illegal for a man to hire a man for sex.  

Here's the thing: The Garden of Lily (where the hell did that name come from??!!), is a legal business venture, as it is not doing anything to break the law. You see, the prostitution laws in Japan only cover plain old intercourse involving the penis and vagina. There's apparently nothing illegal about whatever it is that the Garden of Lily offers. I guess man to man sex would be legal if anyone is looking for a new business venture.

Should anyone be curious about the site, have a look... YOWZA

By the way, I know what they are offering! Lesbians? Sure. But I like it, too. 

Somewhere the garden gates are closed,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is bi: Edwyn Collins: LILY
PS: I was going to call this blog: Lick It Up by KISS. Propriety, don't you know, is what stopped me. So, what the hell, here's that video: NOMAKE-UP. Two for the price of one.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where Have All The Good Times Gone?

Here's another guest piece written by Dan "The Bard" Brudos, a fellow AET (assistant English teacher) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme that I participated in between 1990-1993.

Then-young Dan left in late July of 1991. He wrote the following poem and I gently placed it within the hallowed pages of the July 1991 issue The Tatami Times monthly newsletters for Tochigi-ken (Province of Tochigi) dues-paying JET folks... of which I was one, as I needed to be if I was going to be the newsletter's editor/chief photocopier/guy who sticks things in a large envelope and pays for the postage out of his own pocket-type guys.

The following poem, is quite witty, and although I was still in my love affairs stage with Japan (I guess I still am!), I really didn't see what all of the fuss was about between him complaining about things, or Robert Izatt, in the PREVIOUS BLOG.

Oh well... nearing the end of my third year, I at least understood his frustration.

One Month To Go
Dear Lord release me from this purgatory,
I've done nothing really gory.
But should this JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) say 'yes' just one more time,
these four wall I'll have to climb.

'Musukashi' (difficult) is a word I often hear,
its driven me to many a beer.
But when the teacher's start to say it too,
I'm tempted to get a gun and shoot a few.

English is not that complicated,
as is often implicated.
But, I'd use longer odd retorts,
when asked, "What do you like sports?"

With none have I a bone to pick,
and they beat me not with a stick.
Though oft I'm treated as old and lame,
and think 'gaijin-da' (Foreigner) is my new name.

And now this short 'ode' I do end,
before I go completely around the bend.
In this land of the rising yen,
at least we're allowed 'freedom of the pen'.

Somewhere wondering what they did beat Dan with,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by:Van Halen, and can he heard by listening to David Lee Roth's HAIR.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The following is a guest editorial by Robert Izatt, who along with his wife Marina and five-year-old son Douglas, came to Japan as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching ) Programme, living in my province of Tochigi-ken. The whole family was incredibly kind, and easy-going, and had their fill of "oh my god, what am I doing here?" moments, just like every one of us.

This observation appeared in the July 1991 issue of The Tatami Times, a JET magazine produced by myself for the AETs (Assistant English Teachers).

Here we go:

What have I learned in Japan? First and foremost, I have regained the long lost skill of: riding a bicycle with no hands.
Most of us (AETs) came from multicultural societies beyond the wildest imagination of the Japanese, and my stay here has given me a very strong insight into an immigrant's struggles on arriving in (my home country of) Australia.
Like the immigrant landing in Australia, the immigrant landing in Japan faces: unemployment, illiteratacy, culturall ignorance, victimization, scrutiny, etc. Was it worth it? Of course! The Japanese people we REALLy know are the kindest most generous people I have met. But, I am convinced this is a country for tourists. Tourists can not help but be impressed with the contrasts and amazed by the contradictions. Honestly, I couldn't live here much longer.
For me, that feeling has worn off and I long for the clear skies and beautiful beaches and water (of Australia). I spent four or five days a week on the river back home - it's a beautiful peaceful river, and I miss it.
In Brisbane (and basically Australia), winter is just a hiccup between summers, hence the winter here was THE time to be in Japan. I will always remember our visits to Nagano-ken (Province of Nagano), Kosatsu and Nikko-shi in winter - that was beautiful. Matsushima? Come to Moreta Bay or Frazer Island. Bushwalking in Nikko? Come to Warrumungles. But I'm biased. I think the most important thing I have learned is a deeper appreciation of my own country. It will not be difficult for me to vigorously oppose those who desire to damage or threaten it.
Well, off the soapbox for some humour. Perhaps. I am sure you have all noticed Japan has two faces: the simple peaceful attitudes of '-do' and Shodo (Japanese caligraphy); and the completely frustrating aspects of business, reading Japanese instructions in English, human relations and the desire to simplify household appliances and cars with a myriad of buttons, gadgets and sensors that we hardly ever use (Ed. Note... this was written in 1991!)
For example... the rice cooker. What's wrong with a pan and stove?; our CD player has two tape decks and buttons galore - we have used one of the tape decks and (my wife) Marina still asks: "What's this button for?" I really wanted a portable CD player. Anyway; why? Because of chopsticks.
Why chopsticks, you ask? Well, all you people who rode bicycles as kids will remember having a flat tyre (tire), getting a patch, some glue, a spanner (wrench) and two spoons. Spoons. Of course - to lever off the tyre to get out the tube so you can patch it.
Well, I had a flat tyre the other day. Have you ever tried to remove a tyre with hashi (chopsticks). The bloody things break and get stuck in the rim. Enough said.
So.... one day Toshiharu Suzuki had a flat tyre and tried to get the tube off with hashi. He couldn't, so he spent the next 30 years of his life developing the tyre lever in three exciting models, as well as the: self-inflating tyre, the tubeless tyre, the automatic tyre remover, the robot-operated model, and finally the anti-gravity bike, which doesn't need tyres. Of course, it costs 25 times as much and is completely disposable and is guaranteed to cease functioning after 2.13 years, at which time it will become a huge waste problem. And, yes, you guessed it, the bicycle with wheels is no longer produced.

Ahh... very nice Robert. It appears as though you love the simplicity of life. Something that Japan has long held dear, but for some reason continually tries to destroy with modern conveniences that nobody really wants. A perfect example of that is Japan's constant need to improve the Western-style toilet - see HERE for my take on it.   

Somewhere glad I live where you spell tire with an 'i'  - unlike Robert,
(also, I'm guessing that a spanner is a wrench)
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is brought to us by David Bowie: TYRE

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Waiting For A Girl Like You

This entry was written by my friend and fellow AET (Assistant English Teacher), Jeff Seaman, whom I met in Japan as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme). It was published in our prefectural JET magazine, The Tatami Times in June of 1991, and offers an insight of what it's like to grow up not-quite Japanese in Japan. The young lady, about whom this is written, was a junior high school student at one of Jeff's schools.

It is entitled:  
A Foreign Tongue 
She wouldn't speak her native language.
She was born in the Philippines, and was raised on Filipino, English and Spanish. She had forgotten the Spanish, could still speak some English, and now, because she was living in Japan, she would only speak Japanese and English.

I was sitting at my desk; two students were waiting for the teacher who sits next to me, and they were doing the Gaikoku-jin (student) hover. Finally, out of nowhere, one of the girls pointed to her friend and said, "Gaijin (foreigner)."
I found this incredibly tactless and painful, but I rolled with it. Her friend was darker than most, spoke fluent Japanese and had been born in the Philippines.
"Ah, is that so? I once dated a girl who was half-Filipino. Her father was from the Philippines."
I showed them some pictures, and asked her many questions. I finally asked her what language she was raised on, and then asked her to say something in Filipino.
I had pushed the wrong button.
She fidgeted, glanced furtively around the room as if conducting a drug deal, but wouldn't say anything. Instead, she reached for a piece of paper and wrote the Filipino word for 'Good morning."
When I tried to pronounce it out loud, she actually winced, checked the room again, and nodded in approval.
Then I finally understood.
With a broken heart I told her she should be proud of her native country and her language. She only nodded, half-paying attention, still checking the teacher's room for eavesdroppers.
Her name is Ponciella.
I told her it was a beautiful name.
She doesn't think so.

Thank-you Jeff. Beautiful and sad.

Somewhere hoping she likes her name now,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by: Foreigner: WAITING

Monday, February 7, 2011

Push It

On February 5, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) announced it was canceling the March 2011 competition (March 13-27). This is the first time in 65 years a tournament has been canceled... and this time it's due to allegations of match-fixing.

Sumo, is of course, Japan's national sport - and is as much of Japan's lifesblood as rice. Let's just say that it is very important to the Japanese, and leave it at that. 

While the investigation into sumo-wrestling match fixing has been the subject of rampant speculation for the past several years, last week's acknowledgment that two wrestlers and a coach admitted to fixing fights... of course, this was after police found text messages on many confiscated cell phones that essentially implicated some 13 wrestlers in the fix.

Nothing like coming clean after everybody already knows the truth.

The match fixing and subsequent cancellation of the March tournament comes on the heels of illegal gambling and drug use amongst the wrestlers. 
"We have decided to cancel the spring tournament due to the bout-rigging scandal," said Nobuyuki Kubota, a spokesperson for the JSA.
The last cancellation of a sumo tournament happened in 1946. But it was due to a delay in fixing Japan's main sumo arena,  the Ryogoku Kokugikan, that was badly damaged during World War II.
Part of the allure of sumo - aside from the fact that several hundred pound fat guys in diapers are smacking the crap out of each other - is that it also represents purity. Sumo wrestlers, as part of sumo's religious ceremony, purify the ring several times prior to each match. As such, discovering that the purveyors of such purity are not pure themselves, has shaken Japan's belief system to the core.

Or so they would have you believe.

The average Japanese person loves sumo because it's an exciting sport. I do not believe for one instant that the average Japanese person is offended because they couldn't uphold some ancient tradition. They are pissed off because they won't get to see their favourite sport on tv (or in person), and upset that the real winners and losers of matches may not have been legitimate. That's what sucks.

Media, politicians , cultural anthropologists and sumo's elite guard would have the world believe that sumo wrestlers are some sort of divine keepers of the religion of some time longs since past, and are thus held up to some higher standard of public behaviour.

They are held up to a higher standard of public behaviour - but that's only because they are in the public eye. Societal decency dictates you don't go against the current society's morality. In this society, that means no murder, rape, theft, and probably no screwing around with sumo matches.

Despite the fact the average sumo wrestler is hardly the brainiest individual (they know sumo better than anything else, and that's both good and kind of sad), these charged wrestlers apparently had fixed numerous matches and earned themselves hundreds of thousands of yen, which equals to thousands of Canadian/Yankee dollars - hmm, I was going to make another point, but the key thing is, these big dumb oxes didn't exactly get rich now, did they??!!)
Apparently a JSA-sponsored probe into the sumo scandal indicates it is investigating 12 wrestlers and two coaches - which is different from the police report of 13 wrestlers and one coach. Who is correct?

Remember me mentioning how there was some illegal gambling and sumo... actually, back in 2010, several (how many does that mean... more than some, less than a few?) wrestlers were gambling (allegedly with the Yakuza , also known as the legitimate Japanese business men's association) on baseball games. Gambling is illegal in Japan, but I bet you everybody does it. Okay... these poor dumb cattle weren't even betting on sumo! It was baseball! Who cares? Were they fixing games? No. That is something no one has accused baseball of.  Hopefully that will remain 'clean'.

In 2009, there were rampant allegations of marijuana usage amongst the rank and file of sumo wrestlers. However, the JSA and Japan exhaled a long cloudy breath when three Russian fighters were expelled from sumo. Stupid gaijin (foreigners) . No one does drugs in Japan!

Despite sumo wrestler and Yakuza involvement in baseball gambling, no one has been able to prove a link exists between sumo and the Yakuza with regards to sumo match fixing... something that has been suspected for decades.

Whatever is going on, let's hope the JSA gets its act together and continues to provide the sumo fan with some good quality battles. At the end of the day, that's all we really want.

Somewhere throwing salt into an open wound,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Salt-N-Pepa... multiple reasons for choosing it... sumo wrestlers try to push each other out of the ring, and the wrestlers are accused of wearing diapers - ooh, baby, baby. GETIT?  Plus I always liked this ong. Strange thing for a rock and roller to say, but it's true.

PS: I loved watching sumo on television. It was fascinating, slow-moving, yet exciting... kind of like watching hippos doing ballet. You know you shouldn't be enjoying it, but you just can't look away.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was going to calls this "Smells Like Teen Spirit, but aside from the fact that no teenager was involved, I had previously used the Nirvana song as a blog title.

There's a story behind the photo to the left. It happened during the summer of 2010, and for some reason I am only just finding out about this now. Probably you, too.

Here's the story:
Apparently, a Tochigi-ken man named Yuichi Fukuda, 37, was arrested for stealing the bicycle seat of a nine-year-old girl.

You know where this is going now, don't you. After a search of Fukuda's home, police discovered some 80 bicycle seats - as well as other young girl items that he had stolen to get off on.

First off, I did not know Fukuda. He would have been 17 years old when I first arrived in Tochigi-ken, Japan and thus a high school student. I just taught the junior high kids. And, I certainly didn't teach them to sniff bicycle seats despite what anyone may have heard. Certainly not a 4th grader's, at any rate, as my students were older.

Okay, bad jokes. Not my style, as I currently lack any sort of style.

None of the English stories  I have scanned can confirm where in Tochigi-ken the incident occurred. As well, there was no mention whether or not this guy is in jail, or if he got off. You know what I mean. No, not that way... the other way.  

Let's not condemn all of Japan for this. It's one sick guy. And while I am sure there are a plethora of sick Japanese guys who haven't been caught doing the same thing, just remember, there are probably a lot of sick buggers out there in your country, too. Just not mine. Canada is cool.

Somewhere saddle sore,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by OreSkaBand, an all-girl Japanese group: JITENSHA.

PS: Jitensha, is Japanese for bicycle. Oh the depths I plumb to entertain you all.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

Word to your mother: this is blog entry is about Japlish.

What is Japlish? It's Japanese English, of course. Every country that speaks English has variations on how the language is spoken. It's not necessarily bad or wrong, it just is.

With that in mind, I'm still going to poke fun at some of the Japanese Japlish stuff I saw mostly on binders while living in Japan many years ago.

First, but not necessarily overly funny, comes the dramatic Traditional Wardrobe Boston Club. The following statement - perhaps the company slogan - appears in English on shirts, notebooks, binders and stickers. Essentially on everything a student might have. It states: "It's very hard to keep doing one thing. (next line) Holding the real thing... that's my way of living a life."

I saw this on a binder: "Let's Do It For Real (next line) Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Kind of cool. Kind of a strong statement for something that first states they want to do it for real. I'm unsure what doing IT might be, but I have a few thoughts running through my mind.

On another binder: "Tico: Romancer (next line) It's so miracle world." It certainly is, my friends. It certainly is.

Midori Co. Ltd. Japan: "These are my favorite goods (next line) Everyday is enjoyable." This company is also the proud seller of the Midori soft pen case in the photo above. It, too, has a neat message. 

Despite the strangeness of the English... IE stiffness, the message on each is still quiet positive. The strange part, however, is that all of these messages of hope and misplaced words are written in English.

While the Japanese are certainly slightly enthusiastic about learning to speak English, comprehension of English words - especially translated word by word - will not really offer a proper representation of the English language.

Of course, neither does this blog. Touché, Japan.

I always wondered why companies would slather English all over anything and everything rather than the more effective and understood Japanese language that their Japanese customers might understand, but I know it's because English is cool.

Knowing a few words in English is probably a great way to impress your friends and confuse your enemies. 

Speaking of confusion... check out the following:

On a shower cap (the actual shower cap, not the packaging containing it, at a hotel I stayed at in Kyoto): "Make Yourself Comfortable (next line) ing to the plea, "Make us grandparen (next line) one of the poorest reasons I know (skipping two blank lines) bring a child into the wor (next line) second generation to cool"


With two cute red hearts on either side of the top line: "HandyRazor (next line) Day Dream (next line) From me to you (next line) If there's anything that you want (next line) If there's anything I can do (next line) Just call on me and I'll send it along (next line) With love from me to you."

I love The Beatles. I wonder if the lads made anything off that one?

I saw a box for some product called Ice Brand:
"Be cool our body and soul. (next line) We coul feel the Ice Wonder land . (next line) Let's enjoy cool world! (next line) Be all for the best."
Just so you know, the typos are not typos, that's how it was spelled and that's how it appears... on pillows and match boxes, too. I still don't know what Ice Brand is, but I want me some.

Lastly... on a postcard book, the following was written all over the front of a collection of two dozen postcards one can tear out and use:
"Look up the sky, Can beat star's wisper. (next line) It's broken easily, so look at slightly (next line) and quietly .... There! begin to see (next line) shining gentle sight in your mind. (next line) The Gentle Art."

Somewhere I can righting the rongs with ee's,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is sung by Vanilla Ice to the tune of Queen's Under Pressure. GRANDMA
And, here's a great parody by Jim Carrey from IN LIVING COLOR.
PS: Should you want to continue with the retro, here's a previous blog I wrote about weird English on Japanese things: FLOWERPOWER.