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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Miss Universe And The Japanese Concept of Beauty

I thought I'd share an article I found on AFP:

It's about how the Miss Universe pageant offers Japan new concepts of beauty... how they no longer need to try and look "westernized" to be considered beautiful.

That story is here:
(You may have to copy and paste it)

It's an interesting piece, and it may indeed have merit. Want to see a westernized Japanese Miss Universe contestant? Look at the photo below of Kojima Akiko (surname first) who was the 1959 Miss Universe, and the first Japanese person to be named a Miss Universe.
Kojima Akiki Miss Universe 1959

Now take a look at Mori Riyo at  the very top of this article (It's for my buddy Matthew). She was the Miss Universe winner for 2007.

These two are the only two Japanese women to have been crowned Miss Universe since the contest began in 1952.

Of course, it IS possible that in 1959 most Japanese women looked like Kojima-san... while in 2007 and up, Japanese women look like Mori-san... but even 20 years removed from Japan, Mori-san looks more like the typical Japanese girl than Kojima-san.

While I'm not going to state that the 1959 winner isn't Japanese-looking... she's all Japanese, boys... but dammit... she also looks like your typical Hollywood bombshell.

Mori Riyo... she is the sexiest Japanese woman I have ever seen.
Regardless... both are gorgeous. But read the story and feel free to tell me I'm full of crap or if perhaps the story might be correct. Or just enjoy the fact that I've included two photos of sexy Japanese women.

For more fun, before to read my blog on Miss Universe with photos of the Miss Japan women from 1990-2011: HERE

Or my story on the Clark Kent-like Miss Universe 2010: HERE

Or my piece on Miss Universe 2009's costume conundrum HERE

Or the article on the sex tape and Miss Japan 2008 HERE.

Andrew Joseph

The Prime Minister And The Diet - A Primer

The National Diet of Japan is not sushi... it's this building.
If you are an idiot gaijin like me, then you may be wondering just WTF is up Japan and its never-ceasing penchant for elections.

The last five Japanese prime minsters each failed to last in office longer than a year - and newly-elected Noda Yoshihiko (surname first) of the Democratic Party of Japan is not expected to do much better unless he can figure out a way to unify is splintered political party and find a way to get the opposition to band together and help solve all of the country's problems, and discover a way to cure cancer.

No, he doesn't have cancer, rather that's about how successful it looks like Noda-san is going to be as Japan's top-elected official.

I thought I'd present a primer for you to try my best and explain how Japan's top political scene is determined. I'm not going to go too technical on you, as I would rather you actually understand what the system is all about.

Let me first start with the position of Prime Minister and then talk about the Diet - the entity that essentially has the Prime Minister's balls in their ever-clenched hands.

Since 1885, Japan has elected a Prime Minister - and with the upcoming appointment of Noda Yoshihiko in a few days time (that date isn't set yet), it will mean the country has had 62 Prime Ministers in 126 years. That's an average of 2 years in office per Prime Minister. Hell, I spent longer living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.
  • The Prime Minister (Naikaku sōri daijin) is appointed by the Emperor of Japan (thank goodness, because the carousel of PMs gives the Emperor plenty to do!), but only after that person is named by the Diet from a person within the enclave. So... it is still a popularity contest;

  • But proving that popularity is fleeting, the PM can only remain in office as long as he or she (yeah, right! In Japan!?? A Woman!?) has the confidence of the House of Representatives;
  • The PM is the head of the Cabinet (the cabinet contains ministers who look after all sorts of neat things like Agriculture or finance et al).
 To be elected, he must be named by the Diet... but first each of the two houses of the Diet must choose an appropriate candidate, which is done via a run-off ballot system. Should the two houses opt for two different individuals, then they have to appoint a joint committee who must decide on a single candidate within 10 days. 

Should a decision be unable to be reached after 10 days, the House of Representatives gets to make that decision on behalf of the Diet. I'll tell you more about the Diet down below.

A PM resigns if the House of Representatives has a no-confidence motion or defeats a vote of no-confidence... though he need not resign if the House of Representatives dissolves within 10 days.

Whatever. Actually, it's all pretty cool. If you aren't doing a good enough job as PM - out you go! And we'll find the next sacrificial lamb and led him to slaughter. It's sure better than having than Canada where we have to put up with one jackass after another for a four-year term at a time!

The Diet
The Diet seems like the real meat and potatoes of Japan's political structure - and it is. It was first convened as the Imperial in 1889, was amended to its current form in 1947 as part of Japan's post-war constitution. The National Diet Building is located in Nagatacho, Chiyado area of Tokyo.

As mentioned, there are two houses within the diet: The House of Representatives (also known as the Lower House), and the House of Councillors (The Upper House).

The Diet is responsible for passing laws and electing the poor bastard who will be Prime Minister for a short while.

In an election, the voting populace casts two votes: one for a party candidate; and the other for a party list.

Now here's where it gets confusing... okay, it was pretty confusing before - and I have a Political Science degree!

House of Representatives: 480 members; 300 are elected via single-seat constituencies, and 180 via 11 separate electoral blocs under the party list system of proportional representation. (yawn)

House of Councillors: 242 members with 146 elected from 47 prefectural (provincial/state) constituencies and 96 by open list of proportional representation from a single national list. (oh god...  I have no idea what that means).

Elected Diet members earn Y1.3-million /month = Y15.6-million year (~CDN $199,400). That's pretty good, but it sucks when you have such a short shelf life.

Anyhow... there's lots of interesting stuff (yawn) about the Diet, but I'm having a tough time staying on this diet... you think it's a great idea, but then you realize just how boring it is, and so you stray.

Look... just in case any of you read about the fact that Japan seems to get a new Prime Minister every year... there's a method to the madness.

And, boring though the whole thing might be to you - or exciting for those that don't have a hobby - Japanese politics is rife with land mines.

For example... the new PM Noda... this guy inherits a country wracked with having to rebuild itself after the earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan; plus it has a weak yen relative to the Canadian dollar (Canada's buck is stronger than the US!); it also has to look after all of the people displaced after near nuclear meltdown earlier this year - and while TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) is footing a lot of the bill, they have to be careful not to bankrupt the company, or else more crap is going to hit the proverbial folding fan. Tourism is down. Food exports have taken a beating. Power shortages (though that will be ending within a week); damaged reputations.  

In short... PM Noda is screwed - unless he has some gnarly superpowers. He's been set-up to fail.

Hell... even the last PM Kan Naoto (surname first)... like seriously... a 9.0 magnitude earthquake? A massive tsunami witnessed by the world, a several-week-long near meltdown at a nuclear power plant? What the hell was he going to do? He was screwed. That doesn't mean he did great things and was still screwed... or that he did evil things since he was screwed... he just did what he could. Which sucks when you're on a Diet or in a Diet. Perhaps they needed to get rid of him for simply being a jinx?

Appearances are everything. That's the whole point of a Diet.

Somewhere giving up politics,
Andrew Joseph

2008 Miss Universe Japan

Mima Hiroko 2008 Miss Universe Japan
Okay... so are you ready for a Miss Universe scandal involving sex, lies and videotape?

Well... the 2008 Miss Universe Japan Mima Hiroko (surname first - 美馬 寛子) was allegedly involved in a sex tape! Yay! ... er... I mean, how shocking.

First some background information... patience... if you take your time, you can make the blog experience last longer.

Mima-san was born on December 5, 1986 in Tokushima-shi (Tokushima City) Tokushima-ken (Tokushima Prefecture) on Shikoku-jima (Shikoku Island), Japan. She stands 1.73 meters tall (5'-8") and has black hair and brown eyes.I searched high and low for her weight and measurements, but it seems as though Mima-san in intent on keeping that private. 

She was a student at Nihon University studying physical education - which is quite the achievement considering that as a 13-year-old, she was afflicted with a bone marrow disease that knocked her out for three months, and  then was hit with Guillain–Barré syndrome. It's an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system causing ascending paralysis beginning in the feet and hands and migrating towards the trunk. While Mima-san was cured, this disease can be a killer if it hits the organs like the lungs.

Take a look at her in the photo above... she obviously made a full recovery. She worked her butt off and got back to her love of sports and competed at the Japan National Track and Field Competition excelling in high jump.

She was crowned Miss Universe Japan on April 3, 2008, and while scandal-free, it was still a bittersweet victory for Mima-san, as months before the competition her grand-mother died after slipping on the bathroom floor and her father died in a car crash - in two very obviously non-related incidents.     

She represented Japan at the 2008 Miss Universe pageant held in Nha Trang, Vietnam on July 14, 2008 and got to the second round - the Swimsuit competition for the final 15 before eventually placing in 14th position, making her the top Asian contestant.

Now... here's the scandal:
Apparently no love lost or was there?
Mima-san and Anya Ayoung-Chee, the 2008 Miss Universe of Trinidad and Tobago were filmed having sex with Ayoung-Chee's boyfriend and all-around lucky bastard Wyatt Gallery and with each other.

Here's what a Miss Universe representative had to say on the matter:
"This (video) was apparently (made) eight months after the pageant and neither were the reigning titleholder."
As well: "The photographer is not a Miss Universe staffer so we have nothing to say or any involvement, thank goodness."

At least, that is what was been reported when the story first broke.

But there's much more to it... as more news broke, no one seemed to want to update their blogs. Well, for Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife, its been a few years now, so now the whole story can be told.

Yes, Gallery and his girlfriend Ayoung-Chee (Miss Trinidad and Tobago) did indeed make a sex tape... and yes, it included a second woman, a friend of theirs. (Lucky, lucky bastard!) But Gallery adds that Mima-san (Miss Japan) was not the other girl.  She merely looked like her.

Apparently that racist statement holds true about all Asians looking alike. Idiots.

Miss Trinidad & Tobago & Miss Japan
But the story still seems to have legs (not as nice as Mima-san's), as it still makes the news every time a Miss Universe pageant is about to begin.

But the real problem for Ayoung-Chee (Miss Trinidad & Tobago... my aunt is from there.. and I swear, I've never, ever met anyone who says they are actually from the Island of Tobago!), is that while Gallery has said the sex video was shot in 2007, the Miss Universe representatives have said it was shot eight months after the pageant... which meant she could have been stripped of her title for conduct unbecoming of a really, hot woman who likes sex,... er, I mean beauty pageant winner.

Who's that girl? Certainly not Miss Japan!
Anyhow... Ayoung-Chee wasn't stripped of her crown, just some of her dignity. The same goes for poor 2008 Miss Universe Japan Mima Hiroko, who didn't even get any sex but was accused nonetheless by a shortsighted audience too busy going blind with one-handed stimulation.

Gallery says the video tape was on his computer when he took it in to be fixed at a shop in Trinidad (not Tobago), and someone there must have stolen it.

Despite Gallery's obvious addiction to Asian-looking women (like most of the guys reading this blog), he was quite contrite: "I feel horrible and embarrassed for Anya, her family and myself, because this was a private moment that was never supposed to be made public. This was an intentional, malicious sabotage against Anya and her career, and I feel stupid for not deleting the files off of my computer."

Anyhow... should you wish to view the sex tape, you can look it up yourself. I can't just give you a link... you would still have to download it. Regardless... here's a still from the illicit sex romp video. I don't think it looks like her... but then, I'm not looking for trouble.

And should you wonder, Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela won the 2008 Miss Universe contest. A photo of her sits under me... er, I mean my name.

 Files compiled by Andrew Joseph
Miss Universe 2008

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Map Showing Radioactivity in Japan's Farmland

On August 29, 2011, the Agriculture Ministry of Japan released a map of the country denoting radiation levels in agricultural areas.

The image here to the left is only a partial map, lifted from a government video. Here's the VIDEO.

The map does show a that levels of radioactive element Cesium are higher than the government-regulated standard of 5,000 bequerels per kilogram in nine areas. The Cesium was released in the weeks following the near-melt down at the Dai-ichi nuclear facility in Fukushima-ken this past March, April of 2011.

The ministry says the map is based on analysis of soil samples taken at 580 locations in six prefectures.

Obviously, the Japanese government has banned rice planting on farmland contaminated with radioactive cesium higher than 5,000 bequerels per kilogram.

Two of the higher radioactive farm areas are the 8,571 bequerels on a field in Date-shi (Date City) and 6,882 bequerels in Iwaki-shi (Iwaki City), both in Fukushima-ken.

That sounds like trouble... until you realize that the map also shows the town of Namie and Iitate village very close to the nuclear plant in Fukushima-ken, have cesium levels over 20,000 bequerels per kilogram.

The agriculture ministry plans to increase monitoring around the highly contaminated farmland.

Files by Andrew Joseph

Bye Bye Mon Cowboy

On Day 3 of our trip here in Sendai-shi (Sendai City) in Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture), it's raining so hard I think I should start gathering animals and building an ark!

It's Saturday, October 12, 1991 and I'm an assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

This trip to Sendai with  my ex-girlfriend has been a washout, to say the least. It's rained everyday here and while I am sure the people and the sights are all beautiful, I haven't had a chance to really talk to any of the locals as they are all huddled up away from the rain.

It sucks. Oh well... at least I got to see Zuihoden, the tomb of Date Masamune (surname first), who was the founder or Sendai in the 1600s. It's located on Kyogamine hill, which is where all Date family members are honored in death.If you click HERE, you can see what Zuihoden looks like without a torrential rain spoiling my photography.

As such, Ashley and I decide to go home. When I call Matthew (my buddy who lives in Ohtawara near me) about how much rain there is here and that I'm coming home, he tells me that it is NOT raining there in Ohtawara.

Of course. I am the ame otoko (rain man), and it rains wherever I travel in Japan. It's getting so bad, my office the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) is thinking of loaning me out to some of the drought-starved areas to give them a break.

So... Ashley and I ride the Shinkansen (bullet train) south back to Nasushiobara-eki (eki = train station), transfer to a local Japan Rail (JR) train and arrive at Nishinasuno-eki at around 12 Noon. We ride back to her place in Nishinasuno-machi (machi = town) and leave her there so that she can sleep until 4PM.

I ride back to Ohtawara and putter around for awhile until Ashley calls, and she rides down to my city and we go to dinner at Co-Co's. It's the first time in days that I haven't felt rain or snow on me but there is a hurricane-like wind blowing.

Ashley doesn't want me to even ask about the lumps she has developed on her head. They are soft, painful to the touch and first appeared on our first night in Sendai. So I don't bring it up, but I am concerned for her... and she must be worried too, but is trying to ignore it to be in a good mood.

Dinner is fine (I pay, for some reason), and we go back to the train station and go south again... this time to Mibu-eki and Mibu-machi as there is a party hosted by fellow AET Cathy - whom I slept with a few weeks ago. She, Ashley and Karen (who wants me for a boyfriend) all hung out together a few weeks ago, and I'm sure my activities with each came out in the conversation - probably that's what prompted Ashely suddenly asking me to join her on the trip to Sendai.

Don't think I'm a complete ass. Ashley and I are not couple, but do sleep together whenever the mood hits us... or rather, when the mood hits her. Personally, I want her back as a girlfriend. The fact the we aren't a couple pisses me off. I just don't like to lose. As well... Ii guess I'm still in love with her, despite all of the sex or women wanting to go out with me... and apparently, there are a few.

I, of course, have no idea why anyone wants to go out with me. I couldn't get a date back in Toronto, Canada prior to arriving in Japan in late July of 1990. No sex, either. Virginal... though certainly not any longer... unless I can become a born-again virgin. It's probably easier for a guy and doesn't require any sort of surgery.

I'm not really looking forward to this party at Cathy's... what with walking into the lion's den et al. I'm still unsure if Ashley knows I slept with her, and if she found out, it would either definitely ensure we weren't getting back together, or it could make her jealous to realize other women find me somewhat attractive or somewhat convenient.

Just to make sure, I pour 11 Kirin beers down my throat and have three shots of Ashley's Southern Comfort (she's from Augusta, Georgia, USA). The party is a dull, but okay, and I'm feeling no pain.

What I am feeling, however, is Cathy continually playing footsie with me under whatever table we're near, or if we're standing, she simply starts rubbing her foot, leg, hands on me. Maybe she's just doing this to frazzle me (success) or maybe she still wants sex with me. Believe it or not, I'm not interested. I can't believe that a guy who was a virgin a scant 15 months ago is now turning down the offer of sex, but I'm not reciprocating with Cathy. Just leave me alone to wallow in my drunken stupor and dream of a day when women are normal!

And then there's the terrible tale of Alan Broomhead - a delightful young fellow who is three-months removed from England (also where Cathy is from - she too is a new arrival, while Matthew (who is not at the party, Ashley and I arrived the year previous).

I like Alan a lot. But I still played a trick on him a few weeks ago, teaching him Japanese (the blind leading the blind, eh?) that he should use. You can read about that occurrence HERE. It's a funny story, and yeah... I'm an ass. Sorry Alan. I'm still sorry... but it is a funny one, right? right? Anybody?

It's 2AM when the effects of alcohol, footsie and jokes kick in and I crash asleep. As usual, I'm the last one to hit the hay, and I still manage to find Ashley and spoon up beside her.

To this day, I have no idea how that poor girl managed to put up with my snoring. It must have been horrendous after drinking like a fish in a tsunami. (And yes... I actually wrote that in my diary, so it's not poor taste, just precognitive bad timing 20 years earlier).

Somewhere wishing I was drinking with Matthew in Ohtawara,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is by French-Canadian kitten Mitsou: MEOW  I used to only try and date women who looked like her - which is probably why I didn't date much back in Canada.
PS: Sendai-shi, of course, was one of those areas in Japan that was hard hot by a tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ramblin Gamblin Man

Well... this past Sunday, August 28, 2011 was my wedding anniversary.. the 10th, in fact. Now, that in itself has nothing to do with Japan... except for what happened earlier this evening... actually, it's after 1AM on Monday morning as I write this (I'm late today!).

After dropping our son Hudson off at Grandma's in Guelph (about an hour northwest of Toronto), my wife Colette and I went to dinner at an Indian restaurant in Guelph called Diana's.

We had a great meal - Colette had a butter chicken and I had lamb medallions tandoori.

Again, nothing remotely Japanese about that.

We then finished a great meal and drove about 20 kilometers further northwest to the town of Elora and stopped off at the casino and racetrack there - part of the OLG (Ontario Lottery & Gaming) Corporation ... where we each had $100 to blow.

Colette stuck beside me and played a 25-cent slot machine, while I did the same. After going through about $10 worth, she cashed out not being able to figure out the game. I, too was having problems figuring out my game, but I dropped $60 into my machine in a fit of stubborn passion.

Colette went to try her luck on another machine and came back two minutes later holding a voucher for $171.50. She still had $80 left over from the initial stake.

Me... I went to another machine and quickly blew $20 on a quarter-slot. I had a single $20 left... jammed it into that same machine that had taken my previous $20... got down to $10.50 and said screw this and cashed out.

Realizing I was going to be done soon, and seeing my wife on another 25-cent slot machine (winning), I snuck back to an ATM (automatic teller machine) and took out another $80.

I then walked around looking for a machine - a $1 slot machine perhaps - and then my wife came up behind me. So... that stupid idea was out of the question... I noticed we happened to be beside a 5-cent (nickel) slot machine... what the heck... nickel slots... at least when I lose, it's going to take a while.

Colette looked at me and said: "Nickel slots? Oh, I see... it's because of your blog."

I dropped my voucher for $10.50 into the machine  - giving me 210 credits in my machine. I played the maximum bet - $0.45 (like maybe 45 yen). It was to play five lines with a maximum bet of $0.15.

I immediately won $0.50. What the heck?! So I played the same bet again and lost. I'm now down a total of $0.40.

Despite being nearly broke, I played the maximum $0.45 bet again and hit spin. This time the machine lit up and started playing music and the credits started piling up... and up... and up... and up.

It suddenly dawned on me that I had won 8,570 nickels... which is $428.50. Wahoo!

I had actually hit four different winners on the same spin.... not merely four of a kind... but four lines of winners!

So... where's the Japan connection? Take a look at the photo above. It's my novelty cheque.... up where the date is, they wrote in the name of the slot machine.

Yup... it's called Geisha.

Needless to say, I said "Thank-you beautiful geisha!" and then kissed the machine full on the lips.

Yes... thank-you Geisha... and thank-you Japan for helping make the anniversary profitable.

Here's a YOU TUBE video of a Geisha slot machine.

To be perfectly honest... I still have no idea how the frigging thing pays out! I had three Geisha, a pair of 10s, a pair of Aces, and a Pair 9s... scattered all over the board. Whatever... I'll take the money!

And yes... I immediately cashed out and walked out of the place feeling like a million bucks... or rather like $428.50 (plus the $10.50 still left in the machine). Okay... I'm actually only up $369.50... and then less the $100 I gave my wife, who then ended up with $251.50 (including the $80 she still had from our initial stake).

Dinner was courtesy of my mother-in-law Ruth... so that's a wash... so all told we came out with $690.50 - or (less our initial $200 stake) an astounding $490.50 taken from the casino!

I was considered a BIG winner, so I got a photo, a baseball cap, and the novelty cheque.

The photo will arrive via e-mail tomorrow...and I'll post that!

Somewhere dancing for a geisha,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Bob Seger: I SAW HIM IN CONCERT
PS: The damn novelty cheque was too large to scan in its entirety!
PPS: I know it's not a lot of money... but it is the principle of the thing! Geisha! What a wonderful rife!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Japanese Fossils

You might think this blog is about Japan's politicians - who all seem to be ancient old codgers - but, no... this blog is about things that lived millions of years ago... no, not those type of fossils... I already said that.   

I keep on forgetting to add one particular photo here to the left whenever I talk about fossils in Japan. I would imagine that most of us when we think about fossils tend to only think about Tyrannosaurus Rex or Triceratops or massive creatures of that ilk. Rarely do we think about such critters as mollusks or the tiny dinosaurs... which is what the majority of my own personal collection consists of.

But... if you glance to the above, you can see a fossil of a leaf - what the dinosaurs might have eaten... It's not overly sexy or cool like say a coprolite (dinosaur poop), or a petrified tree, but the damn thing is still 10s of millions years old and is an important way for scientists looking to determine either what dinosaurs ate or how insects survived or simply just what our planet looked liked so very long ago.

Here's a neat story on why the study of fossilized leaves is so important: GOLEAFSGO!

And, for your reading pleasure is the blog I wrote not too long ago on Japan's dinosaurs, with a photo showing off my small collection of fossils. DINOSAURS Of JAPAN.

And, what the heck... here's that photo again to the right and below. Every fossil but one is from Japan, and was purchased by myself or dug by myself while I was there.

The large orange rock contains two trilobite fossils; right of that is a small ball that is a mollusk, then a pair of dinosoaur eggshell fragments (orange colour); the spine and ribs of a small chicken-sized dinosaur from Argentina that a Japanese teacher gave me, and in the shadow box that my wife had done for me, it contains from the left, an ammonite mollusk, a type of small bi-valve mollusk, and a pair of snail-like sea shells.

So - what is my leaf fossil? I have no idea. A small bit of research says it MIGHT be similar to the Ulmus pyramidalis that was growing in the Miocene era - but it's from the current Czech Republic.... so probably not.

It might actually be a Prunus sargenti, a North Japan Hill Cherry leaf... or at least something similar to a cherry tree leaf... as that particular plant does (still) grow in the Tochigi-ken area and can be seen all over the mountainous Nasushiobara - about 10 kilometers from Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan when I lived there in the early 1990s as the junior high school assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Here's a link to a store that sells plant fossils in Japan. SHOP. I actually dug mine up, however, during a two-hour dig.

Again... if anyone has the resources, I would appreciate a heads up on just what the heck my partial leaf fossil is.

I also have a lot of detritus leaf fossils... but it's just plant life that was on the way to decomposition when fossilization hit it faster.

Andrew Joseph

2009 Miss Universe Japan

Today, Let's look at the 2009 Miss Universe Japan, Miyasaka Emiri (surname first).

She is from Tokyo, born on June 16, 1984 and is a model in Japan. She's 1.71 meters tall (5'-7-1/2"), weighs 48 kilograms (110 pounds), with brown eyes and black hair. She speaks a bit of English (yay!) after spending 10 months at a school in California. 

Along with competing in the Miss Universe 2009 pageant on August 23, 2009 in Nassau, Bahamas (a lovely place for a vacation, if I don't say so myself), but did not place, cut after the first event where contestants wear the country's national costume. Other titles held are: Miss International Japan 2008 - 2nd Runner-up.

But, what makes Miyasaka's story interesting (to me) was the brouhaha surrounding her choice of national costume - which you can see in the photo above.

Personally, I can see nothing wrong with it. It's sexy, and yet quite obviously Japanese, and she looks marvelous in it. But, seeing as how she was cut after the first round, people in Japan assumed it was because the costume.

But... the problem with the dress actually came from Japanese critics weeks before the actual Miss Universe event during the reveal of the national costume to the press and public.

The problem with the costume, according to many fuddy-duddies, is that it was too revealing, and not at all what the Miss Universe contest was looking for.

Says Miyasaka during her reveal of the costume before the Miss Universe contest: "Even as a representative of my country, I want to express my individuality. I'm trying as hard as I can to appeal to appeal to everyone based on the kindness and modesty of the Japanese!"

Well... look at the photo... it's hiked up pretty high and shows off some lovely pink lingerie (underwear) and a whole lot of leg - and while I am no prude, it's hard to say that Miyasaka is correct in her desire for modesty.

The costume was designed by Ogata Yoshiyuki for the Yoshiyuki brand, and by Ines Ligron, who was appointed by Miss Universe owner Donald Trump as the Japan Miss Universe franchise holder and director.

At the conference aimed to show off the national costume prior to the show, Japanese critics called the costume a "national disgrace" that "made fun of Japan's traditional clothing and culture." Others simply called it "a stupidly designed stupid costume for a stupid person to wear."

Wow... they used the word stupid three times in one sentence. Tell us what you really think.

But, some blogs in the US looking at the dress called it something a porn star would wear - I guess they would know.

According to Itai News, a Japanese news blog, some 3500 readers left a litanty of negative comments on the dress, calling it vulgar or perverted, or that Miyasaka looks like a Kyabakura hostess, or that the costume is "something akin to the emperor's new clothes - is she surrounded by nothing but yes men?"

Before this press conference, the skirt was actually longer, but Ligron decided just before the conference to shorten it. During the uproar, Ligron defended her decision and the dress calling the critics "dinosaurs".

And yet... at the Miss Universe competition, Miyasaka wore a more conservative design at the pageant... and still did not make it past the first round.

Poor Miyasaka... crucified by the Japanese press and people before she even walked down the runway of the Miss Universe pageant. What could the judges at that competition do? If they allowed her to continue after the showing of the costume, then they would essentially say that the Japanese people have no knowledge of style... or thus by stopping Miyasaka right at the costume judging, they could have simply tried to placate the Japanese people at the expense of one poor contestant.

Now maybe I'm naive, but I don't think the Miss Universe judges work that way. I hope they actually judge the contestants, their costumes and their skills objectively, without listening to anyone else's public outcry. As such, I would simply believe that while Miss Universe Japan had a very sexy costume, her look and the look of the costume simply wasn't as sexy as some of the other contestants who went to the second round.

Blame the costume if you must, but don't forget that there were a lot of other beautiful women at the contest, and there are always a lot of young women who do not get to wear the crown.

Still... I do have to say that while sexy, the Japanese kimono look - regardless of how short and revealing it is, has been done to death. It's why Miss Universe Japan 2006 Chibana Kurara won the Best National Costume award and was first runner-up at the event. It was stylistically different, sexy and just plain awesome. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Japan Women Lose at Volleyball Grand Prix

Here's some news on Japan's women's volleyball team at the World Grand Prix event currently going on in Macao, China.

Japan failed to get out of the round-robin coming out of it with one win against two losses.

In the opening match of the final, against a powerful US squad, Japan took it on the chin in three straight sets: 25-22, 25-17 and 25-23 in Pool B round robin action at the final round of the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) World Grand Prix.

The American's top scorer, Destinee Hooker powered her way over Japan's blockers scoring points at will. On defence, the USA easily blocked Japan's at the net and continued their defence on the floor providing ample opportunity for them to attack.

Japan struggled all game to control the USA attack spending more time defending than setting up for offence. Still, thanks to nice plays from setter Takeshita Yoshie, Japan was able to hang around, until the US was able to string together some nice plays to take the first set.That play-making continued in the second.

But, it wasn't until the third set that Japan really showed their mettle, with some great defensive stops and some poor Yankee serving helping Japan remain close. But still, Japan was no match for the US, the defending World Grand Prix champions.

Says Japan team coach Manabe Masayoshi (surname first): "we played with last year's champion and we lost a lot of points in their jump serving, so that was very difficult for us."

On Thursday, August 25, 2011 Japan took on the the Brazil team in its second match. But despite the aggression of the Japanese team, Brazil won in straight sets: 25-17, 25-22 and 25-21.

The Brazilians were sharp as they did not allow Japan to counter attack in the first set. In the second set, despite Kano Maiko and Kimura Saori (surname first) alternating their attack from side to side, Brazil continued to block and stymied the Japanese attack.

It was more of the same in the third set, but Brazil pulled out quickly and while Japan tried valiantly to close the gap, Brazil was simply the more powerful team.

In Japan's third game of the round robin, held on August 26, 2011, they took on the Italian team defeating the team from the boot 25-23, 25-23, 25-19.

Italy did not play good defence in this one, showing why they failed to win a match in the round robin, a surprise since Italy is the defending European champ. Japan attacked relentlessly from the right side, and Italy was slow to respond, perhaps because it had lot star player Paola Cardullo in their second game against Brazil. Cardullo had hurt her hand badly and underwent later that evening, taking her out of action for the next several weeks.

It was Japan's captain Araki Erika who led the offence for Japan in the first set, continually taking advantage of Italy's poor defence.

In the second set, Italy's Francesca Piccinini was repeatedly frustrated by the Japanese wall of defence, and was substituted by Christina Barcellini who brought positive energy in with her helping Italy finally break through the Japanese defence with two serving aces in a row. That threw Japan a little, as they then failed to get their offence going, as Italy made stop after stop before countering. Still, despite Japan's bad luck, Italy suffered more, as Japan was lucky to steal the second set.

In the third, it was all Japan as Araki, Kimura and Yamamoto Ai all scored in the double digits just decimating the Italian defence. When Italy did go on the offence, it was never allowed to get on a roll, as it had to fight Japan for all of its points.

Since Japan ended the round robin 1W-2L, it does not go on, instead playing on Saturday, August 27, 2011 in a classification match to determine 5th and 6th place. The luckless Italians who finished 0W-3L will play a classification match to determine 7th and 8th place.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

2010 Miss Universe Japan

Since we are fast approaching the 2011 Miss Universe pageant (the 60th contest) to be held at Credicard Hall in São Paulo, Brazil on September 12, 2011, I thought I'd share with you some tales of former Miss Universe Japan contestants.

There are scandals and other cool things to learn - but first, let's look at the Miss Universe Japan who was so quiet an unassuming, that no one ever thought she was capable of leading a cheerleading cheer let alone a country.

This is the story of Itai Maiko (surname first), 25, from Usaki-shi in Oita-ken (Oita Prefecture). That's her on the left. Compare this photo with the one in the newspaper link below. Understated she ain't. Scha-winnnnggg!


To read about this Clark Kent-like transformation (Superman's alter-ego), please click HERE.

My gawd... when you look at the photo in the attached article, you might wonder what the heck she was doing in this contest... and then you look at the photo above and you wonder just when the next flight to Japan leaves.

By the way... on August 28, 2011, 22 Miss Universe contestants will square off in a soccer match at Estádio do Pacaembu (Pacaembu Stadium) in Brazil. Oh my gawd! I'll try and bring you results... and by that, I mean photos. Someone get me tickets to São Paulo! Now!
By Andrew Joseph

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Blog Article Leader

Just a brief note: My article on Japan's Miss Universe contestants since 1990 (my arrival date in Japan) has just blown by the article I wrote on Japan's Women's World Cup Soccer team marching to a surprise triumph (despite me having a funny-looking URL for this article).

What? People want to read about and see pictures of beauty pageant contestants? Who knew? Well... I did, but that's beside the point.

Here's a link to MISS UNIVERSE.

Thanks for reading, and just know that I will do an update on the 2011 Miss Universe show anon.

Andrew Joseph

Du Hast

It's raining in Sendai... so what else is new? It rains whenever I travel in Japan. It's why they (Nihonjin/Japanese & gaijin/foreigners) call me and curse me with the name ame otoko (rain man).

It's Friday, October 11, 1991 and I've traveled to Sendai with my ex-girlfriend Ashley. Already it sounds like a recipe for disaster.

While she and I are not dating, we are still sleeping together. It is actually cool. I get sex and no longer pay for everything for her.

I'm a junior high school assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan for the past 15 months. Despite the length of time being equal to Ashley's I speak less Japanese (I think) and sure as hell don't know my way around as well... Ashley planned this trip (inviting me at the last minute to perhaps make a couple of other female AETs jealous (I slept with one and the other wants to date me).


We get up at 10AM and try to keep the maid out of our hair while I shower, and she goes to the bank - as she left yesterday without any money, and I had to pay for everything. Now today, Ashley is paying me back - a first, folks! A first! Let the bells ring, let the people shout!

While Ashley pays for another night, I relax in the room. She seems to have woken up with even more of those lumps/bumps on her head that first appeared yesterday evening. Lymph nodes, maybe? They are painful to the touch. Very weird. She says they are painful. She doesn't want to go home or go to a doctor, however.

We walk outside into the rain and head to the bus station to catch a bus to some temple that is supposed to be a national treasure. I have no freaking idea what it's called or even where I am going. I'm just along for the ride.

We shoot some photos and chat and generally have a really good time - a rarity, let me tell you, as we always seemed to be pissed off at each other when we were dating.

We then go shopping for knick-knacks. Ashley buys me a lot of stuff like good luck charms and stuff (long since lost in a fire that ripped through my house three years ago). We have a pizza for lunch and then go catch a movie - Hudson Hawk. Just so you know, my five-year-old son is named Hudson. I always thought it was a cool name, but I named my son after the Hudson's Bay Company... basically a fur trapping company that essentially help found Canada.

When we get back to the hotel we smooch a little - but then she suddenly pushes me away and it really hurts my neck from the shock - for about 10 minutes.

Pissed off, I leave her alone and head out into the night to a variety store for some beer. But it's closed at 7:30PM - on a Friday night?!

When I come back 20 minutes later, she's trying to sleep and is confused by my leaving. To pretend I'm no longer pissed off, I suggest we go to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for dinner. I want two large pieces, but instead, they give me two boxes of three large pieces. Whatever. I can eat it. I just wish the Japanese could understand my grade 1 Japanese or Ashley's Grade 3 Japanese.

Back at the hotel we try to sleep together, but it's obvious we are going to sweat to death first, so we go back to our separate beds and sleep.

Somewhere wondering what I am doing here,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Rammstein: YOUHATEME.
The English lyrics are HERE.
PS: A brief blog in 8 hours after the publication of this one!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Japan's Aviation Pioneer - UPDATED

Ninomiya Chuhachi
Well... Toronto (and the rest of Southern Ontario) was hit by a 2-1/2 hour massive lightning storm that knocked out the telephone, cable, and (gasp) Internet. As such, I am behind in my offering of a blog today. The sky was continually lit up... sometimes it was like daytime out there! My first thought was, appropriately enough, man, I hope there aren't any airplanes out there in the sky overhead right now.

As a pioneer aviation buff, I thought I'd share with you some information on Japan's true aviation pioneer - one Ninomiya Chuhachi (surname first), who was born June 20, 1866 in Yawatahama-ura, Iyo-ken (Iyo Prefecture that is now Ehime Prefecture) and died on April 8, 1936 of stomach cancer.

The Crow (foreground) and Jewel Beetle original models.
He was known to have designed and built a flying machine with three engines that failed to lift off—much earlier than the Wright Brothers.

And to be fair to the Wright Brothers, there were many aviation pioneers who built aircraft that failed to take off.

Regardless, Ninomiya did design some fabulous looking birds - the Karasu-gata mokei hikouki (
烏型模型飛行器 Crow-type model aircraft) in 1891 and the Tamamushi-gata hikouki (玉虫型飛行器 Jewel beetle-type model aircraft) in 1893. The key word there is "MODEL".

While a child, Ninomiya had a passion for building and flying kites, and also like to informally study insects and birds measuring wings in an effort to determine why those creatures could fly.

It was his skill at manufacturing kites that earned him money to purchase a few scientific books on chemistry and physics.

He then worked at a photography studio - a technology still in its infancy, before joining an older brother at a medicinal pharmaceutical company when he turned 14.

Despite his lack of formal education, Ninomiya was known to have invented hard-fixed wings at a time when other would-be aviators attempted to create flying machines that mimicked a bird flapping its wings.

Ninomiya mimicked the birds, but did so in quite a different manner.

It was after being conscripted into the Japanese Army in 1887, in November of 1889, his unit was on maneuvers in Shikoku (the smallest of Japan's main four islands) when they took a lunch break.

When the unit finished eating, Ninomiya noticed a murder of crows flying into to pick up the spilled grains of rice from their lunch (yes, even then it was difficult to use chopsticks to pick up Japanese sticky rice).

Ninomiyai, who had previously reasoned that the secret to flight might be obtained from watching how birds fly when not flapping their wings, threw grains of rice out to watch the crows as the glided down to the ground.

He watched them take off by flapping their wings, but noted that quickly stopped flapping and spread their wings in a horizontal glide to ride the air currents.

His theory from this was that while flight could be obtained by flapping wings, motionless wings could maintain the flight with far less energy needed.

He believed that the same thing could hold true for human flight, but that a motor would be required to lift off and then sustain the flight.

Closer examination of the crows by tossing them more rice, he saw that the crows could adjust their horizontal flight path by adjusting their tails, and that the front of the spread wings was actually angled upwards. This is what aviation engineers call the angle of attack.

To test his theories, Ninomiya built two models. And they really were only models—nothing a person could fit in.

The Karasu (Crow) was the first ever model aircraft built in Japan. It was a monoplane (one set of wings), with a dihedral wing (upward wing angle) and a 45 centimeter wingspan.

Its motor, was a rubber band that powered a four-blade pusher propeller (the propeller sits behind the engine) was built of bamboo, that is both light, but strong.

(Prior to this epiphany with the crows, Ninomiya as a 16-year-old already had some ideas regarding propellers... and I'm going to actually do a write up about that tomorrow and explain how Japanese children had known for years something that had eluded the famous Wright Brothers until many, many years later.)

The Crow had a horizontal stabilizer on its tail and a vertical stabilizer on its nose, and used three wheels as its landing gear.

The propeller and chassis was affixed to a triangular frame. According to the history books, the airplane chassis did not actually appear in Europe until the 1930s.

On April 29, 1891, Ninomiya tested the Crow, running it three meters before it lifted up and flew an additional 10 meters. The next day on April 30, it flew 36 meters after he arranged a hard-launch (letting the motor get up to full speed before launching it).

His second model, the Jewel Beetle, was tested in October of 1893, was a tail less bi-plane with a wingspan of two meters. the upper wing was larger than the lower wing, though the lower wing was movable to provide better control. The propeller was a four-blade pusher motor, and it too ran via rubber band.

Despite success with the models, he was not able to get the interest of the Japanese Army, who failed to see how it could be used in warfare, which is too bad, because the Crow and Jewel Beetle were both excellent aviation prototypes.

He then served as a medic for Japan during the First Sino-Japanese War(China vs Japan) in 1894-1895. While serving, he tried to convince the Army leaders of the value of an aeroplane that could carry a man, but was rebuffed noting that if that was a priority, Europe and America would all ready have one.

Don't blame the Japanese Army too much. Japan still maintains a long standing tradition of resisting change.

When the war was over, he went back to his job at a pharmaceutical company.

Unfortunately, he always seemed to have a lack of funds, a problem which stymied his personal development of his aircraft. But he slowly kept at it.

In fact, legend has it that in 1907 or 1908 Ninomiya had an aeroplane built based on the Jewel Beetle bi-plane design and was in the process of trying to raise funds to purchase a motor (something that was rare and difficult to obtain), when he received news that the Wright Brothers of the US of A, took their aeroplane The Wright Flyer up in the air for a 59-second flight traveling 260 meters before landing safely. Of course, the Wright Brothers had actually first flown in December of 1903... but news did not travel very fast in those days despite the new invention of manned air flight!

Completely crushed, that he had missed out on being the first aviator by years, Ninomiya quickly fell into a funk and destroyed his aviation drawings and stopped working on all aviation projects.

But, luckily, not all of the drawings were destroyed.

Apparently nearly 90 years later, a Japanese professor named Noguchi Tsuneo (surname first) studied some of the surviving drawings and claims that had Ninomiya been able to purchase a 12 horsepower engine or if he had the support of the Japanese Army, he might have been the first to obtain heavier than air flight before the Wright Brothers. (And again, to be fair to the Wright Brothers, lots of other people tried and were stymied by one thing or another, but the Wright Brothers were not... they succeed were others failed - and they had the support of the US Army).

Regardless, Noguchi built an airplane based on Ninomiya's designs and notes that the only problem with it was the lack of horizontal and vertical stabilizers. He figures it was something any engineer like Ninomiya would have noticed on that first test flight and would have corrected. But, said Noguchi, the plane would have flown.

While some aviation experts still believed there was no way Ninomiya's Jewel Beetle would ever fly as it was too heavy.

However, in April of 1991 at the Vancouver Air Show on the westcoast of Canada, a replica of what I believe was the Jewel Beetle was successfully flown a distance of 50 meters (136 feet). The only modifications to the original design was the inclusion of stabilizers.

In 1921 while Ninomiya was still alive and working at his pharmaceutical office, Japanese Lieutenant General Shirakawa Yoshinori (surname first) was looking over some old records and saw Nonimiya's plans for the aeroplane and realized its significance. As such, in 1922, the Japanese Army commended him, as did minister Kenzo Adachi (surname first) in 1925 and Prince Kuniyoshi Kuni (also surname first) in 1926. He also received a letter of apology and was deemed the 'father of Japanese aviation."

Later, nearer to his death, he became a Kannushi - a priest of Shinto to pray for those who were killed in aviation accidents. 

Propeller at the Hiko Shrine. Photo from the awesome website Japan Visitor:


There is a shrine (the Hiko Jinja
飛行神社) dedicated to aviation near Ninomiya's former workshop. It contains a small memorial museum that is about the size of a living room showing off some of Ninomiya's models and sketches, including the Crow (Karusa).
It's located near the Yawata station (Yawata eki) on the Keihan Railway Line between Kyoto and Osaka. Upon exiting the station, turn left walk over a tiny bridge, then right at the next corner and a few steps later it will be on your right. Look for a jet engine in a glass case at the front entrance. The memorial museum in the shrine is open from 9AM to 4PM, closed on Wednesday and charges an admission 300 yen (about $3). Make sure you bring along a translator because the explanations are only in Japanese.

As well, I used a lot of information for this article from the Japan Visitor website. Lots of good information for everyone. Visit

Somewhere traveling as the crow flies,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

It's Thursday, October 10, 1991 and I'm about to leave on a short excursion to check out Sendai with my ex-girlfriend Ashley.

I was trying to figure out WHY, very suddenly Ashley asked me to go with her. I think that a short trip to Nikko-shi she took with some of the other female assistant English teachers on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme may have elicited some information that may have made her jealous.

For example, she may have learned that newcomer Karen wants me as a boyfriend and that we had made out, or she may also have learned from Catherine (another newcomer), that she and I slept together.

Ashley and I, while no longer a couple, are still a couple of friends-with-benefits. The truth that other women found me desirable may have spurred her on to try and get back with me.


Or maybe I'm just company. But to be honest, being a friend-with-benefits doesn't not mean going on a vacation together - it just means sex together. At least that is what I understood our arrangement to be. Back in 1991, there was no such term as 'friends-with-benefits' or if there was, I sure as hell had never heard of it, what with being a 25-year-old virgin when I arrived here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan in  July of 1990 at the same same as Ashley.

Since arriving, I've been a bit of a dog. Whenever I haven't been a boyfriend to Ashley, I've slept with a lot of women. But still, since I hate losing, I want Ashley back. I'm so screwed in the head, eh?

Canadians say 'eh' at the end of their sentences apparently, as opposed to Americans who say 'hey' at the beginning of theirs. For example:
Canadian: "Get off the car, eh." Sounds polite, doesn't it?
American: "Hey! Get off the car." Not as polite.

Regardless... Ashley was at my place last night. Just sleeping. We get up at 8:30AM, pack my stuff up and then ride our bicycles over to her place. While she packs, I race back home to get my contact lens stuff that I had forgotten. It's only a 25-minute bike ride - each way between my city of Ohtawara and her town of Nishinasuno.

By the time I return, she's ready... so we ride out to the Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno train station) go up a couple of stops on the local JR (Japan Rail) line to Nasushiobara-eki and the catch the shinkansen (bullet train) north to Sendai.

Ashley, of course, has no money and the banks are closed today for some reason, so I lend it to her until tomorrow. Like I said... if we were a couple, I'd have paid, but since we're not... it's share and share alike.

We get to our hotel in Sendai-shi (Sendai City). Not bad. Twin beds, though.

We toss our clothes down and go out walking in the rain. Whenever I travel in Japan, it rains, earning me the nickname of ame otoko (rain man).

We go to the remains of Aoba-jo (also known as Sendai castle) but first stop off at a nearby museum and look at the display of Edo era (1603 - 1868) weapons, masks, armour and clothes. It's fascinating!

Walking up a mountainous road, we arrive at Aoba-jo - or at least we arrive where it's supposed to be. The rain and humidity has created a dense fog, so I take a lot of foggy photos of the castle. I couldn't see a damn thing. We march back down the damn mountain road dejected.

Although it's no longer raining, the road is a bit slick, so Ashley holds onto my arm. See, I am good for something!

We then hike for 30 minutes to a McDonalds we asked a local about, buy some beer from a local liquor store and then head back to our hotel.

Ashley has developed some weird bumps on the right side of her head - like lymph glands. They weren't there this morning. They are painful to the touch. As such, we're not going to have sex. To make matters worse, my contact lens pick today to start bothering me. One of my eyes really hurts when I wear my contacts, and makes it uncomfortable

Somewhere not the right kind of wet,
Andrew Joseph
This blog's title is sung by Johnny Nash, and I chose it for its IRONY
PS: Click HERE for some photos of Sendai. Warning... I took them with a disposable panoramic camera, as my camera... well... you'll find out in a couple more blogs about my wonderful rife... Anyhow, I have no idea what any of these photos are of, or where exactly I took them...if anyone knows, I'd appreciate a heads up.
PPS: I out some goofy descriptions under the photos, except to show that it was raining, wet, foggy and that my eyes were bothering me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Look Inisde Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Here's an interesting link to the Guardian - a UK newspaper (  that seems to have gotten its hands on the first UNauthorized photos taken from within the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The on-line link was posted on August 20, 2011, and seems kind of cool.

Here's the link:

Andrew Joseph
PS - Matthew - E-mail me from regular address, please!

Old Fashioned Love Song

It's a nice enough day... it's not raining, but since this is Japan, I'm pretty sure it will soon enough.

It's Wednesday, October 9, 1991, and I'm an assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan since very late July 1990.

I had set my alarm for 7:30AM, but I don't wake up until 8:45AM. In a panic, I make it out to the Ohtawara Board Of Education (OBOE) offices where I work for a quick 9:30AM meet for some stamping business with my hanko (That's how the Japanese sign all official documents - see THIS blog for more - you would think counterfeiting or falsifying documents would occur more often, but to my knowledge it hasn't).

I then race out on my bicycle for Matthew's team-teaching demonstration in Nishinasuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town)... unfortunately, due to the high amount of humidity, me wearing a silk shirt and a backpack on my back, my lovely dark blue shirt is soaked in sweat making the shirt look black.

Matthew, by the way, is a junior high school teacher (like myself), who lives in Ohtawara, but teaches at the smaller schools outside the city border, while I teach those that are within it. He's giving a team-teaching demonstration today to all of the junior high school AETs in Tochigi-ken.

Letiticia, one of the new arrivals two months ago, is there. She looks drop-dead sexy... and I'll admit when I get around her, my tongue gets tied. She is THAT beautiful. Long, tall, slim, curly dark brown hair, gorgeous eyes, a small mouth, long neck, gorgeous smile, long legs, a small, but round butt... this woman is one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever met.

She walks over to me and hands me a letter and some comic books. The gift of the comic books makes me want to marry her on the spot! Forget about the way through a man's heart being the stomach... for me, it's through comic books! Here's a girl who actually listened when I spoke and realized how much I missed reading good old fashioned American comic books.

The letter. I open it and read a few moments after she gos off to say hello to some other AETs. Funnily enough, her letter says that she is at that point in her life where she wants to be married. Hey! Me, too! Not really.

So... what do you think... is she just telling me this as a friend... or is she just telling me this to see if I am interested in the whole marriage thing?

I have to admit... while I certainly would like to get married one day, the whole idea kind of scares me at the moment - what with me only just discovering myself as the sexual stud that I am here in Japan.

While Letiticia and I have talked for hours on the phone, we've never been overly flirty with one another, so her comments to me about such a deep topic as marriage throws me for a loop.

I was going to give her a present (a lucky charm to protect against health defects and a stuffed lion doll), but now I don't want to lead her on—so I don't give either to her. But man... would I like to give it to her.

It's not that I don't think Letiticia is worthy of marriage... I'm sure she is. Charming, smart, funny and sexy, with a very, very pleasant demeanor. But what would any guy do in this position? Play her up and give her the present to get sex? Or, back off, forgoing sex so as to not lead her on?

Hell... I just want sex. Is that so wrong? What's with these new girls? Karen and Letiticia. Why do I have to be a boyfriend to get sex? Now... like I said... maybe Letitia is just letting me into her life as a confidante... really? What's wrong with me being your boyfriend?

I suppose, if Letiticia wanted me to be her boyfriend, I would have done so at the drop of a hint. Was that letter a hint or a plea?

I'll talk more about Letitia  in a later blog... suffice to state that I wanted you all to know just how wonderful she is... if not a tad confusing to me.

Matthew's team-teaching demonstration. Okay... from what I remember of it, it was basic, but good. Thank goodness. If he was doing some super spectacular stuff that I wasn't doing, then my teachers or OBOE might want me to do the same thing! Since he's not, I'm safe. My easy job remains easy.

I'll admit that I wasn't watching a lot of Matthew's demonstration, as I sat beside Letiticia pressing my knee up against hers. A couple of times she would turn her head, smile at me as I looked at her, and she would press back a little harder before slowly, ever so slowly pull her leg back. We would repeat the process several times during the demonstration.

As such, Matthew, old buddy, old pal... I had a severe lack of blood flow to my brain as I only had eyes (and other body parts) for Letiticia.

When Matthew was done, Letiticia squeezed my hand with hers (I wish it was with her knees), and said she was heading back to Ashikaga-shi (Ashikaga City where she lived) now... it's a fairly long trip of about 1-1/2 hours by train..

I wonder how she got here so early this morning? Did she stay at someone's house? She could have stayed at mine last night? Or, did she just catch some early trains here? Damn... I missed out.

Regardless... it was still nice to see everyone - all of the returnees on JET, as well as the newcomers... most of whom I was seeing sober for the first time since Matthew and I went down to Tokyo this past July to lend a helping, welcoming hand.

After eating eel for lunch (unagi = eel on rice) for the first time ever, Jeff Seaman and I go over to the nearby gym and shoot some basketball with the local students. Jeff is a great guy... the only one I know who wrote a Master's thesis on the Batman comic book: The Dark Knight Returns written and drawn by Frank Miller.

Jeff teaches the kids some sports slang and I teach them some locker room talk... the bad words.

When it was all over, I ride home in the rain. See... I told you it would rain. It sucks. Ashley comes by at 5PM following her day of teaching at the Ohtawara Boy's High School. Ashley is my ex-girlfriend and current friend-with-benefits.

While it's true that I am thinking about Letitia, I am also going on a vacation to Sendai-shi (Sendai City) tomorrow with Ashley. She asked me to join her - probably in a fit of jealousy after finding out that Karen wants me for her boyfriend. Regardless... I hopefully do a good job of hiding Letiticia's letter from her.

Ashley has no worries with regards to Letitia. If Ashley was still my girlfriend and Letitia came a-calling for me, I would drop Ashley like a ton of bricks. See? No worries. Of course, Ashley is not my girlfriend, but we still are a couple. A couple of somethings.

Since it's raining, and Ashley and I are getting warm and cozy under the blankets of my kotatsu (electric blanket/table), I call up Kanemaru-san and cancel our kyudo (Japanese archery lesson). We're both wet and tired.

We eat a lasagna dinner, have four beers each, watch some videos and actually go to bed without any hanky-panky... though I do stay awake a bit longer trying to see if there is anything hidden with Letititia's letter.

Somewhere a woman bought comic books for,
Andrew Joseph  
Today's blog title is by Three Dog Night: LETTER  - and this song is dedicated to Letiticia.

PS: From that first lunch of unagi at Matthew's team-teaching demonstration, it is still my favourite Japanese food. Ichiban dai suki desu. (That's my baby way of saying 'it's my favourite thing I like').  I will eat it every chance I get.
PPS: BY the way... at this point in time in 2011, I am unsure of the correct way to spell Letiticia's name. It's pronounced lu-tish-ah. I think I have also spelled it "Letitica". If you are out there darling... spelling has never been my forte, and I'm going on what I wrote in my diary a-way back then. I apologize for any mis-spellings, but just know that I thought you were beautiful.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Hot Beef Found in Fukushima

These cows are safe - and can be killed for your eating pleasure.
The ban on beef from Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture) will remain in effect for the foreseeable future as three more cows in the area were found on sunday, August 21, 2011 to be contaminated with radioactive Cesium over the government's provisional safety limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

This brings the hot cow count to 12 as an additional nine cows from a farm in the village of Namie were found to be tainted. Namie is approximately 10 kilometers due west of the Dai-ichi nuclear facility that spewed radioactive materials into the air following a near-melt down of several reactors following the March 11, 2011 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that damaged it. 

According to Japan's Health Ministry, one of these nine cows from the Namie farm was actually shipped from a farm this past April from an area outside the 30 kilometer ring outside the nuclear plant. 

A representative of the farm notes that that one cow had not been fed any rice straw—implying that since it wasn't eating grain from the area, it must have absorbed the radiation from the air.

It was also recently learned that 1,256 cows were fed rice straw grown in Fukushima-ken that was contaminated with Cesium. Immediately following the earthquake, tsunami and near-meltdowns, a food shortage for the cattle was felt, and the hay was given to the cows. 

Apparently the rice straw contained 690,000 becquerels of radiation—well over the limit of 500, and it was shipped to 45 of Japan's 47 prefectures. As such, all beef over the allowable limit must be destroyed.

Despite the high levels of cesium in the feed, and the large number of cattle that ate it, very few cows have exceeded the Cesium restriction. 

While these latest 12 cows have not yet been destroyed, a total of 220 cows were destroyed between March 15 and April 19 in Yokohama, with the contaminated meat currently stored in a safe distribution warehouse in Tokyo.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Women's Volleyball Team Upsets World Champs

With clenched fists, Ishida Mizuho celebrates after Japan defeats Russia.
On Sunday, August 21, the Japanese women's volleyball team pulled off a surprise victory over the defending world-champion squad from Russia in a straight-sets victory 25-23, 25-19 and 25-19. It was the first straight-set's victory for the Japanese women over Russia in 16 years.

The victory at Tokyo's Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo earned Japan a berth in the final round of eight at the 19th edition of the women's 2011 World Grand Prix to take place next week at the Macau East Asian Games Dome in Macao, China.

Japan finished the preliminary round to the World Grand Prix with a record of 6-3, while the Russians finished with a record of 7-2 - both good enough to get to the tourney next week.  

"My players kept their concentration and defended well," explains Japan head coach Masayoshi Manabe. "Mizuho Ishida came off the bench and did an excellent job."

Despite the loss to Japan, Russia's head coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin was not put off by the result, as the team had already qualified for the World Grand Prix before the match. "Now we are missing three of our best players, and there's no need to panic for tonight's loss," he says.

The tournament, which began on August 5, started with 16 teams in a round-robin, including: Japan (6-3), Russia (7-2), Poland (4-5), Serbia (6-3), Italy (7-2), Germany (2-7), Brazil (9-0), Dominican Republic (3-6), United States of America (8-1), Cuba (2-7), Peru (0-9), Argentina (2-7), China (6-3), South Korea (5-4), Kazakhstan (0-9) and Thailand (5-4).

Moving into the field of eight along with Russia and Japan are: Brazil, USA, Serbia, Italy, China and Thailand.

The tournament wraps up on August 28, 2011.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Donald Duck in Japan

When you look at the photo here to the left you might be thinking your old pal Andrew made a mistake with the photo he was posting. It wouldn't be the first time.

But no... those two Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures digests are what I wanted to discuss.

Released in 2004 by Gemstone Publishing, each contains a story with Japan as the backdrop. I can tell you being a long-time Donald Duck fan and long-time Japan fan, this has not occurred very often - though there is one other comic book that I can think off that maybe a living of dealing with a Japanese character - I'll discuss that one with you in the not too distant future. I want to make sure I do it justice.

In issue number 6, the story is actually a Mickey Mouse tale entitled: 'The Terrible Tsunami'. In it, Mickey Mouse is helping his friend Doc Static at scientific conference in Japan. A Chinese professor Dhim Sum has created 'molecules with a mind' - a chemical treatment that gives water a small degree of artificial intelligence.

Unfortunately, Dhim Sun's lazy Japanese helper Enji spills toxic water into the water after sneezing to the tank of water, and is then able to control the robotic water turning it into a weapon of mass destruction - a terrible tsunami - against what I assume is Tokyo because of the proximity of Mt. Fuji in the background art.

Enji, hating Mickey Mouse, uses his mind to control the water, forcing it to take on the appearance of Mickey's face (a water demon) as he creates a huge tsunami that will make the people of Japan hopefully hate Mickey Mouse.

The tsunami actually hits Tokyo and floods the hell out of it, burying it under what looks like 20 feet of water.

Mickey, through the help of Doc Static's Rivet the Robot that is controlled by a remote-control helmet (and now with a robotic face looking like Mickey Mouse so the people of Japan won't hate him, too), defeats Enji and the tsunami thereby saving the people of Japan.    

It's a mickey mouse story, in more ways than one, but at least it has some major Japanese references. It was written by Michael T. Gilbert (who had previously created Mr. Monster, one of my all-time favourite comic books), so I did expect something more than just plain hokum. Art for the story was provided by Joaquin Canizares Sanchez, who did a decent enough job.

Still... considering what happened on March 11, 2011 with the massive earthquake-spawned tsunami that devastated the northeast coast of Japan, it would have been nice to have a Mickey Mouse hero to save the day.    

A much better story is the lead adventure in issue # 8. Entitled 'Kappa! Kappa! Kappa!', this story involves Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Key Japanese characters involved are the so-called mythical creatures known as Kappa (河童 a water sprite or river child), Tengu (天狗 - a type of heavenly dog that was originally thought to take the form of a bird of prey like in the Donald Duck tale), and the Hitodama (人魂 - spirit lights or the souls of the newly dead). There is also a Miko (巫女 - a shrine maiden) and a Ronin (浪人 - a masterless samurai), though in this story, it's more about the ronin's ancient suit of armour.

Sounds a whole lot more interesting than the Mickey Mouse story already, doesn't it? And it is. 

Donald dreaming of being like a knight and the days of chivalry is fishing when he accidentally catches Kiku the Kappa water sprite who is very much lost.

Kiku tells the lads about his story of how 500 years ago Tengu and Kappa lived in harmony on a shared mountain in Japan - the Kappa in the waters and the Tengu in the trees and forest. But when humans come, they cut down the trees, which makes the Tengu angry and attack the humans.

Trying to broker a peace, the Kappa refuse to take sides and want all to live in peace... but that isn't happening.

The people think to hire themselves a ronin  to fight the 'invading' Tengu. While the Tengu arrive en masse to fight the ronin, in typical Japanese battle, the Tengu chief offers to fight the ronin one-on-one. 

When the ronin defeats the Tengu Chief, he asks that the Tengu live in peace with the Kappa and humans... but he is refused. This causes the ronin to get mad and he drives all of the Tengu into a cave on in the mountain and then seals it up, trapping the Tengu

The people build a temple on the site of the cave entrance and charge a Miko (temple priestess) to watch over the gateway to make sure the Tengu never escape.

With the Tengu locked away, the Kappa work with the humans to irrigate their fields.

But 500 years later, an earthquake shook the mountain and opened up another doorway, allowing the Tengu to escape. They go crazy and attack the farmers, burning their crops and homes, causing the humans to flee. The only one who stays is the Miko. The Tengu also take revenge on the Kappa for their role in helping the humans by muddying the river hoping they will fight or flee - either would be fine by the Tengu.

The peaceful Kappa instead decide to look for the legendary ronin to come back and save the day again. Kiku was the Kappa chosen, and you can guess the rest. Donald saves the day with the aid of a hitodama (spirit light) and the ronin's armour.

It's a truly fantastic little tale, that perfectly blends Donald Duck's (in the comic books) classic temper, fear and sense of honour and duty with a well-crafted and thought-out tale of Japanese mythos in epic proportions.

The story was written by Pat & Carol McGreal who have done a lot of excellent Duck work with some very decent adventures. The art is capably done by Flemming Andersen. The only knock against the story - is that it wasn't written or drawn by the late-great Carl Barks. In fact, it's not a knock... it's more of a surprise. The well-crafted story is that good!

I would tell you to look to e-bay and try and pick one up, but a search by my self this evening did not show either of these two books up for auction. Instead, you could always go to your local comic book shop and ask them to try and find a copy for you.

I originally paid $7.95 US (but in 2004, it probably cost me $10 Cdn)... for a similar issue, e-bay had issue #4 for sale for $4.88 US... not including shipping. Regardless... the Donald Duck Adventures (the digest) ran for 21 issues. I unfortunately ended at 12 owing to the damn exchange rate making $10 comic unpalatable... plus it was difficult to find the damn things. There was also a Gemstone digest version of Mickey Mouse Adventures that ran for 12 issues, but I only purchased the first six, as I happen to be more of a Duck fan than the rodent. 

Next week, I'll tell you about another anthropomorphic critter and his life in Japan. Hint... he's a rabbit, but not the one you are thinking of.

Somewhere wanting writing a few Donald Duck comic book stories,
Andrew (I write comic books, too ) Joseph
PS: I just need someone to pay me for writing them! I've been creating my own comic books since 2000, and have done self-published about 25 stories... and I've gotten better with each tale. 
For more on my comic books (usually drawn by fantastic artist Steve Guzelis), check out our website at: STRANGEFUNCOMICS. You'll be glad you did.