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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Poisonous Octopi In Japan

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun (Yomiuri Newspaper) article I read on-line on May 30, 2012, an unfamiliar sea creature is making an appearance in Japan - one that carries tetrodotoxin, the same deadly poison present in the fugu blowfish.

The article says that poisonous hyomon-dako or blue-ringed octopus, which inhabits mainly tropical and semitropical zones living in tidal pools and coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are being found in the Kumano-nada area off the coast of southern Mie-ken (Mie Prefecture).

Editorial Rant #1: Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife is unsure why this is rare. A bit of research either not included or not done by the Yomiuri notes that there are three confirmed species of Blue-ringed Octopus: Hapalochlaena:
  • Greater Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata);
  •  Southern Blue-ringed Octopus or Lesser Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa);
  •  Blue-lined Octopus Hapalochlaena fasciata
Which type of blue-ringed octopus has actually been found in Japan? It's important to know because the Greater Blue-ringed Octopus does indeed makes its home anywhere from northern Australia up to Japan, and as far west as Sri Lanka!
Okay... the article does state that it is rare for blue-ringed octopuses to be found in the area during February and March when the weather is cold.

Editorial Rant #2: Octopuses?! They proper pluralization of octopus is 'octopi!" Why are all the media outlets in the world using the term octopuses?! Just because Ringo Starr and The Beatles screwed up doesn't mean the rest of us need to follow suit!

Editorial Rant #3: One nameless (Nameless?!) expert apparently speaking to the Yomiuri on conditions of anonymity says: "Their habitat might have expanded north due to the rise in sea temperatures caused by global warming."

An unnamed official of the Mie-ken Fisheries Research Institute in Shima found a blue-ringed octopus on the seafloor at a depth of 10 meters off the coast of Taiki, Mie Prefecture, on Feb. 16, 2012.

Another octopus was caught after being found on rocks about seven meters under water off Shima on March 7, 2012.

According to the Yomiuri article, both octopuses (octopi!!) were adults and about 10 centimeters in length from information from the Institute.

Editorial Rant #4: Great... male or female octopi? It's important in case they are breeding!

I love the Yomiuri! I used to read it every day when I lived in Japan, and I continue to do so now looking for great or interesting stories... but this one needs a few more facts.

Here's some filler I picked up from a couple of sites on-line:

As a species, the blue-ringed octopus is one of the most venomous creatures in the sea! One bite from the blue-ringed octopus can cause vomiting, paralysis and spasms. It's venom is actually strong enough to kill a human.

What really kills you is a heart attack brought on by the tetrodotoxin blocking your sodium (salt) channels, which causes paralysis and a heart attack within minutes of being exposed.

And, just so you know... there is no antidote for being bitten by a blue-ringed octopus. But you may survive if someone massages the heart and performs CPR to move the toxins through the body. I said 'may' survive.

Not bad for an octopus that is only 12 to 20 cm (5 to 8 inches) from its arm span in size!

The octopi's saliva contains a cornocopia of familiar chemicals, including: tetrodotoxin, 5-hydroxytryptamine, hyaluronidase, tyramine, histamine, tryptamine, octopamine, taurine, acetylcholine and dopamine.

The tetrodotoxin is identical to the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin in puffer fish. For reference, this toxin is 10,000x more deadly than cyanide. Sayonara.

How can you avoid being bitten by a poisonous octopus? Stay the fug away from Australia, is one way. They seem to have the market cornered on poisonous freaking creatures. Spiders, snakes, sea creatures... hell, I wouldn't be surprised it the grass was poisonous!

Seriously, though... know what you are looking at. The blue-ringed octopus is actually properly named (so I'm guessing no one in New Zealand named it, otherwise it be called a kiwi, as they call the people that, the bird that, the fruit that, their show polish that... they need a kiwi of the sea).

When resting, the octopus has yellow skin with dark brown ring... but, when the octopus is agitated, the skin darkens and iridescent blue rings or clumps of rings appear and pulsate within the maculae. Typically 50-60 blue rings cover the dorsal and lateral surfaces of the mantle.

If you should happen to see blue rings on an octopi - get the heck away!

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taoism, Sex And Japan

I recently wrote about the five belief systems of Japan - well, not really... I just kind of mentioned what they were. Anyhow, one of them was Taoism.

I'm not going to get completely into it - have a topic in mind.

Taoism is a Chinese belief system brought to Japan in about the 6th century BC.

While Taoism has long been popular, the sexual aspects of Taoism were extremely popular during the time of the shogun 1600s-1868.

Ever heard of tantric sex? Tao now, brown cow.Tantric sex is a way of extending sexual intercourse and improving one's sexual stamina. But... it is a lot more than just that. In Taoism, one knows that the world is made up of divine energy.

But, since this topic is about sex, know that there is divine energy for sex. Ever heard of the ying and the yang? Sure you have. It's the symbol below.

These are the essences contained in the male and female bodies. These essences are supposed to be kept in perfect balance through sexual intercourse.

I knew it! A reason for living that is actually fun!

Having sex, according to Taoist beliefs was what one needed for good physical health.

What is this essence? Well, in case you were wondering, men and women are supposed to be able to produce a liquid known as jing.

What is jing? Well, it's a fluid exchange that occurs during sex.

Yes, a man's semen, but a woman's juices as well.

Taoism says that a man only has so much jing in him, and death occurs when one runs out. Come again?

Let's see... if I come alot, I will die when I run out of jing.

And if I don't spill my jing during sex, my health will go and I will die.

I'm screwed if I screw, and I'm screwed if I don't screw.

The only way to make sure I live is by having sex, and then finding a way to replenish my jing.

Fortunately... there is a way to replenish my jing.

Taoism says that you can have lots of sex to give yourself health... but what if you don't ejaculate?

Then you keep your jing, while gaining health!

This is why it is good to keep the sex going without ejaculation. This is what tantric sex tries to teach people.

For some additional fun, check out this adult blog written by Mister Manfred Man that tells you how to achieve the male multiple orgasm: HOW TO SURVIVE WOMEN.

For the Japanese, just like for myself, having longer sexual liaisons was an exhausting affair. One needed to take breaks and replenish one's fluids. That's what the gentleman is doing in the ukiyo-e (shunga) print at the very top - having a spot of tea.

For myself, I would often stop in mid-sex to grab a drink, have an ice cream - whatever. The point was to prolong the sexual pleasure between myself and whomever it was that I was boffing at the moment. I was turning Japanese, but I didn't know so.

Of course, women gained strength and vitality from a man's jing, and men also gained jing from a woman's juices. The problem is that most women don't really provide enough jing to keep a man alive and in good health.

The answer? A man should have as much sex with as many women as possible. It was even more effective if the man had sexual intercourse with more than one woman at a time.

Man, I love Japan. Man, I love Taoism.

Everybody's happy because everybody's getting laid. No wonder I felt like crap in Japan when I wasn't having sexual intercourse.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph who is feeling kind of run-down right now.

People Pay To Eat Balls And Wiener Of Artist

You might think that this story's headline is just a pun... that people were eating melon balls and hot dogs or something, and Andrew was just trying to stun you with a witty headline - but nope!

A Japanese man did indeed have his testicles and penis removed, and he did indeed prepare them as a meal and did indeed serve them to five people who paid for the privilege of swallowing his gonads and pee-pee in a nice meal. Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife is unsure if a nice Chianti was served, but we hope so.

Sugiyama Mao, 22, is a Japanese artist (of course), who considers himself to be asexual. I am unsure if I should have written 'himself' if he is asexual... but what should I use? 'Itself'?

This past March, because Sugiyama wanted to feel more asexual, he had his meat and two veg removed. For reasons known only to it, it kept the balls and chain in his freezer.

He had thought about eating the parts himself, but decided instead to serve them to paying diners in Tokyo to help defray the medical costs for the removal of the offensive naughty bits.

What a shame! Going out for a meal and being served meat that was frozen! Fresh is the best!

While Sugiyama did want help in paying the medical bills (hopefully this also included some emotional counseling to ensure this was the right move), he says he also wanted to increase awareness for sexual minorities, x-gender and asexual people like himself.

The dinner event held on May 13, 2012 in a rented hall in Tokyo. No word on how many people other than the five diners and cook/cooked were present, but hopefully it was able to make a spectacle of itself and raise the GOOD type of awareness for the sexual minorities, rather than the BAD type of awareness which makes one look like a freak than simply being asexual, which is cool.

I suppose you want to know about the meal.

After seasoning and then braising the cock and 'nads himself, a certified cook (I meant to write 'cook') added some mushrooms (does everything look like a penis!?) and some parsley garnish.

Artist, perhaps - but rather than a cook, he should have spent a few bucks on a chef.

This meal was the guy's dick and balls! Shared by five people! Did they really get enough to eat? 

Still, this was a meal fit for a genitalman.
See the photo's above... that's Sugiyama looking quite bored with the whole event. I know that after I had my chocolate lab Buster fixed, he became a lot less aggressive... bored... or perhaps fearful of what else he might have removed if he acted up again. His new name is Busted.

Anyhow, Sugiyama charged the five diners ¥20,000 apiece for the once-in-a-lifetime pleasure of eating his nuts and some other clever term for penis. That's a total of ¥100,000. That's $1,300 in US/Cdn funds.

So... he got $1,300 for the meal, which admittedly wasn't very artistic... but you think the guy would value his privates time more than that?! Oh well... to each his own.

Now, lest you think that Sugiyama removed his genitalia himself, he didn't. He's goofy, not crazy. He had a doctor do that, who also certified that his wang doodle and potatoes are/were/it (?) free of infection.

Covering his ass, which is apparently all Sugiyama has left, all diners were required to sign a waiver not to sue (James?!) Sugiyama and the event organizers should the meal have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, should you be wondering if it is legal to eat human body parts - don't worry! Cannibalism is not illegal in Japan. There. Don't you feel better?

Because cannibalism is not illegal, the police knew about the event and simply didn't need to become involved. 

Sugiyama says he and the event organizers made sure the dinner event was legal, including checking to see if the event crossed the line regarding: a ban on organ sales, the processing of medical waste, and food sanitation requirements.  

There was no comment from the diners who ate the genitals of the artist. Was it salty? Chewy? Sweet? Did it taste just like chicken? Does everything taste better with Heinz?

Hopefully this is a joke, but Sugiyama did receive questions from men and women asking him: ‘Will there be a next time? Please host it again.’

But, on May 16, he tweeted seriously via Twitter: "But there is only one set of male organ. Unfortunately, I have no plan for the next time.”

Hunh. Who knew that a person's sense of humor was located in the genitals? Well... since I have a huge sense of humor, that explains things.

Still, it makes one wonder what Sugiyama could possibly offer up for dessert. No. I don't want to know.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph who wants you to know how difficult it really was to keep the plethora of really dirty jokes out of this blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mixed Marriages, Divorces And Kidnapping - A Guest Blog By Imogen Reed

Here's another blockbuster by guest blogger Imogen Reed, who seemingly likes to write for this blog. I don't ask why, and am instead simply grateful. In this article, Imogen tackles mixed marriages, mixed divorces, and the troubles that can ensue when their kids are involved in a divorce with a Japanese national for a parent. 

The stereotypical image of an international marriage in Japan is that of an American man (an English teacher or soldier) and a Japanese bride.

Of course, in reality, the American man can be substituted for any Caucasian male, but the picture holds. The Japanese media often presents the pair as being a hopeless love match between individuals who cannot attract someone of their own kind.

This image is strong, but data proves it to be utterly false. 

In Japan, of the 49,000 international marriages in 2006, some 40,000 of them involved a foreign bride and a Japanese man. Only 9,000 were actually one step closer to fitting the model. 

The vast majority of the 40,000 marriages involving a Japanese male and non-Japanese (NJ) females were mail-order brides from the Philippines and China (24,000).

The data does not include any Japanese national who married outside of Japan, as these foreign weddings/marriages involving Japanese nationals are not currently recognized by the Japanese government. Basically Japan only recognizes a marriage between a Japanese person and any nationality (including Japanese) if marriage is done in the Land of the Rising Sun.  

Most of the discussion in the media concerns whether the marriage is a love match or not, or whether it is an arrangement whereby someone who cannot find someone of their own kind marries the first stranger they can find. 

While there is a social stigma placed on the Japanese woman for marrying outside her race, more often than not, according to the data above, it is the men who get mail-order brides to look after the house and to raise the kids. 

What also gets discussed is the number of divorces and why they occur.

In a number of cases in the Japanese media, but also on a more personal level among Japanese friends of the international marriage, the blame for the failure of a marriage is due to cultural differences. 

Yes, there are many international marriages that fail, but a good many Japanese-Japanese marriages also fail, a higher percentage in fact, and the causes can be the same. 

Parental pressure is a common cause of separation and divorce. As Arudou Debito’s fictional novel In Appropriate shows, parents often pressure their daughters out of an unfavorable marriage.

Of course, in many marriages that dissolve, there are children involved. In Japan, this can lead to an unfair advantage for one parent over another.
Since the bubble era of the 1980s, many thousands of children have been born to mixed parents, and a minority of these have suffered the pain and heartbreak of an international divorce. 

In many western countries, if not an amicable break, there is a legal recourse for deciding the fate of children whose parents split up. For the most part, custody decisions are respected by the parents, but sometimes a parent without custody will take a child away - this is considered a form of kidnapping under the Hague Convention.

There's only one problem... Japan, is not party to the Hague Convention. 

Japan's decision not to join the Hague Convention has allowed the parents of Japanese children (apparently in most cases it is the Japanese mother) to take the child to Japan--kidnap in other words--and to then be protected by Japanese law against the legal custodian of the child in the child’s home country. 

Basically, what this means is that if a Japanese parent takes their from America to Japan, the Japanese government will protect their right to have/keep the child, and not the rights of the other parent. This is the case even if the non-Japanese parent is awarded custody of the child in a foreign country.

Japanese nationals kidnapping their own children are definitely protected. In fact, Japan will not extradite any Japanese National for any reason. 

Right now, in theory, there are no sanctions for those who do not abide by custody decisions.

In fact, because of Japan's refusal to take part in the Hague Convention, theoretically any kidnapping can be ignored.

In Japan, the separation between parents is often total and a child rarely sees the parent who loses the custody battle. Getting rights to see a child after losing custody is an impossible challenge, much like biking to the top of a mountain. In fact, it is often easier to find quality motorcycle insurance and to drive the bike to the top of Mt. Everest than for a losing parent to gain access. 

As such, for over two decades, non-Japanese parents - mostly men - have been denied the right to visit or see the children they have the rightful custody of after the child has been kidnapped.

Thus far Japan has resisted all attempts to allow the non-Japanese parents to see their children. Any attempt to see the child, even if the child runs away to the non-Japanese parent, has been treated as kidnapping and some non-Japanese have ended up in jail over it.

As an aside, 99 per cent of the time, whomever actually has custody of the child or children at the time of the custody decision wins the right to have them full-time.   

As mentioned, Japan has yet to sign on to the Hague Convention, but moves are slowly underway, as it makes its way through Japan's National Diet ((国会 Kokkai) - its legislature.

Unfortunately, current wording in the Convention appears to give judges the right to block attempts for the rightful custodian to get a kidnapped child back, so there may not be much change in the way Japan handles kidnapping even if it does sign onto the Hague Convention.

But... fret not. In 2011, there was one bright moment.

In 2008 Moises Garcia, a Nicaraguan-born American, his Japanese wife, and their daughter Karina were all living in the U.S. when the parents decided to divorce. Moises won custody of his daughter - a rare event in western countries, as the mother usually wins custody except in dire circumstances, such as mental health issues, and even then it is no sure thing.

One day when the child's mother was visiting her daughter in the U.S., she kidnapped Karina and took her back to Japan. 

Moises traveled to Japan to try and get her back, but to no avail. In fact, aside from three brief visits, Moises was unable to see his daughter as the Japanese government refused to give him access to his daughter let alone let him take her back to the U.S.

However, a break occurred when the mother took her daughter to the U.S. (Hawaii) to renew her visa.

Since Moises had originally reported to U.S. authorities that Karina had been kidnapped, the mother was arrested when she set foot in Hawaii and was only released and sent back to Japan after Karina was with her father.
The path towards rightful action on kidnapped children in Japan is far from over.

It is unlikely to be settled so long as Japan’s domestic laws allow one parent to shield their child from the other and where the possession of a child counts as 9/10ths of the law.

Toyota To Keep Car Production In Japan To Aid Recovery

Well... there's good news and there's bad news with that headline.

The good news is that Toyoda Akio (surname first), the president of the Toyota Motor Corp. and the new head of the head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) has promised to keep his company's car production in Japan - rather than out-sourcing to cheaper countries - in an effort to create jobs and to spur the hurting Japanese economy and to aid in the recovery after the March 11, 2011 twin disasters and subsequent near nuclear meltdowns. 


The bad news is that this will cost jobs in other countries.  Especially bad if you happen to work in the auto industry in one of those other countries.

“In these tough times, we must take up the challenge of bringing revival back to Japan and of bringing back smiles to Japan,” Toyoda says.

He continues,  noting that production, technological innovation and suppliers must be kept in Japan, but that Japan's consumption tax hike threatens to “hollow out’” the auto manufacturing sector which, including suppliers, dealers and autoworkers, employs over 5-million people in Japan.

Toyoda says that Japan's plan to increase the country's sales tax is a “moral hazard,” and urged, nay pleaded, that the currently high taxation on car ownership to be reformed first.

Japan car taxation system, is, to be polite, a bitch and is guessed to be 2x or 3x of Germany and the U.K. It's also 49x what it is in the U.S.

“Companies that are working hard should be rewarded,” states Toyoda acknowledging that Nissan, Honda and Toyota are all doing well after the Japan's disasters and the Thailand flood in 2011 that all disrupted production not only of cars, but of replacement parts for cars.

Despite the revival in fortunes for the Japan Big 3, it's not coming from Japan, rather it is coming from Brazil, India and China.

Japan's auto sector, it seems, has been in a funk for years, as it appears that young people have lost the itch to drive. You can probably blame rising costs in gas as a possible reason. JAMA notes that auto sales in Japan totaled 4.2 million in 2011 - which was down 15 per cent from 2010.

But, thanks to China, Brazil and India, vehicle demand is expected to grow by 19 per cent to a total of 5-million vehicles for 2012. This is backed up by vehicle production doubling for the month of March 2012 from March 2011 to 980,000!

Despite the optimism, Toyoda and the rest of JAMA fears it will all go to hell should government subsidies be cut.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Monday, May 28, 2012

Escaped Penguin Caught And Back Behind Bars!

I have no idea if I am relieved or saddened by this news, but Penguin 337, a Humboldt Penguin who had escaped from the Tokyo Sea Life Park back in March has been recaptured atop an oil refinery screaming "Top of the world, Ma!"

Okay... maybe not.

Still, the unnamed bird known as Penguin 337 (see photo above from the Tokyo Sea Life Park / AFP - Getty Images) despite there only being 135 at the park was indeed captured last Thursday, May 24, 2012 proving that once again, I missed the boat. Sorry. I know you are all concerned about the penguin.

The as yet sexually unidentified penguin is less than a year-old (and you can tell the sex of it until it is older) stands 60 centimeters tall and was captured last week after park zookeepers caught it after it ventured onto a riverbank in Tokyo Bay, about eight kilometers (five miles) away from his zoo home.

He had escaped his enclosure and had been on the lam for 82 days! Despite fears that he might starve, #337 had been seen happily eating fish et al in the bay, and had maintained his weight. There were initial fears that the little bugger might have problems in his new environment, but he was seen some 30 times during the escape frolicking in the water, thumbing his beak at those trying to capture him.

Here's a Japanese news feed on the recapture taken from You Tube:

The zoo is still unsure how he escaped, but it is thought the penguin became frightened and scrambled or jumped a rock twice his height - who knew a penguin could jump? - and then escaped by going through a gap in the two-meter high fence surrounding Tokyo Sea Life Park.

Seems like he really wanted to get the hell out and stay out, as he even eluded capture when chased by the Japanese coastguard.

"You'll never take me alive, coppers!"

Now, as mentioned, #337 was recaptured and was nice and healthy, though probably ticked off at being caught.

But here's the irony for you.

After a few days back at the zoo, the healthy penguin developed conjunctivitis, an eye infection you might know better as pink eye!

Apparently the park's penguin pool uses seawater from Tokyo Bay that has been filtered and sterilized and zoo officials are blaming the poor water quality of Tokyo Bay for the bird's eye infection.

Uh... wasn't the penguin swimming in the unfiltered waters of Tokyo Bay for 82 days without an eye infection? 

By Andrew Joseph
PS: The 'Top of the world, Ma!" quote is from the 1949 Jimmy Cagney movie, White Heat.
The "You'll never take me alive, coppers!" is also from Jimmy Cagney, but from his 1931 film The Public Enemy.
I knew the first quote before writing this, but had no idea Cagney was famous for both of them! How's that for weirdness? 

Japan And The Dead: An Old View

The first thing one needs to know about this topic of the Dead, is that the country consists of five spiritual belief systems (in no particular order): Taoism, folk religion, Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

In fact, these belief systems have harmoniously intermingled with each other for centuries.

Christianity, led by St. Francis Xavier tried to sneak into Japan in 1549 AD, but that never took hold as well as the Christians had hoped, as there was a massacre in Nagasaki back in 1597 when the Japanese executed 26 Christians. They were tortured and crucified on crosses in a macabre form of irony. I shall talk about more about Christianity in a later blog. 

In Shinto (神道), a name actually derived in the 19th century though its practice is from the 8th century AD, the Japanese believe that a kami (god) lives as a force of nature, and that things such as rocks or trees or mountains or rivers or rice paddies or waterfalls all have their own kami. Shinto actually means "the way of the Gods".

Nowadays, Shinto relates to the kami who are enshrined within jinja (shrines)... and always have torii (gateway) before their entrance. The image above is of a torii.

What does a kami look like? Maybe like a human... maybe like an animal. It's not really important to the people of Japan. It is vague... just like what they do for people. It's just a form of respect to nature.

That all has nothing to do with anything, but despite Japan's non-desire to define a kami, it still has a defined ritual and process for the dead... at least until modern times.

Back in the old days, a corpse was feared. Yes, there was respect for the dead body of a friend or family member, but there was a greater fear that the spirit was going to be trouble for the living.

As such, shinto purification rites had to be performed on a corpse, as well as the home it was kept in, not to mention the place where the death occurred.

Part of the reason for purifying the corpse was to help the spirit move onto the next stage of its journey. They other was to ensure it wouldn't try to stick around and kill the living.

Now that's superstitious.

"Grandma's dead..."
"Oh crap! Now she's an evil spirit! Is the dog levitating?"

I jest, but the example is sound.

Now, with the Buddhism, which originated in India but came to Japan from China in the 6th Century, the proper care of a dead body, or rather its vengeful spirit was undertaken.

Now... in order for a spirit to not become an avenging ghoul, Buddhist ceremonies needed to take place to move the spirit along a journey that would soon enough make it a much respected ancestor - but only if you followed the proper Buddhist traditions. I smell financial gain for those doing the ceremonies!

I hate you all!

During these Buddhist rites, the newly deceased spirit (shirei) would eventually become a hotoke (a spirit that becomes enlightened - a Buddha). After 10 years, the hotoke would transform into a senzo (ancestor), and eventually into a kami and thus become a part of the natural area.

According to beliefs, the ancestral kami would always be a part of the land, and would work tirelessly to ensure the prosperity of its family for as long as the memory of the deceased was maintained. If its memory was forgotten, the spirit was then treated as though it was part of a kami collective for the family - but perhaps it would no have to work as hard.

And, just so you know, for those people who died and had no relatives to mourn for them or to pray to them or died a violent death, these spirits became muenbotoke  - the Buddhas of no affiliation - and these are the spirits that people truly feared as perhaps taking the living to task. These muenbotoke are the basis for all of the ghost stories.

That's the five-yen version of the old and ancient view of death and ghosts et al of Japan.

Andrew Joseph  

Tokyo Architecture In LEGO

I have no idea who sent me these pictures of LEGO constructs, but they certainly are awesome.

I did do a lot of research on them, however, because I do recognize the architecture (I like architecture).

Constructed entirely of LEGO, the top photo is of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building also known as Tokyo City Hall (東京都庁舎 Tōkyō-to Chōsha).

To show you the type of accuracy involved, here's the real building below:

Markus Leupold-Löwenthal took this photo in 2005 of the real building.
Pretty freaking awesome LEGO build, eh? 

The real building is situated in the Shinjuku district Tokyo and between 1991 to 2006 was the tallest building in the city, coming in at a height of 243 meters (799 feet).

Below, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building beside the Tokyo Tower - also in LEGO!

You can see how big the the models are!

Tokyo Tower (left) and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (right) made out of LEGO building blocks.

The real Tokyo Tower (東京タワー Tōkyō tawā) was built in 1958 and stands an impressive 333 meters (1,091 feet) high and was, until recently the tallest structure in Japan (now the Tokyo Skytree that opened up earlier this month) (I'll get to it!). Located in Shibuya Park, Minato district of Tokyo, this Eiffel Tower look-alike is a communications and observation tower.

Here's a photo of the real Tokyo Tower for comparison purposes.

Regular readers know I love constructing things out of LEGO with my six-year-old son, Hudson - though I must admit I have my own building agenda.

My deal is feudal Japan. 

I have two projects on the go right now and am awaiting the time to photograph one of them (Japanese castle), and am awaiting the proper inspiration on how I am populating the other (temple atop mountain).

Other plans include a samurai duel a la The Seven Samurai, and building a siege weapon - Japanese style and then having it attack something.

That's all for now... I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Andrew Joseph    

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sannen-zaka - A Walk Down Memory Lane

The photo above is a part of Kyoto-shi (Kyoto City) in Kyoto-ken (Kyoto Prefecture) in Japan. This section of town is known as Sannen-zaka, which translates to 'three-year hill'.

The street has been restored to the glory of two hundred years previous, and aside from the style of dress and the excessive electrical lines above, one does get the feeling of being a wandering ronin (masterless samurai) looking to purchase a fine meal at a small inn and hopefully find a job that will allow him to stay a while longer in the city.

Along with the nearby Ninen-zaka (two year hill), the street is named after when the roads were laid out when the Imperial City of Kyoto was first built in and around the 8th century AD.

Both streets are laid out with old style wooden buildings featuring homes, traditional shops, tourist shops (of course) and restaurants.  

In the photo above that I took in 1993 during Golden Week, you can tell that it had rained earlier that morning - what with the slick street and the washed out sky. Of course it rained. I am the Ame Otoko (Rain Man), and it always rains when I travel in Japan.

My traveling companion for this week-long trip was the foxy Trisha Pepper, who spoke Japanese fluently (thank god - a trip upon which I didn't get lost!!!), and she had red hair. Two out of three for me! Bigger boobs was the missing third.

I kid. I don't really care about boobs.

You were expecting a follow-up joke, weren't you? I can be serious sometimes. 

Trisha was one of the smartest people I ever met in Japan (excluding maybe Kristine, Noboko and Junko - a 4-way tie!). That statement will upset my buddy Matthew, so let me rephrase it to say the 'smartest woman'.

She also had a wicked sense of humor, that sadly was better than my own. No. I did not sleep with her. She had a boyfriend back home, and as far as I was concerned, she remained faithful. Damn right I would have slept with her if given half a chance. Crazy chick could hold her alcohol, too! You will meet Trisha soon enough.

For those of you who may not know, Kyoto translates to 'capital city' and was indeed once the imperial capital of Japan. Now with 1.5 million people, 1,000 temples and better weather now that I have left, Kyoto is the capital of the same-named prefecture.

By the way: Kyo-to... To-kyo...  it was done for a reason...

Andrew Joseph

And yes... the photo belongs to Andrew Joseph. For non-commercial purposes, anyone may use it if you note that I am the photographer.

As you may have noticed, I completely changed the look of this blog. It looks slick, doesn't it. If you are having a difficult time navigating it, so am I. If it wasn't for me leaving my You Know What I Hate blog as it was, I would not be able to get into the damn blog to add new article - in fact... I wouldn't even be able to change it back to the old version (if I wanted to), because the buttons I have that allow me to do that are not showing up. I can still get around this and my other two blogs - How To Survive Women is also graced with a new look - but it ain't easy. Oh the suffering I do for my art! 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Short Story On Nintendo's Mario

As promised in the last blog entry, here is my tribute to Miyamoto Shigeru (surname first), the man who created Donkey Kong and thus the whole Mario World series of Nintendo video games everyone loves - though one of my all-time favorites was Donkey Kong Country for the Nintendo 64  - I loved playing it more than any Mario game. Still... Mario did first appear in the arcade game Donkey Kong
My homage is a short story I wrote back in 1991 or 1992. I call it... 
Hey, wotsah op? Thees eez Mario. Ya, that'sa right - the guy froma the videoh games. Anyhow, theesa guy froma the paypa he come ana aska me fora my story. Mamma mia! Ifa people awantta know, I'lla tell it.
            It wuz abouta twenny-fiveah years ago when I wuzza mindinga my owna bizzness, "Mario's Construction", that was notta ever, evena remotely connected to the Maffiosa or my cuzin, Tony. I swear ona my mamma's grave. Godda rest her soul. Now, wherea wuz I? Oh yah - I hadda one of Don Francesco's new buildings going op when alluva sudden theesa stupido, smelly, uhgaly monkey he comma anda take my secretary onna toppa my building. I no like it, see. It'sa bad for bizness and besides - nobody makesa da monkey shines at my gal! (Don't tella my wife - she'll a kill me.)
            When I finally gotta my secretary back, I hadda stoppa the monkey. So, I blew op the building. He shoulda die, but no - he land onna his head, so he wasa okay. Fungoul.
            I hateah them stupido monkeys. After I brokah the building down, I gotta my ass sued. I couldinna take ita no moh, so I tooka the monkey to the Africa with me so I coulda capture hissa baby, too. Ha-ha. Of course, thata little runt bastard nearly killed me a few times - and he gotta his poppa back. So, I gotta my brother Luigi. He hateah da monekys, too. He used to be an organa grinder until hea found hisa partner wuza skimming offa da top.
            Together we set offa to catch them monkey bastards - but, somethinga happened! We seemed to slip into a messa alternate realities. I know thata phrase. I learn fromma my son, Guido's Micronaut dolls. He no likka the monkeys, too, but he say I wasa crazy in the head and shoulda leaveah da stupido monkey alone. He showa disarespect to hisa father, so I hadda his godfather speak to him. Thata fixed him. Ha.
            It's a strange place, thissa alternate world. There'sa dinosaurs anda dragons anda alla kinds of stoff. I know them monkeys izza hiding somewhere here - but the worrsa part is thata those damn Japanese controla the everything!! Hey! Iffa my cuzin Tony readsa this (sorry, hasa someone read it to him), he shouda bring somma heza family here to make the Japs show somma respect. Ha-ha-ha!!!
            Okay. I gotta go finda that stupido monkey - buta remember – unless your pasta needs something mor than a tomate, watchout! Thosa stupido musharooms messa you op real good. Fungoul.

Story by Andrew Joseph
Look, if the Japanese can create a beloved video game character that is so obviously Italian-looking, I can make him speak like an extra from a Chico Marx movie.   

Creator of Mario Bros. Gains Top Score For Humanities

For those of you who have ever played a Nintendo video game, chances are you've played a creation by one of the 'gods' of video game industry.

Miyamoto Shigeru, 59, created the now simplistic yet highly addictive Donkey Kong video game that would have bankrupted me if I hadn't figured out how to do the old quarter-on-a-string trick on the coin-operated games at arcades and local convenience stores.

Ahhhh... the countless hours spent staring at a screen leaping over barrels tossed by a big ape on top of a construction site, while my little Italian-American carpenter, Mario, tries to rescue the kidnapped blonde (Princess Peach) with the huge knockers. I was a lonely, teenager - I imagine her the way I want to imagine her. 

Born in Sonobe, Kyoto-ken in Japan, Miyamoto joined Nintendo in 1977 after studying industrial design.

Miyamoto took Donkey Kong and made the poor ape's antagonist a video game legend, first with Donkey Kong Junior involving the Ape's son trying to rescue his caged papa from Donkey from the evil Mario.

I figured Miyamoto killed the franchise with horrible third Mario-related game, Mario Bros., that now had Mario and his freshly introduced little brother Luigi as plumbers going down into the sewers.

Luckily Miyamoto helped bring Mario into everyone's homes when Nintendo brought out the Famicon video game system for the home  back in the 80s. He then created such stand-out games as the Zelda series, Star Fox, F-Zero... and apparently Wii Fit and Wii Music.

Anyhow, on May 23, 2012, Miyamoto was presented with Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize for his role in revolutionizing the video game industry. Actually, the prize is a communications and humanities award, and the award's committee honored him for: "excluding violence from his creations" and turning video games into "a medium capable of bringing people together regardless of sex, age or social or cultural status."

Says Miyamoto, "I will continue my efforts so that video games will continuously be able to offer fun and joy to people of all generations all around the world."

The selection jury adds in a statement: "With these creations, he has converted the video game into a social revolution and has managed to popularize it among a sector of the population that had not previously accessed this kind of entertainment.

"Noted for excluding violence from his creations, Miyamoto has revolutionized the industry."

This comment about a lack of violence in his creations is a bit of a stretch if one has only ever played the Wii games or the Super Mario World series... Star Fox involves shooting the crap out of other spacecraft; Zelda is killing things all the time even though he plays a calming ocarina - he has a sword for god's sake! He kills people with his sword! F-Zero was a race car game series - and even though I haven't played it in 15 years, I'm pretty sure I got to run or blast other cars off the road. Heck - have you ever played a Mario race game? You are expected to cheat to win... blasting opponents, dropping oil slicks... and look at the original Donkey Kong... collapsed buildings... Donkey Kong Jr. has Mario taunting and teasing a young ape with the capture of his dad... and dude... if you've ever played a Mario World game, you know that when you eat a mushroom it messes with you giving you a PCP high.

Whatever. His creations have created a lot of fun for kids and adults alike...

The Prince of Asturias Prize comes with an award of 50,000 gold tokens (E50,000 or Cdn/US $64,000).

As an added bonus, eight hours after publishing this, I shall post my homage to Miyamoto with a short story I wrote about 20 years ago while living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. You lucky, lucky bastards.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 25, 2012

Osaka Government Survey Finds 110 City Workers With Tattoos

When you look at the headline, the response of people not living in Japan is BFD (big effin' deal).

But, unfortunately, discovering that 110 of the City of Osaka's employees have tattoos is a cause for alarm for anyone who believes in social freedoms. 

Check out this story I wrote a couple of weeks ago HERE about the mayor's plan to send out a survey requesting its 34,000 employees (not including teachers) if they had tattoos and to indicate on the front and backside of a drawing of a human body just where such markings are located. 

Well... despite no legal obligation to do so, the employees, like good little sheep, filled out the surveys. 

Apparently the Japanese do not mind hiding a lie, but will not actually lie. Some 73 members of the Osaka Environment Bureau, 15 from the Transportation Bureau and seven (7) from the Public Works Bureau, all admitted in the survey (with their names on it) that they did indeed possess ink. 

What are those bureaus? Essentially it means that a lot of people involved in sanitation or subway operations have tattoos.

Why does the government of Osaka want to know? Well, thanks to the honesty, it is going to set up some rules for the workers, specifically the tattooed ones where employees are not allowed to expose their tattoos during work hours.

The City has unofficially said it will consider relocating tattooed workers. By this, Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife assumes they mean employees who deal more often with the public will no longer be allowed to deal with the public. 

What's the big deal about having a tattoo? While I do not have one and don't see the need to permanently mark myself up artistically - what would I put on myself, my brother does have a few (but don't tell our dad!), an uncle, too, my wife and brother-in-law have one, more than a few lovers, one-night stands et al of mine have them, co-workers have them - and good for them. Love and do as you will. It's not for me, but I can certainly appreciate a good quality piece of art - especially when it means something to the person. 

But in Japan - having a tattoo meant you were in the Yakuza. A gentleman's business club, if you will. Screw the fact that it is now 2012 and tattoos are a form of self-expression and art (and always have been). Young people not even remotely connected to the Yakuza have tattoos.

The problem isn't so much that the government of Osaka is afraid of the tattoos... it's that its constituents might be. 

To remove the possibility that the average non-tattooed citizen might think the city is overrun by the Yakuza, the city of Osaka  - and its mayor especially - have overreacted.   

Sad but true. 

This Hello Kitty tattoo is frightening, isn't it? Not.
Files by Andrew Joseph

Japan Requests U.S. Remove Comfort Woman Memorial

I recently read a story about how two teams of Japanese officials (no mention was made as to what or who they officially represented) travelled to New York City to ask government officials (again, no idea what department) to remove a plaque remembering Korean comfort women used by the Japanese military during WWII.

Situated outside a public library in Palisades Park (Hey! Isn't Palisades Park in New Jersey?!), the team of Japanese complainers stopped by twice this May to see about getting the 2010 memorial removed, for which Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife assumes is because it embarrasses Japan.

Japan should be embarrassed by this.

Yes, it should be embarrassed about its role in the heinous crime against women, but it should be equally as embarrassed that it should request that the memorial be removed.

Look... I know that statistically-speaking there may not be many of the victims or rapists still alive. But it was a horrible, horrible crime. A crime against humanity.

Canada, New Zealand and Australia utilize the term 'Lest We Forget' when we acknowledge the veteran soldiers who participated in wars to protect the rights of innocents. That's what we do.

Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.

The brass plaque on a stone block reads: "In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of imperial Japan. Known as 'comfort women', they endured human rights violations that no peoples should leave unrecognized. Let us never forget the horrors of crimes against humanity."

It was dedicated on October 23, 2010 there in Town of Palisades Park in the County of Bergen, New Jersey.

Yes... the stupid article I first read, did indeed get the State incorrect.  It is New Jersey!

Obviously, the Japanese attempt to stifle this expression of memorial was deemed distasteful to all non-Japanese involved.

Palisades Park, which has about 20,000 residents, has over half its residents being of Korean descent.

Back in December of 2011, the contentious comfort woman discussion was brought back into the arena after a bronze statue honoring the victims was erected in Seoul, South Korea.

The real contentious part was the decision to erect it across the street from the Japanese embassy there.


The statue of a seated teenaged Korean comfort girl has upset Japan, and says the statue contravenes  Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on the dignity of foreign missions.

Of course, South Korea does not call the statue a comfort woman memorial... it's officially called a Peace Memorial. It's a beautiful, sad piece of art.

The comfort memorial, I mean Peace Memorial in Seoul, South Korea.
 Now... at least since the issue of comfort women arose back in 1991, Japan has tried to make amends, as they have formally apologized, expressed remorse and responsibility and even offered to set up a Cdn/US $1-billion (~¥79,643,790,000) fund for the victims.

But Korea - or rather some Koreans - say that those actions just aren't good enough.

Apparently because the monies for the fund would be coming from the private sector, the surviving victims say 'no thanks' and want the Japanese government to foot the bill.

The main problem presented by Japan is that according to the 1965 treaties, Japan says it should be exempt from having to pay individual compensation for the stupid stuff it did while in its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 - 1945. As such, it also includes the issues of the Comfort Women even though it did not come to light until many years later.

You know what? While I know these women and their families suffered terribly, take the damn private money and spend it - while there is still time left to possibly enjoy it! Who really cares where the money is coming from! Take it and spend it on yourself, family, friends, charity - whatever. Why hold it up? It's been 67+ years! I'm not saying to forget - and maybe you don't even need to forgive - but please, don't let someone else's evil stop you from enjoying life! How does holding out hoping for money from the Government of Japan actually change the fact that these poor women were uses as sex slaves? Screw principle! Do something nice with the money! For others, if not yourself!

Sure... maybe it's not about the money. It's about punishing the Government of Japan. No problem... I see that, too. But that government is long since past. It's not even about the sins of the father any more... it's the sins of the grandfather.

Besides... do you really think Japan has an extra $1-billion lying around? I think not! The damn country is nearly broke!

Take the money! Turn an evil into something good.

So... my diatribe is over.

Korean Comfort Women
Back on May 1, 2012, according to a more reputable report I read, the first Japanese delegation to Palisades Park was led by the consul general Hiroki Shigeyuki (surname first) who acted nicely and presented his case as to why he was there.

On May 6, 2012, a second group arrived led by four members of the Japanese Parliament, who, let's just say, weren't all that nice. Group #2 were members of Japan's official opposition part, the Liberal Democratic Party.

While trying to convince the Palisades Park officials that the monument should be removed, these four idiots set a new bar for idiocy. They tried to convince the Americans that the comfort women were not forced to become sex slaves.

Oh my Buddah. Are you kidding me?

Palisades Park mayor James Rotundo says: “They said the comfort women were a lie, that they were set up by an outside agency, that they were women who were paid to come and take care of the troops.”

Continuing his report of the meeting, the mayor notes, “I said, ‘We’re not going to take it down, but thanks for coming.’”

Okay... after hearing about this, maybe Japan should make the Liberal Democratic Party contribute the $1-billion in reparations. Idiots.

Maybe they would feel differently if the rest of the world had no pity for the atomic bomb victims? Or tell them to suck it up, it wasn't that hot.

Japan, you have no right to ask anyone to remove anything in another country. The same with Seoul's cheeky memorial statue across the street from the embassy in South Korea. I guess they are still pissed off at you. 

Suck it up and move on. Hey... couldn't the private sector donate $1-billion to the gov't and then they could give it to the victims... but do it under the table?

I know, I know... no matter how dirty the secret, it will come out.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph