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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Andrew's Tale

Now it's my turn to share with Akiko. She's all bunny ears.
Simply put... I have been dating Noboko for about a month after wooing her for a few weeks. I only caught a break after HER students kept hammering at her that I was a really nice guy and that she and I would make a great couple. To those students at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) - you are good people and I hope you grew up the same way.
It's May 24, 1993, and I am talking with Akiko, an English teacher at one of my seven junior high schools here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.
Anyhow... then (in 1993) just as in 2012 - it's all about my ego. I don't believe I am God's gift to women, or anything stupid like that... but if I'm with a woman, I want t o be number one in her mind and heart, and sorry to say, that includes God and whatever version of God you want to believe in.  
Here's the gist of it. Because this is MY story, I don't recall the exact words like I did when Akiko told me her story HERE, but the following is a fair representation of our 'conversation'.
'Conversation' is in quotes because when I get ramped up, I talk a lot. No kidding eh? Does it come across in my writing, too?
I really do like Noboko - a lot. When I first saw her, I composed a poem - a Japanese haiku  - and walked over to her desk and gave it to her. I was smitten by that kitten. Unfortunately, she thought - based on my looks - that I was a slick hustler looking to bag as many women as possible. She knew me so well.
Still... with Noboko... I felt something grow - and not just between my legs. It was my heart. I'm unsure why having an enlarged heart is considered good in  love, but my heart was huge. 
I feel like a substitute. It really does piss me off. I'm not second best to anybody and I don't ever want to be considered like that.
I just don't understand Noboko. How can she say such glowing things about me, that I can do anything I want because "You are great!" and then treat me so casually when she finds out she may have to acquiesce to an arranged marriage?
Arranged marriage? Really?
I'm the guy with the Indian background? Noboko is Japanese? Do they really have arranged marriages?
Maybe... It's because she's an old maid at the age of 28-years of age. I know... I can't believe I wrote that either... but in Japan, at this time, it's true.
What kills me is that Noboko in an effort to avoid the arranged marriage told me that a few days ago she actually phoned up her old boyfriend.
Said old boyfriend had asked her to marry him last year, but she rejected him then, and then broke up with him because she could not see herself married to him.
Now... she had just called him up to try and shame him into accepting her now by using the old pity ploy... like if you don't marry me, I'll have to marry some stranger in an arranged marriage!
To her old boyfriend, it's like: "Save me O Knight! I am a lovely maiden in danger of being wed to an evil dragon to save the face of the village (her parents)."
So... for me... what hurt more than hurt itself is that she never even considered me to get her out of this arranged marriage.
Number one, her parents don't even know she is dating and screwing the hell out of me on an a daily basis. Maybe I'm doing a lot of screwing the hell out of her on a daily basis, but you know what I mean.
I know we've only been a couple for a few weeks, but does that mean she has so little faith in me that she wouldn't even consider me as an out from that arranged marriage? Before this, I would have married her in an enlarged heartbeat!
But here's what really gets me... she actually had the gall to call me up - crying AFTER her ex-boyfriend spurned her call for help.
"What should I do? she wails.
Holy crap. Really? I know there's a language barrier, but with Noboko, she spoke better English than I did. She was smart, strong (hard-headed is what I mean), charming, witty, sexy, drop-dead gorgeous and like very much what I did to her.
Anyhow... as I tell my story to Akiko, I'm getting angrier and angrier - and I'm sure no one here has ever seem me like this.
Akiko places a hand on my hand, and immediately I shut the hell up. Akiko is really cute - but is still not in the same league as Noboko.
She tells me I should phone up Noboko and talk to her.
Hey - didn't I give Akiko that same advice? Oh well... what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
I tell Akiko through gritted teeth that I'll talk to Noboko, but I sure as hell won't call her. I don't even know if I should broach the subject with her, as I know she'll cry.
Yes... I am pissed off at Noboko, and she doesn't have a clue that I am. I feel like such a woman. I know, that's sexist. But is it sexist if it's true, I ask you? Every heterosexual guy knows exactly what I mean.
So... should Noboko call me, should I even tell her I'm angry because I don't want her to cry - but really, I'll go crazy if I don't find out why she didn't come to me FIRST and at least tell me what was going on.

That's all for now.
In the next blog.... the conclusion to Andrew's tale AND Akiko's tale. Should they both say screw the current boyfriend Frank and girlfriend Noboko and just screw each other's brains out like Andrew is considering? But no... that would be meaningless sex. Could I dare do that (this week)?
Andrew Joseph
PS: In the photo above of Noboko and myself, I am wearing the same watch I have on today and - oh! What's that on her right hand? The hand that in Asian countries denotes a wedding or engagement ring? I did okay back then. 

Akiko's Tale

Akiko is an English teacher at one of my junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan - back in 1993.
It's May 24, and the two of us are sitting in the quiet teacher's lounge at this small school chatting.
Akiko is in her mid-20s, cute as a bunny with large soft brown eye and an inquisitive round-ended nose, about 5'-3", slim but packing a body that made me immediately stand-up and take notice.
She joined this school a few weeks ago at the beginning of the school year and I don't know her very well.
Anyhow, she tells me she thinks she met my girlfriend from Nozaki Junior High School. That means she knows she did.
Before I tell her about my girlfriend problems, she opens up and tells me all about her boyfriend problems.
It was her birthday on Saturday (it's now Monday) and her boyfriend in Tennessee in the US sent her a card and a set of earrings. But... she was worried.
Why? I asked.
The card used the words 'sweetheart' on it instead of the more usual 'love'.
She though the words 'sweetheart' carried less strength than the word 'love', as in 'my love'.
I wasn't going to get into an argument over schematics, but I told her that 'sweetheart' is still a term of endearment. 
She looked at me with those big brown eyes and stared.
I  continued: "That means you can use 'sweetheart' to anybody you like or love."
"Oh!" she said, but still wasn't satisfied.
She said she had met him (no name was given) about one-and-a-half years ago while studying there for six months. He had even given her a 'promise' ring.
I have never understood those types of rings and feel it's a scam by the jewelry companies, sort of like it's expected for a man to now be able to give his wife a diamond ring on their 10th anniversary to "tell her you'd marry her all over again."
It's like if you don't, you're a schmuck and her mother was correct all along about you being a bum who would never amount to much.
Akiko says Frank (there's the name!) has some problems back in the US. She's vague. Immediately my mind hits upon either he has no job or he's in trouble with the law.
My over-active imagination plots out that he's a bank robber on the run after his gun accidentally went off during a struggle with the bank security guard - that happened over six months ago when he needed to buy her that promise ring.
I glance over at her lithe hands and see the absence of a ring.
I was about to ask why, but I realize that the appearance of a ring on her finger would cause her more questions to answer from her family, friends and co-workers and students. It would cause her all sorts of grief at being 1,000 miles away, making her tears well up in her big brown eyes and plop down her alabaster cheeks.
The easy answer, since she is worried about their relationship, is the one I suggest  - to call up Frank and confront him with any doubts she may have of his loyalty to her.
Whoops! Mistake! Seems as though she already has!
On Sunday morning (Japan time), she called Frank in Tennessee. There's a 14-hour time difference (she says), so it was now 6PM on a Saturday night in the US. Unsurprisingly he wasn't home. (Uh... that's unsurprising to me).
Frank lives with his grandmother, which reminded me of that story about Little Red Riding Hood... only Frank was the Hood. Criminal, that is.
Akiko had phoned, and got Granny on the line. She told her that Frank had gone shopping with his friends. At the time, Akiko had simply said "Oh." and "Please tell him to call me when he comes back."
Monday morning and he still hadn't called.
Akiko looked at me and asked: "Do men go shopping with other men?"
I thought about it and said "Yeah, sure... why not?"
"At night on a Saturday?"
Hmmm. She had me there. Men go shopping on a Saturday night at the meat market looking for women to screw. Also going against poor Frank was that he was from Tennessee.
I just can't picture a redneck from Tennessee going shopping with other men on a Saturday night. It beats me why I pictured him as a red-neck.
Maybe because in the one and only time I was in Tennessee, I witnessed a knife fight in a McDonald's parking lot between a group of female Black teenagers who were fighting over some boy.
Whatever. Anyhow... a group of White rednecks pulled into the parking lot in their red pick-up truck. How do I know they were rednecks? Well, like I said, they were driving a pick-up truck. It also had a US Confederate flag stuck in the back window. And while all of that isn't really enough, what convinced me was the bumper sticker that red in large letters "True Blue American" with a 1/2 Rebel flag and 1/2 US flag and a second bumper sticker that read: "Let's kill'em all and let God sort'em out."
And if that's not enough for you, the driver steps down out of his cab and says: "Look at them dumb niggers. Always 'fugging' trying to kill each other! Iffin they keep it up, they'll ruin all of our fun!" And then he laughed. His friends joined in too.
It's amazing how an incident like that soured my impression of an entire State of people.
Back to Akiko.
So Frank went 'shopping' with his male friends.
"Why would he do that?" she asked me.
"What... do you think he's seeing another woman?"
She nods.
"Give the guy a break!" I yell a little too loudly. "I don't know him, and maybe it's true. But if you really love him, you've got to trust him! You love him, don't you?"
If her emphatic 'yes' wasn't enough, the tear welling up in her right eye certainly was.
I gave her a Kleenax (tissue) that I dug out of my pant pocket. I've been suffering from 'hana mizu' (literally 'nose water') for the past 10 days - and it's fortunate that I hand her a clean one which she eyes suspiciously before reluctantly accepting it to daub the corner of her eyes.
"Okay," I said. "So relax then. Give him a chance. Perhaps he did go shopping with his male friends. Or maybe his grandmother made a mistake about the shopping and friends part. Maybe he went drinking with the boys and was too drunk to call your or didn't get the message. Who knows?
"Well," she said. "I called him again last night (Sunday morning Frank's time), and his grandmother said he had gone to work.
Hmmm... so it did sound like the guy was ducking her a little. I was feeling her doubt now, but maybe he did have to go to work.
At least I know he has a job!
Maybe he's robbing banks. That would be neat - a 'tumbler's guy'. Or maybe not.
I tell her to give him a break and to call him when she gets back home tonight.
Okay... that's all for now. I'll tell you the same tale of woe I told Akiko about my girlfriend Noboko. And then in a third blog, we'll conclude with the conclusion.
Yes... the story you have read is 100% true. I may indeed have an over-active imagination regarding things, but the dialogue is pretty much bang-on. I tend to recall the weirdest things, but have no idea what I had for dinner last night. Wow... really. What the hell did I eat? See... not important! Relationship stuff - important!

Andrew Joseph

Japan Wins Silver In Gymnastics Amid Controversy

At the 2012 London Olympics on Monday, Japan won the silver in the men's team gymnastics... pretty much where they were expected to be.. only this time it was won amid some controversy.

After three-time world-champion Uchimura Kohei (surname first) was performing on the last event - the pommel horse, Uchimura needed only 14 points to ensure Japan of the Silver Medal - China having already clinched the Gold.

After almost completing a flawless routine, Uchimura was supposed to do a handstand on his dismount, but appeared to slip and fall sideways, recovering enough to land on his feet.

Check out the photo above... does that look like a good dismount? 

However, his failure to complete the handstand pretty much wiped out his performance and took Japan completely out of the medals to fourth place. The judges had awarded him a 5.4 for difficulty and an overall score of 13.466.

China - Gold
Great Britain - Silver
Ukraine - Bronze.
Japan - 4th place participant's ribbon.

The hometown crowd went wild with Princes William and Harry in attendance applauding the unlikely outcome that had Great Britain grab a Silver! And the Ukraine was also celebrating their unlikely Bronze.

But then... Japan's coaches launched themselves at the judges table to appeal claiming that his dismount should have been worth more points - that he actually did complete the handstand.

After five-minutes and six judges clustered around a monitor watching the dismount frame by frame, the judges agreed with the coaches and gave Uchimura an added seven-tenths for his dismount. This addition bumped Japan up to the silver!

Final Results:
China - Gold
Japan - Silver
Great Britain - Bronze
Ukraine - Robbed.

"At the very beginning it was fourth for Japan so I couldn't say anything. I couldn't think anything," a somber Uchimura said. "I was thinking, 'It's fourth, it's fourth.' Even after it was changed, I was not too happy."

Uchimura should be pretty damned happy. There is no way he should have received consideration for difficulty and definitely should not have got the point boost for failing to do a dismount!

Look at that photo above again! Uchimura was out of control. He was upset immediately following the event because he knew he had cost Japan a medal... he knew he had blown it.   

If Uchimura did have his arms extended straight as in a handstand, it was actually done sideways as he was already in the process of pushing himself away from the pommel horse to ensure he didn't brain himself as he slipped trying to do the handstand!

There is no other way to look at that video and think he performed the dismount. The initial result should have been preserved. Japan should have been out of the medals, and the Ukraine should have one more.

This is why I hate sports where you have to be judged! Don;t get me wrong - I think gymnists are amazing athletes... but watching Great Britain and poor, poor Ukraine get jobbed was a horrible miscarriage.

Japan got the silver - deserves it because their appeal was upheld... but that doesn't mean it was deserved.

Andrew Joseph


Japanese Women And Foreign Men

It's true that many Japanese men hate foreign men because we have the eye of the Japanese woman.

There are many reasons for Japanese women wanting to be with the foreign man - at least initially.

There is the perception that the foreigner male is less chauvinistic than his Japanese male counterpart. That is subjective. I know plenty of men who have a snout and piggy ears who are not Japanese. But... if I were to at least examine the way things were 20 years ago in Japan - holy crap, man! Japan was maybe 30 or 40 years behind the times. Maybe more.

Best example: Junior high school. Female teachers are sitting in the teacher's lounge after school working, grading tests, et al. The men are discussing sumo results from the past event. I walk in, bow to everyone and join the men in the sumo chat. Someone notices I do not have a o-cha (green tea) in my hand, and bellows for a female teacher to get one for me and for all of the other male teachers. Us men are two feet away from the tea trays, but the women get up en masse and make us all o-cha. Never have I been more embarrassed to be a man, and perhaps the second time I have been proud to be a non-Japanese man. The first was when I tried to squeeze into a Japanese condom and had it fly off and nearly hit my Japanese woman date du jour in the forehead. 

That might be another reason why Japanese women want a foreign man as a boyfriend... and why MAYBE Japanese men hate foreign men. Penis envy. No idea. I never actually asked about that, because those that hated foreigner men weren't the type I wanted to talk to.

I should actually state that I NEVER actually came up to any Japanese people who expressed a dislike for foreign men, and I only state this because I have read a few other blogs were some Japanese men have a hard-on against foreign men. I said 'against' not 'for' - though that exists too.

Another reason - and I'm only going on what the married female friends of mine confided to me... many Japanese women want more out of life than what a Japanese man can provide them... they do not want to marry a man who is more committed to his company work than the spousal company he keeps.

As such... in my next blog, I would like to present a conversation I had with my female, Japanese English teacher friend Akiko. It involves me, the foreign guy and his Japanese girlfriend, and a Japanese woman and her foreign boyfriend. 

No... Akiko and I are just friends... although if she wanted to...

Until next time
Andrew Joseph
PS: In the photo above that I have used at least twice previously in the  past three years, is one I took showing a Western condom and a Japanese condom (right) that I blew up as balloons merely for the photo op. Despite being of Indian descent  - who according to THIS BLOG - and am supposed to be small, all I can say is that I am proud to be an above-average Canadian.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Japanese Rice Is Better Than You

One of the many things I have observed about the Japanese, is that they eat rice with damn near every meal of the day.

While it is possible that rice may not be a part of breakfast except in the form of Rice Krispies, more often than not, left-over rice from dinner is used much like we dumb-ass westerners use bread, toast or a bagel for breakfast.

Lunch - there's rice again... and maybe we non-Japanese are having a sandwich. Maybe.

Dinner - rice for the Japanese... no matter what, it's there. For us westerners... maybe we have rice. Maybe we have yams, sweet potato, noodles or some other starch - but we mix it up. Bread may be involved, but it's not a given.

But in Japan, it's rice two to three times a day, seven days a week, every single day of the month, and every month of the year and every single year of your life until you die urinating in a rice field.

I asked various Japanese people - men, women, kids of various ages, adults of various ages - and every single person refused to waver saying "No." implying they were not bored of eating rice.

"Japanese rice is oishii" (tasty) they say. Sure... why not. I still think it depends on how it's prepared, but sure, Japanese rice is pretty good - though I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Japanese rice, California rice, Indian rice, Chinese rice, various long- and short-grained rices, sticky and non-sticky rices, wild rices and more. But I'm betting a four-year-old Japanese kid could tell you which rice was oishii, and therefore Japanese.  

So... I asked everybody: Why do you not get bored eating Japanese rice everyday?

The answer (to a T): "I'm Japanese."

Oh... of course. It's the answer to the Universal Riddle.

You do what you gotta do.

Itadakimasu! Let's eat!
Andrew Joseph

Japanese Men Defeat Morocco In Soccer - Move to Quarterfinals

Japan's men's soccer team defeated Morocco 1-0 yesterday in it's second game of the Olympic round-robin, giving it 6 points from two wins in two matches.

Story HERE.

In a greater surprise, Spain was ousted from the tourney after losing to Honduras 1-0 - it's second straight defeat after losing it's opening match to Japan. Honduras also moves into the Quarterfinals with 4-points and second-place in the group - that result is HERE. Honduras had previously tied Morocco 2-2 in its first match.

Andrew Joseph

One Evening In The Bar - #1

On a Wednesday night, May 13, 1992 to be exact, at the high-class 4C bar about a three-minute stagger from my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken in Japan, Matthew and I were sitting around hoisting a few drinks.

The two of us junior high school assistant English teachers are quite well known in our adopted city - in a good way.

Matthew is the nice, quite one, and I'm the nice, loud one. But the key word is 'nice'.

As the loud one, my sense of humor tends to get spit out more often. Matthew has a wicked sense of humor - but his problem (if it is a problem) is that he mulls it over a second or two longer in his head to determine if the witticism he is about to spout is appropriate.

Me? I have no such problem, and thus it often appears as though I've got the quicker wit. Quicker - yes. Appropriate - maybe. Better - undetermined.

We were talking to a pretty young 20-something at the bar. She was using some decent, if not broken English on us - and to be honest, while Matthew has no problem in conversing in Japanese, I only know enough of the language to get my face slapped nine out of 10 times... but let me tell ya... that tenth time - it's magic!

Anyhow, she says in broken English: "I have to drive my home now."

"Oh really?" I said already grinning. "Do you have power sofa?"

She looked at me like I was from another country. Matthew was grinning and trying to bite his upper lip.

I continued (poor girl): "Have you ever got so drunk that you can't drive your home and have to sleep in the garage?"

She looked at me funnily - not in that ha-ha way, but funnily in that I-had-just-raped-her-goldfish kind of way.

I stood up, bowed deeply and bid her goodnight - in Japanese!

Matthew who was grinning from ear to ear also said goodnight in Japanese - "Oyasuminasai" and gave her the nod.

As the glass door closed behind her great looking butt, Matthew tried in vain to not look at me, but I said - "Wait.... " and held up my index finger.

I wanted to hear the door downstairs open and close... there it is!

"Power sofa!" laughed Matthew who wisely had nothing in his mouth.

We laughed our asses off as we both completely lost it.

Now... I do want to explain that we are not laughing at that poor young woman. We are laughing at how I turned a completely innocent sentence fragment into something so idiotic.

I'm such a dick, sometimes.... but dammit! You never give a joker such a straight line! 

Andrew Joseph
PS - Back then, I had never heard of anyone driving their sofas (as in the photo above)... so perhaps this young Japanese woman had the last laugh.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why My Life Sometimes Sucked In Japan

He'd been living with her for a month before he worked up the nerve to ask her out. Fantasy was his best friend. He'd screwed her 100 times before he'd ever touched her hand.


He whispers into his cupped hand and says "I love you."
He places the hand up to her ear and asks, "Can you hear it?"
He then puts his hand in hers, "Can you feel it? Every time I a touch your hand, I'm telling you I love you. For better, for poorer, through sickness and in health, I will always love you."
He looked into her deep brown eyes and felt as though he could lose himself in her.
He didn't realize he already had.
He thought, but did not speak, "Will you marry me?"


He sat on his balcony ledge wearing nothing but a pair of blue and grey striped shorts, his Ray Bans, and a two-day growth of beard.
Although the sun was smiling, he was not.
He knew it was mean and spiteful, but it was the only way he could end it.
She had ended it six weeks ago.
He was just too blind to see the writing on the wall.
He'd have to get his eyes checked soon, he muttered to the skylark doing a figure eight in the blue sky in front of him.
"A figure eight. Hunh,' he thought. "More like infinity."
That was how much he loved her, and now he was reduced to being mean and ruthless.
"I still love her or else I wouldn't feel so guilty."
The self-flagellation went on for hours and hours, and only stopped when he wen to bed.
And then the nightmares began.
His mind raced over their relationship. Fast. Furious. Love. Hate? No... never hate. At least not on his part. He remembered the saying his father's spiritualist said of him: Things are always black or white - never grey."
He never understood that as fully as he did now.
For some reason he fathomed that those who wait too long to find love often dove into it too quickly the first time it presents itself.
In his case, it led to drowning.
Drowning in those luxurious brown eyes.
He longed to kiss her. To just hold her hand once more.
Sighing, he knew she'd never allow that to happen again.
You can only ride the roller coaster so many times before you get either sick or bored.
Then you want to try the Tilt-o-Whirl.
He wondered why man doth torture himself so.
Upon rides that take you to the brink of nauseous excitement and then stop just as you started to get used to it.
Just like love.

By Andrew Joseph
The above was written on April 29, 1992 on my balcony in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. I recently found a little red book that I carted around with me upon which I jotted down notes, thoughts, concepts, story ideas. There was no title for what I wrote, but I think what is written above is apt. The story is in three parts... each describing how I felt at particular points in a single relationship.
In this case, it was coming up to my second year in Japan, and my sometime girlfriend Ashley was going back to the U.S., having had enough of me and Japan, and looking forward to starting her real life.
She was the first woman I believe I ever fell in love with, though certainly not the last. The sentiments expressed that day over 20 years ago feel as real now, as they did then. I was a late bloomer when it came to women, having not even had my first date until I was 22, and my first girlfriend a few months later. I just couldn't find a woman who actually understood me.... and so... four years later in Japan... I found myself diving into the dating pool and being pulled under by the very person I had hoped would rescue me. It seems as though every person I dated was weak in some way... needing me to rescue them, when I always thought it was me who needed rescuing.
Here's a sobering thought: I think I only ever fell in love with one strong woman whom I first met in a pool of tears.  

Any how... being young and emotionally-challenged in Japan, I let my emotions cry havoc and I fear I did not always feel happy in Japan. That's my fault, of course. One shouldn't let one's emotions get the best of them - if possible - but since I am not clinically affected emotionally, I should have been better able to drag my morose ass out of the deep-end. Faster.
My only saving grace, however, was that my friends in Japan never let me wallow in despair. Or maybe it was also true to say that Japan never let me wallow in pity.
I guess I owe Japan.    


English And Japanese Comprehension #1

This is a true story. I know, because it happened to me.

One of the first times I ever traveled by myself on the JR (Japan Rail) train line, it was from Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno Train station) to Tokyo. I was what i would consider still newly arrived in Japan, and I had not yet developed a sense that I was useless in getting about in this country.

The year, 1990... September... I had arrived in Japan about five weeks earlier. in that period, I had been lost in Tokyo - so lost in fact that there was no longer any neon light visible where I was. I had also gotten lost in the rice fields near my apartment, spending some three hours sweltering in the hot mid-day heat.

In the months and years ahead, there would be many other such lost encounters.

Despite my nervousness, I needed to purchase a ticket at the ticket booth in Nishinasuno station. I had seen my buddy Matthew, and my girlfriend Ashley do this in the weeks past, but they had always done it for me. This time... I was on my own.

I went up to the JR ticket counter and told him in English - because I had very few Japanese words - that I wanted to buy: "One ticket to Tokyo," and held up one finger while sliding a ¥10,000 bill (Cdn/US $127.85).

The JR man gave me two tickets and began to fish about for the change.

Before the change was handed back, I said (in English): "No, no... one ticket for Tokyo."

Realizing his mistake, the JR man gave me four tickets.

Fortunately there was a Japanese man standing behind me.

Unfortunately, the Japanese man behind me wanted to help.

He stood beside me and while looking for the right Japanese words, scratched his head and says (in Japanese): "E-to" (pronounced eh-toe) which in English translates into: "Well..."

Before either of us could say anything, the JR ticket man gave us an additional four tickets, so that I now had a total of eight tickets.

The helpful Japanese man and I stare at each other and the tickets in my hand and start laughing.

After some quick explanations by the helpful man to the JR ticket man, the JR ticket man finally has it all figured out. Seeing me - the foreigner - he had been wanting to try out his English comprehension.

I'm betting that poor JR man will never again try to show off his English comprehension again... especially not on the job.

Three years later... I had that same JR ticket man in a small English conversation class. He remembered me (of course) and reminded me of how embarrassed he was that day.

After class, I bought us eight beers and used my Japanese to to do it.

Kanpai (Cheers)
Andoryu -sensei (Andrew teacher)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swedish Women Tie Japanese Women Up - in Soccer

Japan's woman's soccer team  did not get the result it wanted, now having to live with a 0-0 draw versus Sweden in its second game at the 2012 London Olympics.

The result has the Swedes and Japan tied in points with 4 apiece, but Sweden is actually ahead based on goal differential.

In their same bracket, winless Canada and South Africa will play later this afternoon.

Japan's next game is against South Africa, while the Swedes will play Canada.

A decent write-up of the Sweden-Japan match can be found via the San Francisco Chronicle HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Toyota Reaches 200 Million Cars After 77 Years

That headline pretty much sums up the story.

As far as Japanese cars go, my family has owned a Nissan Stanza, Mazda 323, two Toyota Camry wagons, and a Mazda Tribute (my current vehicle). I did ride a Suzuki bike for a week in Japan before my office told me not to, as it was obvious I was going to kill myself! And no Honda! WTF?! Soon, perhaps.

Anyhow, read this article in Motor Trend magazine courtesy of a heads up from Matthew who must spend an awful lot of time finding stories for me!

This reminds me of a joke I saw in a movie maybe 30 years ago!: They Call Me Bruce?: "I was once run over by a Toyota. Oh what a feeling."

"Oh what a feeling" was a Toyota motto back in the late 70s early 80s.

Story is here: VROOM

Man, I have a good memory for useless information!

Here's a real Toyota commercial:

And... for kicks, here's a supposedly BANNED Toyota commercial that I once saw on TV somewhere:

Andrew Joseph

Tips For Newcomers To Japan

So... you've gone and done something incredibly stupid - you've left the comfort of your own home and have traveled all the way to Japan for fortune and glory.

Fortune and glory, kid? Fortune and glory?

Okay that last line was paraphrased from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.

Anyhow... welcome to Japan. Relax. You will have fun.

I arrived around this date in 1990 on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme fully expecting to do a year in Japan (in Ohtawara-shi [City of Ohtawara], Tochigi-ken [Tochigi Prefecture] and then head back to Toronto to work as a reporter for The Toronto Star newspaper.

Three years later, I left. A month later, I went back for a couple of months and then did not revisit Japan until about this time in 2009 when I began writing my blogs.

I had always lived at home, had never, ever done anything for myself - I couldn't cook, clean, do laundry, iron, sew a button, spoke English - but that's all... but I always carried a smile on my face whenever I stepped outside of my apartment, and the Japanese always had a smile for me.   

In Japan, I had many highs and many lows, but no matter what, it was always interesting, and because of that experience I have made quite a few friends, been laid more times than I ever should have, and now have a hobby that consumes me in writing stuff like this often two or three times a day.

Yes... I survived Japan, and so can you. Despite me being so long removed from there, the 'helpful' tips I am going to provide here should still be relevant.

Okay - let's go! There's no order... just the order I happened to write these things back in early 1993.
  • The Japanese are just like anyone else in the world. They have crappy, low-paying jobs, probably love their spouse, love their kids, work too damn hard, don't work hard enough, like to drink, want to party, probably shouldn't party, and are probably more interested in you than you are of them because you are the only foreigner around for them to talk to. Talk to them first. Say Konichi-wa (Co-nee-chee-wa). It means hello. 
  • Always remember to remove tissues from your pockets before you do laundry, unless you like white specks all over your clothing.
  • Never answer the telephone in Japanese by using any phrase other than "moshi-moishi" (hello - only used on the telephone!, not in person-to-person conversation!). It's pronounced 'Mo-she-Mo-she'. On the telephone, if someone thinks you can speak Japanese, they will speak Japanese. It's perfect;y acceptable for the first month or so (until you get more comfortable) to say "Moshi-moshi-hello".
  • Foreigners who have been here longer than you will have begun using a lot of Japanese in their English conversations. Do not be alarmed. They are showing off - accidentally. It used to piss the hell out of me, too because I wasn't very good at digging the lingo. Still, one of my best friends, Matthew used to do that all the time... then again, he learned more Japanese in his first week than I did in three years. 
  • Please try and eat the local food and then make-up your mind - rather than listening to other foreigners! Other AETs (Assistant English Teachers) are notoriously adept at following the uni-mind philosophies. My friend Jeff refused to eat Japanese food - ate all his meals at 7-11 and Dunkin Donuts... then he married a Japanese woman, so I'm sure he ate Japanese. You will hear rumors of something called natto. I may have been the only AET on my programme to eat it. I survived. I bought packs to eat as my dinner three times a week. It is fermented soy beans and is very, very good for you.
  • If your apartment does not already have drapes in your bedroom - get them. The sun rises at around 4AM! This is not an exaggeration.
  • If smoke from cigarettes bothers you - you are screwed. Now... this was the case 20 years ago... damn near everyone smoked. teachers could in the teacher's office. Doctors smoked in the hospital WHILE examining you... I am unsure if this still occurs.
  •  If you don't have a sense of humor like many AETs - don't panic. They only think they have a sense of humor. If you want to have a great time in Japan - develop a sense of humor... quickly. The Japanese love a good laugh (just like most people on this planet!).
  • Japan is expensive.
  • Japan is expensive (I know, I just said that), but if there is something you want to buy or do... just go for it. You only live once (maybe). What's the use of saving your money for a rainy day - you can't go out and spend it! Saving for your old age? Spend it now before you get old and forget why you wasted your youth being dull and boring. I wrote this in 1992. My mother died two years later at the age of 54. She and my father were saving money for their old age. As a heads up... in my last three months in Japan, I saved $10,000 (cash) by teaching a lot of English conversation classes to adults - under the table. I also had my JET job and had a girlfriend/fiance... so I also had a life.  
  • Be patient. Not everyone speaks English well or at all. You are in Japan. You should learn to communicate somehow.... and you will. It takes time and patience.
  • Boredom is only a state of mind. Every single day in Japan, you should discover or learn something new. If you don't, you have wasted the day... and trust me... it goes by a lot quicker than you think. 
  • Develop a hobby. Look up the word in the dictionary under  "L" for 'non-Japanese'. That's a joke... but a hobby will help pass the time. Reading. Model building. Masturbating. Studying Japanese. Drinking. Masturbating (worth mentioning twice). Aquariums. Blogging. Puzzles. Photography. Watching TV. Travel. I did it all. Sometimes three times a day. 
  • Turn off the gas for your water heater in your apartment. Double check!
  • Tired of your hobbies?  Get out and meet the locals! They are actually more interesting than the other AETs and probably aren't as cheap.
  • Get out as much as you can to the JET functions. Sometimes one really does NEED to hear and speak your native tongue.
  • Don't be afraid to tell the Japanese anything. In fact, anything goes. I was always completely honest with my bosses at the Board of Education offices. If I needed help, I asked for it. If I didn't understand something, I asked. If I wanted something, I asked. All they can do is say 'no', and chances are they won't unless your request is unreasonable. The only 'no' I ever got from my office was when I told them I had already bought a motorcycle and was going to ride it to my schools. They wisely told me I shouldn't do that. True. I had no idea how to ride a motorcycle. I got lost easily. And they didn't want to have to foot my funeral costs. That damn bike scared the hell out of me anyways. I sold it, made 5000 yen on the deal more than I paid, and my office (and I) breathed a sigh of relief. I should have asked if that was okay first. Don't assume. Ask. You're in your 20s or 30s. Don't be a punk ass kid.
  • If you are feeling lonely or down - don't effing e-mail or tweet anyone. Pick up the damn phone and at least HEAR that someone exists. You can actually hear more in a person's voice than you can in writing. I should know... I'm a writer, but a far better communicator. 
  • Be controversial, but not outrageous. Monbusho actually called me the AET Cowboy. Monbusho is Japan's Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. It was NOT meant as an insult. Speaking my mind in an honest and open-manner, sharing laughs, concerns and drinks without being a dick or a bitch goes a loooooong way. 
  • You may be surprised, but many Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) do not speak English as well as you would hope. They learned in school, but have not had much opportunity to actually practice speaking English with a real foreigner. Not all, of course, but many. They might speak something called (sammu thinggu caw-ru-dough) Katakana-English. It can take a while to understand, but after three years, I can say it is possible for you to understand them. Maybe.
  • It's hot now... but in September and October it's typhoon season. This will be followed by the cold-dark season when the sun disappears for months. This may not be true for those of you in Okinawa. In April it begins to get warmer although it is still cloudy until June when the rainy season starts. The rainy season ends in mid-July when it becomes unbearably hot and humid for exactly 44-1/2 days. Rinse and repeat.
  • Never visit a Japanese dentist. Just don't.
  • Since the Buddha is supposed to be reincarnated as a spider, do not kill spiders in front of the Japanese. 
  • Be yourself, rather than some pristine person you think you should be. I think the Japanese really, really do respect honesty
  • Duck your head when entering a doorway. 
  • Don't wear slippers outdoors, unless they have officially been designated as 'outdoor' slippers by Japan's Ministry of Ugly Floppy Plastic Slippers.
Anyhow... that's all I wrote, and all I shall write at this time... suffice to say... if you are a newcomer and need some help, perhaps I can help. Perhaps I can't. Read the previous blogs - all 1,300+ of them. The blogs with a rock and roll title are about my life in Japan. The rest are news, advice, fact, fiction and encyclopedic.You'll know what's what.

Cheers! And welcome to Japan!
Andrew (I'm not in Japan!) Joseph

Friday, July 27, 2012

Japanese Men Pull Soccer Shocker On Spain

Holy crap.

The Japanese men's soccer team actually defeated the powerhouse Spanish side in Olympic action yesterday, winning 1-0, as Otsu Yuki (surname first) tapped in the ball in the 34th minute of the match.  

You can read the full Associated Press article HERE.

But... I just love the quote from the Japanese coach at the end of the article:

Says coach Sekizuka Takashi: "We looked forward to this match very much, and showing how much we have was the main point. We are very pleased with the result."

He certainly sounds excited. Perhaps he later celebrated by calmly choking a hooker?

Andrew Joseph

Seven Mysterious Stories Of A Junior High School

After being told a chilling ghost story that occurred on the grounds of Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Dai Chu, for short or Ohtawara Junior High School), the teachers told me that it was one of the "Seven Mysterious Stories Of Dai Chu".

Uh-huh, I said...

They stared at me in awed silence.

"So," I said to them I said, "are you going to tell me what those stories are?"

"Eigo zen-sen wakaranai" (I don't understand any English).

Really, I think to myself... what the hell was I just listening to when they said that there were seven mysteries at this school? Was that one of the mysteries? That would be pretty lame.

"Ahhh, Shibata-sensei! Chotto matte! (Shibata teacher - just a moment!)"

Oh yeah... my buddy the Japanese teacher of English had disappeared for a few minutes. Spooky or just a washroom break? You decide.

Anyhow... enough BS... here's the seven mysterious stories of Dai-Chu. I will apologize... they are not as fleshed out as the chief ghost story, but this is what it is. I wrote out their tales - spoken to me Japanese and translated to English, or simply told in broken English by various teachers.

1) Mother & Daughter killed at Dai Chu when it was a munitions factory during WWII and bombed by the Allies - HERE;
2) In the slightly newer second building that houses classes, there is a single set of stairs up from the main floor to the third floor, which includes a landing in the middle. Example... it goes up 8 feet to the north... there's a landing , and then the steps go up another 8 feet to the south - leading to the second floor... then turning north again, the steps go up another 8 feet to a landing and then reverse to the south going up another 8 feet to the third and final floor.
Anyhow... if you were to count the steps going up, the number of steps will be different going down. Sometimes. But when it does work, there always appears to be one less step going down!
I'll be honest... I tried this one the next day, and it was different! Perhaps it proved that my math skills are as equal to the Japanese. Sometimes. My math sucked in high school, by the way.

3) In the music room up on the third floor of the newer building with the missing downward step - the piano would suddenly start playing by itself. This has been observed on at least two occassions by the current music teacher who struck me as quite a sensible person. Other current students swear they have walked by the open room and heard it suddenly start playing. Smart kids that they are, they ran away rather than go and inspect it. I never entered that room by myself, but then again, I never heard it play by itself. The activity could occur during the day or after it got dark.

4) Now... you have to realize that this is well before the emergence of Harry Potter and Moaning Myrtle... as these tales were told to me in 1990. It was also well after the death of Richie Rich who became the ghost known as Casper.
Anyhow... a ghostly form would sometimes erupt from out of one of the two girl's toilets on the third floor of the main building. It would just rush out - not wet or dripping the water - fly around very fast and then dive back into the toilet. There was no splash. It would moan loudly, however, as it entered the toilet. This ghost would NOT appear if someone was in the stall. No one could say if the ghost actually looked like a man or a women. just something translucent, with bits of white-grey... no temperature change was noted.
I was never allowed to physically examine the junior high school girl's washroom at this or any other school.

5) In the science room in the first floor of the older main building, sometimes the eye sockets of the human skull on the demonstration skeleton there would glow an electric blue. No one admitted seeing this phenomenon, as it sounds weak to me. Why? It's not a real skeleton! Plastic! But... plastic is derived from oil. Oil comes from the remains of dinosaurs... perhaps the ghost of a T-Rex inhabits the science lab skull.

6) In the third-floor learning laboratory in the newer building, the current computer teacher - I think it's Mr. Shinsato (can't read my own freaking handwriting!) entered the room one late night and turned on the power to the computers via a main switch under his teacher's desk. All the monitors turned on and powered up. He sat down and did some work at his computer on the teacher's desk... heard a click or two from one of the student computers... got up and noticed that all of the student monitors were on. No big deal... that was supposed to happen when the main power switch was turned on.... but then he noticed on one of the monitors - and one only - that it appeared to have been signed in... but that's impossible... he was the only one in the room. Or was he? This one creeps me out a bit as I sit in front of my computer after everyone has gone to bed... pitch black outside the window, but I can hear animal noises rustling in some of the nearby bushes. Brrrr.

7) This last tale was told to me by the Kocho sensei Mori (Principal Mori) himself. He said it really creeps him out. Apparently a few years ago, a principal died in this school. Apparently this was the father of Hanazaki-san, one of my two bosses with the Ohtawara Board of Education  (OBOE) office. I'm already freaked out, because the connection is fricking close! He apparently died in the third building on the property- no, I should point out that Kocho sensei Mori said he was killed, but this may have been a poor choice of English word... and I sure as hell wasn't going to ask MY boss! As well... while I know there is a third building to house more classrooms, in three years... I never had a class there. I'm unsure why, but I'm beginning to let my overactive imagination figure that out for me. But here's the mysterious part... here in the teacher's lounge where I was told these mysterious tales, up by the front of the room are two doors on each side... one for the vice-principal's office, and one for the principal. Principal Mori says that sometime when he sits behind his desk... the so-called 'guest chair' in front of the desk moves by itself. Just a little... as though someone is sitting in it. A little shimmy to the side... a little shimmy to the front and back... For no other reason than a principal died on the grounds, Principal Mori believes his ghost haunts his old principal's office.

By Andrew Joseph  

Japanese Women Now #2 In Longevity

Holy cats! According to a new report, thanks to the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed so many people - including a high number of seniors who were unable to get away in time, the average age of longevity for the Japanese woman has gone down.

It's down enough for Japanese women to be dethroned from their global-leading ranking!

Read this Reuters article HERE for the full scoop!

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Awesome Video of Volcano Erupting

Check out this great footage of Japan's Sakurajima volcano erupting on July 24, 2012.

It's one of the more active volcanoes in Japan, and I'll present some photos taken back in the 1930s that I own. Strange place, in that there are people living at the base of a damn, active volcano!

Check out this BBC link: HERE.

Since scientists are thinking there might be a link between volcano eruptions and earthquakes... let's see if there's a decent sized trembler in the next few days...

Cheers to Matthew (again) for the heads up!

Andrew Joseph

1978 Godzilla Toy Commercial

No... that is NOT a penis in the image above. I thought it was.

God help me, but this must be the worst toy I have seen in ages... it features Godzilla - King of the freaking monsters... with, are you ready? - a shooting hand!

WTF?! Did the toy makers actually watch a Godzilla movie when coming up with this piece of crap?

And check out the guy in the background at the 20-second mark. Can you say "Hipster pedophile"? Nice try.

From the Shogun Warriors collection? Mattel, right? I believe I actually read (I actually wrote 'red'??!!) three issues of the Shogun Warriors comic book back in 1979 published by Marvel Comics... 35-cents. Thankfully, Godzilla never appeared in these comics. I have three #1s in NM (Near Mint) ... each apparently worth $15 or so. 

Gods, Godzilla? How could you let them sell you like this?

Just for that, you should destroy Japan AND North America - just to make sure.

And... for good measure... here's a second commercial actually featuring Godzilla versus the Shogun Warriors!


Andrew Joseph 

Feeling Cold About The Heat

When I first arrived in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan back in July of 1990, my three-bedroom, LDK apartment with two balconies, western bathroom and washing machine/dryer combo was not air-conditioned, or equipped with a central heating system.

However, I was so excited about being in the country and getting sex that I didn't care about the heat. Sure it made for some sweaty sex, but what was really irksome to me, were the burns I got on my knees from the tatami mats acting as a floor that my thin futon sat on (while I had sweaty sex).

As soon as it got cool in Japan, however, I was shown how to operate a kerosene heater... a heater with a major flaw, truth be told.

While yes, it does heat the apartment up rather well, it's a kerosene heater, and I was told that I should keep a window open to provide fresh air so that I don't die of poison gas asphyxiation.

Two things wrong with that scenario. Poison gas? What are you freaking kidding me? The poison gas is expelled into the friggin' air as it heats the room? Who invented this? Dr. Kevorkian? Damn! Is that why I was sleepy all the time?

And... keep a window open? In my living room, I do not have a window, per se... I have a large set of sliding doors that face the northern climes... with some wickedly cold winds blowing down from, the  still-active snow-covered volcanoes about 10 kilometers or so away from me.

So... with no window, I would have to open the damn sliding door to my balcony. Uh-huh.

I'm from Canada, and we Canadians don't really complain about the cold... but have you ever sat down on the couch to watch television while 20 kilometer winds from the north blow down on you at  - hell, let's be fair, + 5C? It was October. By January, the temps could be around -2C... which is nothing by Canadian standards. Bah... it's balmy.

But try that for a few hours... one side of you body bombarded by a chilly northern wind... and the right side of the body all nice and toasty from the foul-smelling kerosene heater that is not as foul-smelling thanks to the sliding door being open to dissipate the stench.

You'll notice it's not a complaint about the cold (per se)... it's a 50:50 complaint about the cold and heat.

I discussed this situation with my Ohtawara Board of Education office... they discussed it for what seemed like months, but was in reality only a day, and had a large wall mounted AC/Heater installed in my living room, with no chance of me dying from kerosene poisoning or hypothermia at the same time.

The cost of it came from the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme budget they had for me.... and I'll be honest... in three years, they spent money on me for a bi-lingual TV/VCR, a frankensteined large bicycle for me to knock my nuts on, and one set of new tatami mats complete with a new futon bed. Did you know that EVERY DAY, you must roll up or air-dry your futon so that mushrooms do not grow on the tatami mats after you have lots of sweaty sex in a hot apartment - thanks to either the lack of an AC or over-use of my new AC/Heater (the heater portion) in the winter.

They also got me a Queen-sized bed so that I wouldn't burn the hair off my legs while I have hot sweaty sex with a number of women on a near-daily basis. The OBOE office was very considerate of my feelings.

That bed was donated by the family of one of the beautiful Japanese women whom I had hot, sweaty and depending on your morals, pretty disgustingly amazing sex with several times one Saturday evening. I mean, it was like a porno... uh, never mind.

Anyhow... in 2012, in Toronto, Canada where we Canadians are strong like moose and perhaps smart like hockey puck, it's the summer. It's been hotter than Hades (what I used to call my pre-AC apartment in Ohtawara-shi), hovering at 89F at 11PM last Monday evening... I can take the cold, but the fricking heat. I'm covered in hair and fat. This is not a good combination for someone without a working AC - it died on Sunday.

An AC repairman came this morning to look at it, and gave the family (I'm at work) the wonderful news that it will cost Cdn $1,000 to fix due to a compressor having a hole and spilling all the freon gas. I don't have $1000! Screwed again. He also charged $123 to do the house call. Screwed!!Didn't even buy me dinner first!

Freon gas? It may kill me, but won't that make a hole in the ozone above my house? Crap! I also have a hole in the roof! Rain, ozone, heat! Crap!!!!!

In Japan, I would have all of that fixed - yesterday. And I'm NOT getting any hot and sweaty sex either! 

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Women's Soccer Team Wins First Match At Olympics

Japan's woman's soccer team opened it's 2012 London Olympic schedule with a 2-1 victory over Canada, scoring both its goals in the first half, with Canada tallying in the second.

Full story HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Penis, Penis, Penis

Apparently if you write the word 'penis' three times in the title of a blog, Bloody Mary will come out of a box and kill you.

Okay, hopefully not really. Let's just say that if you don't find at least one blog a day from me, something bad has happened, and I have been circumcised.

Did you know that the penis is revered in Japan? Of course it is! It's revered all over the world. Every man loves his penis, women love'em too! Heck, some men love other men's penises! But the Japanese seem to love it more. Enough to celebrate it with its own day!

I can hear you now: "Come again?"

All over the world (and Japan), the penis is a symbol of fertility. To celebrate Peter, Johnson, Wang, Dick, Willie, John Thomas, Chin-Chin et al, the Japanese hold the Honen Matsuri fertility festival every March 1 in Komaki-shi (City of Komaki) in Aichi-ken (Aichi Prefecture), Japan.  

So, yeah... you missed it, but there is still plenty of time to make your 2013 vacation plans.

How do they celebrate the Honen Matsuri? Well, the people there pull out the second biggest piece of wood I have ever seen, and parade it all around the temple... they touch it, pray to it and hopefully no one gets a splinter, as it is done to make the city more fertile, and to promote renewal.

It's been done for hundreds of years, and as mentioned, it's to ensure there is a bumper crop of crops and a bumper crop of babies, because they will hopefully grow up to harvest the crops and continue this fine tradition of praying for sexual intercourse - just like the rest of us.

The following photos were sent to me by my good friend Grace. I am unsure when these photos were taken and by whom, but I present them to you here regardless.

Welcome to the Honen Matsuri - a festival that celebrates the hope for a good harvest and a great shag:

Thisu izu mai pen-is. Big-gu, big-gu.
For these old guys, it's going to take a lot of praying and Viagara to lift their spirits.
This is NOT a baby bottle!
Look out! It's going to blow!
Hopefully the town gets a bumper crop of penis this year!

Souvenir penis and the box it comes in.
They would ALL look so good on the mantle - at Plato's Retreat!
Is her nose running? She might need some Kleenax.

It looks like a fun festival, but I believe when people get too excited, the party is over and needs to take a nap.

Andrew Joseph

Junior High School Ghost Story

I'll just come out and admit that I have never seen a ghost, but like to believe they exist.

Arriving in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan in late July of 1990, I was a just coming of a summer internship with the prestigious Toronto Star newspaper, and as such I like to ask questions.

On one visit to Ohtawara Chu Gakko (also known as Dai Chu, or Ohtawara Junior High School) I inquired of Shibata-sensei (Mr. Shibata one of the English teachers there) whether or not he believed in ghosts.

He smiled, called over some of the other teachers in the teacher's office and began to tell me the following tale.Now... I should mention that he actually told me the student's name, but because I was so new to Japan, I had not yet grasped hearing and understanding people's names. Suffice to say, I am sure he presented me with a real name.

Here's the story he told me, backed up with additional information from four or five other Japanese teachers - though the other six present all seemed to know the story:

During the twilight hours of late May 1988, a third-year (Grade 9) junior high school girl was standing outside the main doors of Dai Chu waiting for her friends to emerge to join her for a walk back home. The sun was about to set to the right of her.

There... towards the west, she saw a mother and daughter standing about 15 meters away from her - staring at her. They were dressed in traditional farming clothes, with the mother appearing to be in her mid-30s. She looked pretty, except she had a scowl on her face. The daughter she appeared to be in the 10-12-year-old range.

So the junior high school girl stared back... and then suddenly noticed that she could see right through them!

Too frightened to move, the junior high school girl cowered in terror, but the mother and daughter vanished after about 15 seconds.

The next day, the girl told the school what she saw... and rather than scold her for making up tall tales as she feared - they believed her. 

Here's why. After a bit of investigative reporting - IE asking questions of the teachers, I was told that during World War II, the Dai Chu school grounds housed a munitions factory.

Apparently the factory and the surrounding area had been bombed from the air numerous times by Allied forces.

In October of 1943, a mother and daughter who lived on a nearby far were killed by bomb meant for the munitions factory.

As such, locals believe that the spirits of the mother and daughter wander the school grounds angry at the Japanese munition factory's presence having cost them their lives.

No one knows if they want anything when they appear - which does not seem to be at any particular time of the day or night. There have been no reports of the ghosts doing anything except showing their displeasure in the manner described above.

Readers... for a stranger in a strange land who wants to believe in ghosts and is living on his own for the first time ever, I was pretty jumpy that night... alone.. in my large apartment building... where I tried to sleep that night, but failed... perhaps owing to the fact I turned on every single light in my home. No one called that night to remind me I wasn't alone... though I do recall thinking I should get a pet - even some goldfish, so that I would never be truly alone.

I had shivers down my backbone, and the next day at school, I stared hard at every little thing I would catch out of the corner of my eye. I never did see anything out of the ordinary, however... though again some of the teachers gathered around me to tell me of the Seven Mysterious Stories of Dai Chu.

A tale for another day, perhaps.

Andrew Joseph  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Weirdness In Blogging

Hello. A brief look into blogging is what I figured this should be... though I never do anything brief except launder my underwear.

Back in June, thanks to some bad influence from my great friend Mike Rogers of Marketing Japan fame, I switched the look of my blog to a new template. This template actually gave me a double click rate on each blog entry - and so , gave me a false sense of security - IE, and ego blow.

Then Mike and I both realized that while he would love to have me join his legitimate 1-million hit club, to do it that way would be cheating. He and I both reverted to a normal blogger template.

In the meantime, my usual 25,000 monthly hits had jumped to 40,000 and  then 51,000 hits, as I started in the middle of June, and then ended in the middle of July. While both are fantastic hit rates, they are indeed a lie.

Right now, if you look at the hit rate down below the Top 10 Popular Posts (per weekly hits), I'm at a normal 33,000 average for August. I'll take that, because it's still 8,000 more than what I was getting three months ago. So... thank-you.

Regular readers will have noticed that over the past 5 weeks or so, my output has dropped from 2x or 3x a day down to maybe an average of 1.5 blog entries a day.

It's not BLOG burnout, but rather me being busy at work and then coming home and not being allowed the time to do more than a token blog entry.

Crap! I thought the dog just died.... he was panting in this crazy broken A/C place where it's still 82F, and then a long breath and then nothing. But no... he's still going. Damn. That's all I need, what with the broken A/C and hole in the roof.  

Anyhow... it's always something. Having said that, I will endeavor to get back on track. Part of the problem is that along with THIS blog, I create another blog (You Know What I Hate) (though that one is only getting one or three entries a month)... but there's another secret blog I do (How To Survive Women - there's goes that secret) that I post an entry to every three or four days. I just had my best day ever with that at 700 hits - consider that Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife gets about 1,110 daily... so I'm doing okay as a writer.

During the day, I write magazine articles, and create articles for my magazine's website... so I'm doing a lot of writing.

Part of the issue with this Japan blog is that, unlike some of my good friends, I do not write very much material that could be considered controversial. That's my journalism background kicking in that says I should always be impartial and just report the story.

So, that's what I do. But when I start a story - let's say a re-write of some news tidbit I find... I always discover that the news item lacks the detail I want... like it's a half-story... and I hate that. That's why I examine three or four sources, combine and compile the data and create one frickin' BIG article that hopefully gives you a complete picture. That takes time. I also have a wife and kid, like to watch TV, am reading five books at once and am constantly re-building broken LEGO toys while creating my own Japanese-based LEGO dioramas. There's other stuff I do, but that's for me to know.

It's why it's 1:15AM and I'm writing, and have to be up in less than 6 hours... I do this to myself every day... just to make sure you guys have something interesting to read (though maybe not this entry).

While I have a few loyal readers like Mike, Jimbo, Caroline (maybe), and Rob... the majority of my readers seem to glom on for an article after doing a search for an item on GOOGLE. So... thank-you GOOGLE for liking me enough to be a popular place where people can find what they are looking for.

But, with great popularity comes great SPAM. Everyday now for about a week, I have been getting about four or five "Comments" to the Lesbian & Gay blog written by guest writer Imogen Reed. While it's a fine article posted on May 18, 2012... there is no reason for it to be in my weekly TOP 10. A spammer has found it and constantly sends different messages to my blog, praising my writing, and suggesting I visit their blog or website, with a live link embedded in the message.

Fortunately, the blog has a SPAM filter that will not allow it to be published. Good on! Yay! But... despite the polite spam heaping kudos on my writing - actually Imogen's writing - I'm getting false hit counts, as it has garnered nearly 500 hits... strange enough, but after it was published, Google +1'd and Tweeted, it still only had 50 hits. So assuming some hits are legitimate, that means I've had 400 SPAM hits in the past month.

I wonder how long it will last, and how long they will continue to send me comments with SPAM embedded? I also wonder if I can block it, but every comment has an embedded link claiming it's for a different website... Blogger, however, says that I should not open... so I can't tell if it's coming from the same person, computer or hacker.

Is there a way to block it?

Anyhow... I still have long stories on the old Alien Registration card and one on a way Japan can use an alternate form of energy to nuclear for electrical generation. Patience. Each one will be like reading a long article... and I do so love doing those.

Even if the hits aren't there, I know that for that one person looking for that information that week, at least they will have all the information they will ever need.

Thanks for your continued patronage, and I hope I passed the audition. It's almost time to kick this up a notch to get me to that 1-million hit mark... It will take me three more years at my current rate, but I aim to shorten that.

Does anyone know how?

Andrew Joseph

Godzilla Haiku 13

Tokyo girls are hot
Especially when burning
I will never date.

A haiku by Andrew Joseph sweating in 87F heat in his house at 8PM thanks to his A/C conking out. As you hopefully know, a haiku is a 3-line Japanese poem with the first and third lines having five syllables each and the second line having seven. To me, Godzilla has always been about Japan.

Monday, July 23, 2012

30 Styles Of Japanese Restaurant

Y'know... every once in a while, someone puts out a blog I was thinking about doing. More often than not, what stops me is my own personal knowledge on a topic.

I should tell you that my desire to learn drives me - I'm no expert, but I do play one on the Internet.
But at least this time, someone has done a decent job  - saving me the effort, but still allowing me (and now YOU) a chance to learn something cool about Japan.

Unlike restaurants in Canada and the U.S., for example where one can go to specific restaurants and get Italian cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, and Japanese - hell... you name it, you could probably find it here in Toronto.

Of course, every country has many sub-cultures of cuisine, and many restaurants cater to these specialties... like Tex-Mex or Chowders or Cuban cuisines in the United States... and to be sure, there certainly are a lot more available.

But in Japan... they tend to take things to another degree. Not just content to offering a seafood restaurant, or a pizza restaurant, or a hamburger restaurant - Japan offers restaurants based on individualistic food ingredients and the further sub-divided into various cooking styles.

Thanks to John Spacey on the Japan-Talk website, he is offering us a 30-course meal on 30 types of Japanese restaurants. See... it's not like the west where you can get tempura and sushi and noodles all in one place - in Japan...  it's more often than not, a specialty restaurant.  

Click HERE for a visual menu of food styles with a hint of description that will make you wonder just what the heck Japanese cuisine really is.

Special thanks, as always, to Matthew for thinking of us here at Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife. His daughter Michelle recently graduated high school. Damn... I remember when she was born... and I remember going out to Matthew and Takako's wedding party. Cheers!

Andrew Joseph

Gov't To Probe TEPCO Radiation Cover-Up

With allegations that TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) instructed it's workers to hide the actual exposure to radiation while at the Fukushima-ken Dai-ichi nuclear power plant last Spring/Summer, the Government of Japan has vowed to look into the matter.

Here's a BBC news report (courtesy of Matthew): HERE.

Andrew Joseph  

Workers At Nuclear Reactor Got Higher Radiation Doses Than Reported

While I sit here and bake in my house thanks to the air-conditioner giving up the ghost a few hours ago... and discovering that I have a hole in the freaking roof, Andrew is not a happy camper - mostly because I don't believe in roughing it.
Mankind spent thousands of years living in caves and other crappy housing and nowadays we have sooooo much convenience, that I'm afraid I don't wish to go back to the Dark Ages.
But still... I've got it better than the workers who tried to save the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor from exploding - and succeeded - back in April and May of 2011.
But at what cost?
According to a new report, workers were told to down-play the amount of radiation dosage they were absorbing, so as to not panic the populace.
Thanks to a heads up from Matthew, you can read about that HERE.
Sweating in my own nuclear furnace (under the sun),
Andrew Joseph 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Matthew And Andrew Climb A Mountain In Winter

Here's a great shot for those of you who believe that Japan is a country that is always hot.

I'm sure it is right now, but back in January in Tochigi-ken, we sometimes get this type of snow.

The lucky guy plowing through the snow in the photo is Matthew J. Hall.

Why we are climbing Mt. Nasu in the winter is beyond me, as it is obviously the blood in our brains froze. It was cold, snowy (d'uh) and windy! It's about 10 kilometers north of my apartment, and always made a fine backdrop when I got home and looked out the north balcony of my apartment. The west balcony... I'll show you next time.

What was difficult about taking this photo, was that Matthew was hopping about like a Mountain Goat on steroids, and I had to take my gloves off to snap the shutter... no wait, I didn't have gloves... and I stupidly tried to make and throw snowballs at a New York mountain goat... I only got the feeling back into my fingers three years ago, which is why I didn't start this blog earlier.

Actually... Matthew doesn't have any gloves, either... or boots. What the hell were we doing?

I'm Canadian and should be used to this sort of weather as apparently many people think we Canadians all live in igloos, have just got electricity and sometimes drive our snow dogs to work. Some people are like that in Canada, but they are in cities and places you've never heard of before, and they have my respect.

Anyhow... I just thought that if some of you are having weather like I've been experiencing these past few weeks (mid to high 30sC and humidity to take it into the 40s), this photo would either help cool you down or make you envious.

Andrew 'be chillin' Joseph  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Read This Or I'll Kill Myself

Here's a cool movie review that was pointed out to me by the irreplaceable Matthew.  Thanks buddy!

The article, from the July 19, 2012 NPR website discusses a movie called 'Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai' in which samurai go around and tell people they are going to kill themselves, but rich familes who don't want the hassle of explaining why there's a dead samurai on their property pay the scamming samurai money to get them to move on to another property.

Cool concept. If I tried it, I'm pretty sure no one would care, as long as I killed myself.

Read the story HERE, or I will kill myself.

By Andrew Joseph

Japan In Books 2

The following bit of writing is also from the Charlie Chan book I am currently reading: The House Without A Key, a book written in 1925 by Earl Derr Biggers and essentially no longer in print.
Charlie is a Chinese-born detective living in Hawaii, a Hawaii populated with Hawaiian, Americans, Chinese and Japanese. As a popular detective series, Charlie Chan was the star of a number of detective mysteries on the big screen and in comic books.
Based on reality, it's 1925, and the Japanese are looked upon as second-class citizens in Hawaii... and as such, are unaccustomed to people treating them with the respect every human being deserves.

Once more John Quincy was on a Waikiki (trolley) car. Weary but thrilled, he took out his pipe and  filling it, lighted up. What a day! He seemed to have lived a lifetime since he landed that very morning. He seemed to have lived a lifetime since he landed that very morning. He perceived that his smoke was blowing in the face of a tired little Japanese woman beside him. 'Pardon me,' he remarked, and knocking the pipe against the side rail, put it in his pocket. The woman stared at him in meek startled wonder, no one had ever asked her pardon before.

It all seems surreal to me sometimes, but I realize that people and attitudes change with the generations. In 1925, the Japanese were considered by most to be beneath them - and recall, if you will that less than 60 years earlier, no one had seen a Japanese person before thanks to its isolationist policy.

It was just around this time through the end of WWII in 1945 when the Japanese earned the animosity of Asia and North America with its barbaric expansion policies and human rights violations and acts of war.

By the 1970s, we knew that the Japanese were an industrious people who could take any product and make it either better or smaller, and definitely cheaper.  

By the 1990s... well... by my account of three years spent living there, that the Japanese were no different from anyone else in the world, though the average Japanese person may not have cared to hear that... though it was my job not to remove that feeling of superiority, but to at least let them know they were no better than anyone else.

By the 2010s... mission accomplished... Japan is a country no different than others and is on the verge of economic ruin, ruin from natural disasters, is seen as a place where another Asian country or two might like to invade.

But at least they aren't considered second-class citizens.     

By Andrew Joseph

Friday, July 20, 2012

How To Buy A Subway Ticket In Japan

The following photographs blew my freaking mind.

I was watching the television show Departures on July 18, 2012, in which two young men from Toronto travel around the world - in this case, they visited Japan. Hence my interest in it. Go figure.

As the blog title suggests, the photo presentation below will show you how a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan can buy a subway ticket in Japan - oft times a confusing endeavor as there are many train lines, and you purchase your ticket based on the distance traveled from your point of entry to your destination.

In the photo above, our heroes are confused by the amount of money they need to spend to buy a ticket from an automatic ticket vending machine. Confused, they decide to hit the 'help' button which should bring a subway employee to help them sort it out.

If you follow the photographs (in order) that I snapped on my television, you'll see how to purchase the correct ticket for your journey on the subway lines of Japan.  Confusion reigns in Photo #1 up above. Down below, the solution:

You rang? Holy crap! A foreigner!
You put your money in here, says the man in the machine.
Let me direct you to our easy-to-use subway map.
It will cost you ¥260 (US/Cdn $3.35), says the legless man in the machine.
Thank-you for interrupting my day, stupid foreigner. I must get back in my box.
Back in his box, the subway employee knows Japan rules in efficiency.
And there you have it. Press the button and ask for help.No need to waste time asking a fellow passenger in the subway to help you. Japan's subway's have a person waiting in the ticket machine - waiting for months and months - for the privilege of helping you.

Makes you wonder if there's a guy in every ticket machine, as there are quite a few of them in the larger subway stations.

Also makes you wonder where they go to the washroom. And what do they do for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of their shift. Is this a part of Japan's limited living spaces? Do you tip him (no - you don't tip anyone in Japan, except to tell him he needs a better job)? 

Still... the boys got their subway ticket, so the system works.

Happy riding!
Andrew Joseph