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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Japanese Poetry - Tanka

Let's take a look at a form of Japanese poetry called Tanka.

First off, the more famous type of Japanese poetry known as haiku, is a three-line poem where the first and third lines contain five syllables each, with the middle one having seven syllables.

It's a very simple and complex type of poetry... or if written by myself, something I have used to destroy the true meaning of Japanese poetry, as i have been typically able to create them in under 30 seconds as my mind is simply able to conceive them in this fashion. They aren't classic poems in the true Japanese sense, but they fit my purpose.

Now... the tanka... the tanka is another epic type of poetry is an older form of poetry... in fact, haiku was developed from tanka.

The tanka consists of five lines - again with the number of syllables being the determining factor. In tanka, the syllable structure consists of five-seven-five-seven-seven.

Developed in and around the 7th century AD, the arrangement of five and seven syllables is thought to best suit the rhythmic flow of the Japanese language.

So... 31 syllables in five lines. Not a lot of time to get your thoughts out, is it... and that's the trick. For the Japanese, the tanka as poetry was used to express emotions in a concentrated form... as the Japanese language tends to express a lot without expressing things overtly. (People who live or have lived in Japan are nodding their collective head in agreement).

There's a term called yūgen, that is known as a tanka ideal, referring to a profound effect and suggested emotion implied in the poem beyond what the words in the poem actually state.

Back in the day, tanka was studied by the rich and the Buddhist monks, eventually becoming the poetry of the elite... dubbed Court poetry, playing an important role for the courtiers, as they would send letters in tanka form.

If you think that reading texted messages nowadays is a tricky affair ("@TEOTD" means 'at the end of the day'), imagine getting a five line poem that says things not said.

I know you are all expecting me to show of my tanka skills here with a presentation of my own... but in the three years there, I only wrote maybe five tanka poems... they were 'okay', but don't pass the muster in 2012. Consider yourself spared.

Or... I just can't find the damn page that I typed out 20 years ago. Hey... it was 20 years ago.

Okay... here's an example of a tanka poem written by someone more qualified than me:

On the white sand
Of the beach of a small isle
In the Eastern Sea
I, my face streaked with tears,
Am playing with a crab.

by Ishikawa Takuboku

Andrew Joseph


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Andrew Joseph: A Model Prisoner

Do you see that photo up above? It's a model I bought 22 years ago when I still lived in Japan. It's a 1:350 scale plastic model of Osaka-jo (Osaka Castle).

It is unmade. 

To me, it represents failure. Fear. To have something within one's grasp... to know you want it, and pay a large sum of money for it... and let it sit sit there... alone... unloved... in the dark of the basement... waiting to be completed.

And so, it's 2012... and I have made myself a promise to start on it next Tuesday when the missus goes to night school... and work on it every Tuesday night until it is done.

I've been afraid to start it for fear of ruining it... of not being worthy of such a magnificent challenge.

It's a fear of what it represents...the first real castle I ever saw.

Even though the real was is essentially a reconstructed castle, and is now a tourist attraction museum, it was still the most beautiful thing (not person) I had ever seen. It was awe-inspiring. Majestic. Beautiful. It was everything I had dreamed Japan's past was like... and I walked through it's wood floor halls... and dreamed I was a samurai... a warrior... everything I am not.
I took this photo in 1990 - I love the new and the old - and it might be the most interesting photo I ever took in Japan.

It's why I am afraid - even now - to attempt to complete it... because I am afraid my lack of skill will not do it justice.

I saw a model my friend Matthew Hall built of the USS Enterprise. No... not the nuclear battleship, but the starship of TV show fame. He had purchased fiber optic lights to light it up... and damned if he didn't build it to perfection. I believe it was 90-cm (3-feet) long or bigger!

Despite all of the bravado I showed to get onto the JET Programme back in 1990... to get into the Toronto Star summer internship newspaper program becoming the first community college student in Canada to be thus accepted... to finally sleep with a woman in Japan (or anywhere for that matter)... to be accepted period... this one damn model daunted me.

It reminded me of all of the little foibles that held me back before Japan... that shy, quiet little boy I had reinvented myself to not be...
Daunting... who knew that an 8-inch long model could cause such angst?

It's a personal challenge now.

It's time finally, to say eff you to the past, to the future and even to the present. And just get the damn monkey off my back.

Or... it's just a damn model I never had time for before and forget about until I remembered I didn't have a topic for tonight's midnight blog.

Or all of the above. Whatever. Screw it. Once I start a project (since turning 18), I always complete it. Always. It was a promise I made to myself when I turned 18. Knowing that others might let you down, the only person who can't is yourself. I refuse to let myself down.

Do or do not. There is no try.

I really do have to stop playing LEGO Star Wars on my PS3.

Somewhere knowing I have no idea who to read the Japanese model instructions (or that was the real reason!),
Andrew Joseph


Friday, September 28, 2012

Female Japanese Cult Leader Hanged

On Thursday, September 27, 2012, Japan executed two people: Eto Sachiko, 65 (image on left above), and Matsuda Yukinori, 39, (on the right under the jacket). Surnames first in this article.

Matsuda was convicted of killing two people during a robbery in 2003... but Eto... she is a very interesting case.

She was a door-to-door seller of cosmetics... a good job... an honest job... who turned to faith healing after she and her husband joined a cult in the early 1990s... and started to believe her own 'press' when people in the cult thought she had healing powers... and that's when she thought of herself as a 'god'.

As part of her healing, she began doing exorcisms to drive out evil spirits from people.

At one time, her believers - including one entire family - moved into her house.

The way she exorcised demons - at least those in the unlucky people - was by beating them with a taiko drum stick. That's a large, heavy piece of wood. For the unlucky ones, she beat at least four women and two men to death.

According to a lawyer involved in her trail: "She carried out the beatings while watching the victims die one by one. It was extremely cruel."  

In July of 1995, the police discovered the rotting bodies hidden within Eto's home in Sukagawa-shi (Sukagawa City), Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture), charging her, her daughter and another cult member... though the others were sentenced to life in prison, she received the death penalty. 

Eto's defence lawyers said she had 'diminished responsibility' as she was suffering mental problems at the time of the crimes.

Despite her not guilty plea, the courts ruled her crimes 'excessively grave' because she formed a religious group by claiming to be a god’s messenger and condemned her followers to death by violent means using her absolute power on them. She was given the death penalty sentence in 2002 for murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Eto's death by hanging is the first execution of a woman in Japan in 15 years.

Matsuda, of who I have written little here, was convicted of two murders and given the death penalty in September 2006.  

The two hangings - always done without informing the public beforehand - were the sixth and seventh in 2012, compared with exactly zero in 2011.

According to Japan's Ministry of Justice, there are currently 131 prisoners in Japan on death row.

Here's a Japanese language news report from You Tube.

For more information on Japan's death penalty, I would suggest you read a blog I did a while back that's quite detailed with photos of the facility: DEATH'S TRAPDOOR.

As well, for a complete list of Japan's serial killers (I still need to add Eto to this list), I suggest you read this other article I wrote: THREE'S COMPANY.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Greener Nuclear Alternative For Japan?

With Japan's government waffling on its plans to dump nuclear power as a source for electrical power generation, I thought about looking for an alternative for the country.

Canada  - in its Candu nuclear reactors utilizes a form of uranium that is safer than the type used by countries like the U.S. which create a by-product useful in the creation of nuclear weaponry.

The solution? Thorium and Canada's greener alternative. Check out this Yahoo News story published back on September 18, 2012 that I sat on for some unknown reason. THORIUM  

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Over-Medicated Blogger Offers Sage Advice - I Think

Right now, as I write this, I have over-medicated myself.  I had a dry, hacking cough and a slightly runny nose which I put down to allergies... which I have but have not had to take a pill in a year.

So I took two this evening after getting home - the recommended dosage. And then my wife played nice and went out and bought some medicine for me specifically for a dry cough. How nice.

So I took a swig.

Man... I feel like I'm floating... and I'm too messed up write a story for work, which as luck would have it is about hemp. The healthy kind of hemp - not the fun kind.

So... feeling too out of it to write for work, I am writing this blog. The irony escapes me. No... I've captured it.

It reminds me of why I used to drink a fair bit on the weekends in Ohtawara-shi, Toichigi-ken, Japan when I lived there between 1990-1993.

It was to forget... and now those memories are pouring out like bourbon from a bottle of Jack Daniels.

I drank purely for social reasons. That and because I was in a bar. I never, ever drank at home, except for when Matthew would bring over a couple of beers and we'd watch a video from home... or when Ashley would bring over a bottle of Southern Comfort and we'd have a couple... but never enough to get wasted.

And certainly I never drank at home by myself. That's something I have always though was not a good habit to take up.

Even now... for the past 12 years I have not been drunk... even after sucking back a bottle of o-sake.


But back to Japan. The social aspect of getting out to MY local bar - the 4C was what I enjoyed the most. Even if I wasn't with Matthew or Ashley at the 4C, there would always be someone there I could talk to.

I did suffer from being homesick... or just plain old lonely sick. Despite being a shy and introverted loner, I played the out-going extroverted sexhound in Japan.

And so I would go and have a drink at the 4C, and someone would come up and start a conversation with me.

I have joked about the Japanese wanting free English conversation lessons and truisms about being picked up by Japanese women at this place, but really... I just enjoyed getting out and being a part of the community.

With every English conversation or botched Japanese conversation I engaged in, I was getting better not only at speaking to people and becoming less shy, but I was getting better at fitting in in Japan.

It's why I have so many fond memories of the place. I didn't always drink to excess - though I tended to when with a gaggle of gaijin (foreigners), and when I was my OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) for an office party (by out-drinking everyone else and not being a dick about it, you gain a level of camaraderie).

But by myself or with that one Japanese woman or that businessman wanting to practice his English, I got to practice my Japanese... and I did it while nursing a drink or two.

Of course, it also helped that I could more than hold my alcohol and instead of getting obnoxiously drunk, I became louder. I think people get more hard of hearing the more alcohol they consume.

It's funny to think about it all now, nearly 20 years later while I am stoned on over-the-counter cold or allergy medicine... but as I was being used by the Japanese, so too was I using them.

'Using' is perhaps a harsh term... what I really mean is we were performing internationalization with each other.

We had a good time.

I miss that. I can't EVER recall being at a bar in Toronto and talking with other men I wasn't with. It's just not done. You enter a bar with people you know and that's who you talk with.

It's kind of boring.

I miss the spontaneity of learning about other people.

I miss going out and having a drink and meeting people with normal jobs who have an interesting life. And that seemed to be everyone I met... perhaps because they were able to describe their job and life in a way that was fascinating to me.

It's how I met a handler for a Miss Universe Japan (and slept with her) (I guess I should write that story for you all soon enough), it's how I met a volunteer fireman, a hunter, a pervert, a bank manager, a clerk at a convenience store and more.

Maybe it was the alcohol... but then again... how is it that I was always able to recall exact conversations I had with them to write them down in my diaries? It's because people are interesting if you just talk to them.

Here's the message to all you foreigners in Japan. Get the hell out of your safety zone - your apartment - and go and hang out at a bar by yourself once a week. Don't just stare down at your drink. Look up and look around and wear a big smile. Pretty soon you won't be alone. You might be giving what you mistakenly call a free English lesson, but don't forget to ask them questions too.

It's not just about teaching English or serving drinks... it's about meeting new people and experiencing new things.

Just don't write about them when you are drunk or stoned.

Hey... did you hear the one about the gaijin who walked in to a bar? He said "Itai!" (Ow!/Pain!)That's a jodan (joke), son.

Andrew Joseph 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Taiwan And Japan Squirt Each Other Over Islands

Yeah, I read the headline, too. I wrote it.

But it's true... boats... water cannons... island dispute...

Read about it HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Japan's Underwater Crop Circles

Okay... when I first heard about this I figured that if a so-called crop circle was found underwater - it had to be made by humans.

How wrong I was!
Check out this article by way of News on Japan as seen originally in The Examiner: HERE

There's also a video at the end of that article that shows how it was made!

Fugu me impressed. 

Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fairy Artwork At The Ghibli Museum

I'd like to share with some data on the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan that is running a cool special exhibition right now based on illustrations by Andrew Lang.

Lang (1844-1912) was a Scottish poet, novelist and literary critic who conceived of the idea of collecting children's stories and folklore previously only available by word of mouth. He collected them, had his wife and other translators convert them to English and he published them - all 437 of them - in 12 books called Andrew Lang's Fairy Books.

About 30 years ago, I first came across the first of these books The Blue Fairy Book (published in 1889) as a freshman at university in a Humanities course I took called: Modes of Fantasy. Yeah... I can remember the course name and even the professor who taught it - Mildred Bacon but truly, I have little other recollection of my time as a student at York University in Toronto.

The book and others using a different color (The Red Fairy Book, The Crimson Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book et al) collected the fairy tales we grew up knowing but not really knowing... we seem to only know the Disney-fied versions which are sweet and nice... and not quite the original grotesque, violent versions that were quite literally told to frighten the crap out of children.

Of course, they weren't all violent tales... some are quite fanciful and fantastic. What Lang did was help preserve a piece of our culture that would have been long forgotten - lost to the ages, if you will.

Which brings me to Japan.

The Ghibli Museum is showing off artwork  - in enlarged formats - showing off some of the fantastic mythical and familiar characters from his books: princesses, princes, dragons, giants, monsters, witches, fairies and wizards.

Japan was also intrigued by these stories, as they were translated into Japanese soon after they hit the market in after originally being published, as Japan easily embraced Western culture and illustrated art during the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The special exhibition entitled: "The Gift Of Illustrations - A Source of Popular Culture" opened on June 2, 2012 and runs through May of 2013.

If you find yourself in Tokyo, it might be worth your while to check it out.

Andrew Joseph
Thanks to Cathy Li for the heads up on this! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kids Construct Famous Painting With LEGO

Again... I have no idea why I didn't see this news article a month ago when it first appeared. My sources are apparently out camping or something equally as horrible...

Anyhow, down below is a link to a Huffington Post article about a bunch of kids at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum getting together to create a LEGO version of a famous painting that I had never heard of before... something called the "Girl With A Pearl Earring", by a 17th century artist named Johannes Vermeer.

That's it in the photo above. It's okay. Of course I don't know squat about brush work or technique or colors et al... but I do know what I like... and this... this is just kind of 'meh'. I know it's pretty, but I find the subject boring and the pose boring and really, aside from some dynamic capturing of shadow, I've seen paintings similar to this before.

I know, I know... never criticize anyone unless you can do better than yourself. It's a critique, not a criticism.

This is a criticism:

Still... there are people out there who consider this to be a masterpiece.

Personally, while I do acknowledge that it's a fine piece of art, I do believe that the term 'masterpiece' is tossed around quite easily. Too easily.

Having said all that, I do think that what the kids made was pretty impressive. I'm sure they followed a master plan telling them what colors and what pieces to use, though... because I can't see a nine-year-old have a clue as to how the painting should be reconstructed out of LEGO.

Read the article and see a slide show HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Adopting The Son-In-Law For Business Success

Recently, I wrote about how a Japanese married man can legally change his name to that of his wife's if her family does not have a son to carry on the family name (and the in-laws agree)... you can read that blog HERE...

But now, thanks to great friend Matthew, we have evidence that some families will actually adopt the son-in-law to promote business success.

Here's a fascinating read from the BBC: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Japan Is Home To Ugliest Shark

For those of you who aren't shark lovers, you might be wondering at the sheer stupidity of my headline, believing all sharks to be ugly.

And while I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if it's wrong, I just want to state that like everything in this world, not all things are created equal.

Take for example, that ugly mo-fo shark pictured above. That is not an artist's conceptual drawing of what a shark would look like if it had a human face. Nope. That is the very real Goblin Shark. A shark that makes its home off the islands of Japan,

Known scientifically as Mitsukurina owstoni, this deep-sea shark was first discovered in the waters around Japan.

While not overly large as far as sharks go (I'll tell you in a minute), you already know that what makes this shark interesting is its ugly-shaped head. Again... my use of the word 'ugly' is subjective. You may find it quite cute, in which case I do not want to meet your spouse.

Aside from the long nose which has a trowel-shape to it, this shark is mostly pink. Pink and with a face only a mother could love. I suppose my mother would not love this face, though.I mean... it's on a shark! Why would my mother love a shark's ugly face. But I digress.

The pink color is due to blood vessels underneath a semi-transparent skin. Semi-transparent skin? This shark keeps getting uglier by the paragraph, although the fins do have a bluish color about them.

This shark can grow to 3.3-meters (11-feet) in length... though some people do say up to 14-feet. The weight of the largest Goblin shark ever caught was 210-kilograms (460-pounds)

It is a deep sea shark and is normally at around 250-meters (821-feet) down, though one shark was caught at the 1,300-meter (4,265 foot) depth.

Now... check out the You Tube video below shot in a Japanese aquarium... this image of the Goblin Shark isn't that bad. It still won't win the Shark Beauty Contest. But, it's not that bad... in fact... it's starting to grow on me.

Notice the lack of a stiff dorsal fin - usually the tell-tale sign of a shark in the water? The Goblin shark's dorsal fin is soft and floppy.

As well, check out the back tail... the long asymmetrical caudal fin which looks quite similar to a Thresher shark to me. 

The Goblin shark's spade-like nose is covered with tiny sensory cells which scientists think help it find food in the deep waters where it lives... food such as deep-sea crabs, squids and other deep-sea fish. The key thing here is that the deeper waters are of course, darker waters... so it is difficult to see things... hence the snout sensory cells.

Before I get to it's mouth - a brief bit if history....  the first ever Goblin shark - a 3.5-meter long male - was caught in the Kuroishio Current off the coast of Yokohama back in 1897. The scared fisherman who caught it dubbed it 'tenguzame'... quite literally 'Goblin shark' because it's lengthy nose reminded him of the mythical Japanese 'tengu' goblin. 

This is a very rarely spotted shark. And, alongside of Japan, it is also found deep in the waters off South Africa, Portugal and I believe Australia. 

Now... how many of you recall the movie Alien? Do you recall how the Alien had a second small mouth that came out? That's what the Goblin Shark's mouth reminds me off.

You see, the Goblin shark has a jaw that is protrusible, which means it kind of allows the jaw to protrude - extend forward (and withdraw the mouth) at will. When fully protruded, it's mouth resembles a tunnel which it uses to suck up the food.

So... yes... the 'Goblin shark's nose allows it to 'smell' its prey, and since the elongated nose also seems to get in the way of the shark's mouth, the Goblin Shark has apparently evolved a jaw that can protrude forward to suck in its meal. Good old evolution. Or devolution.    

When the mouth is retracted, it looks like a pink Grey Nurse shark. With a abnormally long nose, that is.

Another weird and disturbing fact I found is that one-quarter of the shark's weight comes from an abnormally large liver. I'm unsure if Goblin shark foie gras is tasty - I doubt it - but this large liver helps the shark with its buoyancy - just like it does with all of the other sharks, which do not have a so-called swim bladder. As for the larger liver and thus buoyancy... this is a deep-sea shark.

Check out the You Tube video below to see a small provoked Goblin shark's protruded mouth in action.

And, for your information... to reiterate... the ugly-looking jaw only protrudes when it is about to bite something for a snack. 

It's fascinating, but ugly. Like me.

Andrew Joseph
Thanks to my buddy Rob and my son's book on sharks for the heads up on this very, very interesting creature. I must admit that when I first saw a drawing of the Goblin shark in that book, I thought it was a joke. I stand (or sit) corrected.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Momofuku - New Japanese Noodle Shop In Toronto

Look at that headline - big deal, eh... but it is... at least here in Toronto. Anyone want to go for lunch?

Full story from Wednesday, September 18th, 2012's Toronto Star: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

First Photo Of Autumn

Whether it's a celebration of the first day of Autumn (named after the god Autumnus) or me being a bit burned out from a headache due to weather or everybody at work and at home being sick - except me, or just doing too much writing lately or just needing a breather... here is a photo of me surrounded by color.

Whether it's the fall colors of the leaves on the trees or those funkified striped jeans of mine there is a lot of to see.

Welcome to Autumn, November 21,  1992. I'm in Kyoto with Trish Pepper a foxy redhead who is not my girlfriend, but is indeed my girl friend. It's amazing how the separation - the space - between two words completely changes the meaning of things. Space... the final frontier. And I am forever trying to bridge that gap.

Ah me. The above photograph was indeed taken by Trish, who did a nice job framing me in the arbor of trees as I attempted to take a pee.

Okay, not really. I mean it's a nice frame job, and it is possible I needed to urinate, but there was no way I was going to become completely Japanese and pee in a public place like the Heian Jinju Gardens in Kyoto, which is where I am.

Over the next little while, I shall present photos of my trip to Kyoto with Trish the dish Pepper and provide a bit of background on the locale.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely slightly out-of-focus photo of me before the nose job. I know... people who know me now are wondering how the hell my nose in 2012 is any better than the one from 1992. Twenty years ago, my nose ran and my feet smelled, while the more current one allows my nose to smell.

Just kidding... I was never a snot-nosed kid with a runny nose. I just enjoyed the wordplay of that joke.

Andrew Joseph 


Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Broke Japanalyst

Is it possible? Did I somehow break Japanalyst?

Japanalyst is the great blog that houses a whole mess of bloggers about Japan. My feeds go there immediately... but after I posted a preview for a new book on Yukio Mishima on September 18, 2012, it suddenly stopped posting blog entries from myself - and from the other great bloggers out there who aren't me!


C'mon Japanalyst... breathe! Breathe, damn you! I can't have killed you!

Andrew Joseph

Ohmi Shonin - Originators Of Japan's Financial and Manufacturing Industry

I'm not one for having a great interest in the financial comings and goings of businesses not my own—unless there's a bit of interesting history attached to it.

I recently posted a story on Itochu Corp. - HERE, and learned about a caste of people called the Ohmi Shonin - the traveling salesmen of Japanese history.

Don't let that statement fool you... I meant history, and the traveling part does not mean door-to-door salesman. I have been a door-to-door salesman and did well enough at it, but I hated rejection and could never understand why I couldn't close a sale... it would eat me up.

But this blog isn't about that. The History:

Back in 1585, Toyotomi Hidetsugu (surname first), the nephew and adopted heir to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the samurai warrior who unified Japan in 1590 after 100+ years of civil war, built a castle called Hachiman Castle on Mount Hachiman. He was named the feudal lord of the area located in Shiga-ken.

Anytime a castle springs up, a castle town does, too... this one was named Omihachiman. The young Toyotomi Hidetsugu helped set up the town, inviting merchants and artisans et al.  

But, when the Toyotomi family met with disaster, and Hachiman Castle was abandoned with the fall of Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the city did not fail.

Since these merchants no longer enjoyed the prestige of being castle town merchants, they went back to their roots selling local products to other towns, carrying their wares on a pole (see photo above). One such popular local product was mosquito netting.

After expanding their sales area, they created a new sales system when they established branch shops in other towns, who kept in touch with the Hachiman headquarters... it sounds a whole lot like the daimyo keeping touch with the shogun... or pretty much like any business nowadays making sure the had office knows what's going on. This may indeed have been going on in other parts of the world - I'm thinking Europe, China, etc— but this was a first for Japan. 

As well, these Ohmi Shonin merchants created a concept - which they practiced - called "Shokoku Sanbutsu Mawashi", which translates roughly to: "the circulation of goods among the regions."

In this novel (again, novel to Japan) trading device, they shipped their local products like the mosquito nets, tatami mats, sake, rice and more to other towns and villages by land and by water.

They would purchase goods from these areas, and then re-sell them to other parts of the country. They literally were the traveling salesmen.

This was how industrial development got a big kick in the ass in Japan. Merchants wanting to make more products or sell more wares to the Ohmi Shonin who wanted to sell it along other established trading partners.

It all sounds a little late in the game for the Japanese, as I'm pretty sure the Phoenicians had been doing stuff like this 2,000 years earlier... and the Native Americans, Aztec, Mayans, Incans, heck... I think I've even heard of something called the Silk Road across Turkey to China.

This is what happens when you shut yourself off from the rest of civilization. Next thing you know, you haven't heard that WWII is over until 30 years later.    

Anyhow... my sarcasm aside, at least the Ohmi Shonin merchants were progressive in their thinking, which was how they enlarged their sales area by sailing into places like Vietnam and into the big island of Hokkaido.

Independent free thinkers—as much as Japanese culture would allow, of course, the Ohmi Shonin's trade practices allowed the rest of Japan and other countries to experience products they might never have seen. Regional products went national and even international.

But it simply wasn't just carting everything from one region to the next... the Ohmi Shonin learned what sold and where it sold. They got to know the purchasing power of the customer. Supply and demand. Right across Japan.

Again, headquartered in Ohmihachiman in Shiga-ken, the Ohmi Shonin set up branch shops in Edo (known now as Tokyo), Osaka and Kyoto—three of the most important cities in Japan at that time.  

These merchants... they helped create Japan's financial and manufacturing sectors.

And, if you are wondering if any of these merchants still exist - they do I've provided extra data for a few of them, including net sales (in brackets):
Department Stores: Seibu; Daimaru (¥941.4 billion ~Cdn/US$12-billion) est. 1717; Takashiyama (¥410-billion ~Cdn/US $5-billion) est. 1829.
Trading Companies: Itochu Corp. (total equity: ¥1.7-trillion ~Cdn/US $21.7-billion) est. 1858; Marubeni Corp.; Tomen.
Textile Industry: Toyobo Co., Ltd. (¥349.5-billion ~Cdn/US $4.5-billion) est. 1882; Nisshinbo Holdings Inc. (¥379.3-billion ~Cdn/US $4.8-billion) est. 1907
Other Industries: Nihon Seimei; Yanmar Diesel; Seibu Group.

And what is cool about all of those companies listed, is that they are into a whole lot more industries than the ones I listed.

Andrew Joseph

Cool Japanese Packaging - 2

Above is what looks like a simple box containing some sort of product. And it is. But it's not a simple box on the outside, not a simple product on the inside, and certainly not a simple box on the inside.

This is a box designed by the Japanese firm T-Square Design Associates for their client Nanatsukahara Farms in Shobara-shi, Hiroshima-ken, Japan for their butter cake.

Apparently the whole area is famous for these butter cakes... according to the client: "It looks like normal butter cake, but once you eat it, you can really taste the original buttery taste."

I have no idea what a normal butter cake really looks or tastes like, but it has a couple of my favorite ingredients, namely butter and whatever the hell cake is made out of, so it must be good.
Look at the outside top lid... see that big old number '7'? The first thing you need to know is that the Japanese word for seven is nana... which is also the first part of the farm's name. Okay... that's pretty good, but so what? Unless Ultraman 7 eats these butter cakes, I'm not that impressed.

Okay... but then if you actually take a closer look at the '7' logo... it has a blob of golden yellow at the bottom part of the actual number.... making it look like a drop of butter. Okay... that is nice, though I really am confused as to why the number seven is used at all... yes, it mimics the first half of the farm name... but so what? Is the number 7 actually a part of the farm's name? If so... nice choice. If not, meh. But... I don't have the Japanese kanji symbol to compare it against.

Okay... exterior aside... inside there's that butter cake. I can feel my arteries hardening just from looking at it. Ugh... dying... must... keep.. typing... ... blog... even.......... in ... death throes.

Here's what T-Square had to say: "We approached the project with the concept of 'Surprise and Sensational' butter... and wanted to communicate where the cake is coming from when purchased at different prefectures in Japan.

"There fore, it looks like a 'simple' confectionery box, but once you open it, there is a hint of surprise where the cake is made and coming from."

T-Square wasn't kidding... inside is scenery from the Nanatsukahara Farm... so after you snarf down (eat) the whole butter cake in a few minutes and are wondering just how the heck you are ever going to afford the Lipitor cholesterol drug, you can stare at the empty box and dream of the wonderous land where the butter cake came from and wonder just why they didn't include any cows in the photographic image.

It's still pretty cool packaging, though.

Now... while I can't quite tell what type of trees those are in the photograph - I'm good, but not that good - I can tell you that the Nanatsukahara Farm was well known for the cherry trees and poplar trees planted there, as well as the pastoral scenery... which I suppose is what is represented in the photo just above. From what I understand, the poplar trees - 130 of them - were planted along the 150 meter roadway leading to the farm, and have come to symbolize the Nanatsukahara farm. So there. I guess those are poplar trees in the pastoral scene in the box.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Japanese Company Takes A Slice Of Dole Foods For $1.7 Billion

Dole Food Co.'s worldwide packaged foods and Asia fresh produce business was acquired by the Japanese firm, the Itochu Corp. for ¥133,280,000,000 (US/Cdn $1.7-billion).

Please not that this purchase price is not for all of the Dole business, but rather only a segment of Dole Food's overall business.

Itochu, founded in 1858, is a trading company descended from an Ohmi Shonin (traveling merchants - more in 12 hours) in Shiga-ken named Itoh Chubei (surname first) who founded the business as a linen wholesaler.

The purchase consists of Dole’s (headquartered in Westlake Village, California, USA) packaged foods business, including all canned and frozen fruit to bagged salads—product lines that fit with Itochu’s ambitions to become the biggest food distributor in the increasingly affluent Asian market.

Itochu, along with food, is also heavily into mining, oil and consumer goods and darn near everything it can to follow the spirit of sampo yoshi: Good for the seller, good for the buyer, and good for society.

Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife wonders how two simple words can convey so much, but is impressed. We're also impressed that $1.7-billion only got a portion of Dole's business... it's a sign of the times when a couple of billion dollars simply doesn't buy as much as it used to.

Andrew Joseph

Futuristic Map Of Japan In LEGO

I have no idea how the hell I missed this! Perhaps I was too self-absorbed in presenting my own LEGO creations about Japan.

Oh well... back on August 12, 2012, 5,000 kids in Japan helped create the whole country of Japan out of LEGO building blocks. Okay... they pretty much built everything months earlier and adults put it all together into one large diorama.

It's still bloody amazing.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of LEGO building blocks in Japan, LEGO created 'Build Up Japan' asking the kids they brought in from all over Japan to build the Japan they wanted to see for the future.

The result is jaw-dropping.

Back in March and April... each of the size different areas of Japan was built by kids from their area.Using some 1.8 million LEGO blocks, the result is what you see here... built out of white blocks, with onlmy a few recognizable structures utilizing color.

What a great diorama!

These pieces were then taken to Tokyo and reconstructed by LEGO experts...

All I can say is: If I had 1.8 million LEGO pieces, I'd need a new wife or girlfriend... but actually, if I had that many LEGO pieces and the individual talent of each of these kids, I am still sure I could not have built such wonderful models.  

Unfortunately, along with the lack of skill, I also only have 10s of thousands of LEGO pieces. Sad that my dream can't be fulfilled. LOL.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corrugated Bicycle Origami

You might be wondering just why Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife is presenting this albeit cool story about an Israeli inventor of a bicycle made of recycled corrugated materials - but the truth is... he got some inspiration from origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

Check out the image above. While not overly stylish, the bicycle does look like a real bicycle, is sturdy, water-resistent, and, for all you tree-huggers out there—the bicycle is made out of recycled corrugated... that's fluted cardboard... but the correct industry name is corrugated. Get it right! You have been informed.

The bicycle is manufactured from honeycomb board, which is actually a form of corrugated board where the corrugated paperboard is cut into thin strips and laminated so that the fluting stands through the depth of the board, and not packed along the surface. This makes the board as solid as steel.
I still don't see the origami aspect in this story...

Now... let's see... the story... I have two different stories and two different names for the bicycles' creator: Giora Kariv and Izhar Gafni.

Hmmm... it appears as those Gafni is the real inventor, with Kariv being a film-maker showing what the bicycle is all about. Get it right! You have been informed, again! I'm not showing the video... 

So...  behind every great man, there is a great woman. Ask any married man, and they will tell you that behind every great man is a great nag, and Gafni probably heard enough of this.

Tired of Gafni talking the talk but not walking the walk, she told him to build the damn bicycle he had thought he could build. So he did. And while he does indeed owe getting off his ass to his wife and has now enjoyed some fame and hopefully will earn a few shekels, this blog is hoping his completing the task has made her shut up for a bit. Oy gevalt.
Izhar Gafni got tired of being nagged and invented a bicycle made of corrugated. Perhaps to get away.

But... nag or not... you really have to hand it to Gafni's wife... she made him build a pretty neat bicycle...

But you know what? The best part about this sustainable bicycle is the fact that until big retail stores get their hands on it, Gafni says it costs about $10 to build.

This blog is sure that doesn't include Gafni's time, wear and tear on the equipment, rent and electrical costs or even marketing, but it's still going to be an inexpensive bicycle.

I think what's even cooler is that you can paint the bike yourself, saving yourself a few bucks.

The whole project was not as smooth a ride as one would expect... as so-called experts said it was not possible to manufacture a working bicycle out of corrugated.   I know, I know... who are these experts, and have they lost their license to be considered experts?

Anyhow, the bicycle is strong... and can hold up to 140 kilograms of weight  - that's 308.65 pounds. And really... that's a heck of a lot!  

It took a few prototypes before Gafni got it right - earlier ones were bulky. Now here's the Japanese thing... the folding of the cardboard has been described to be akin to origami... and it's the folding in of fluting that makes the corrugated stronger.

Oh yeah... and with a laminated finish, adds a bit of water- and humidity-resistance, the bike looks like it is made of plastic.

Andrew Joseph

Cool Packaging For Japan #1

The photo image above is of a Bankers box designed for The Conran Shop Japan, a business that sells some nice quality furniture, kitchenware, bed and bath and home accessories.

The box was designed by House Industries, located in Yorklyn, Delaware, U.S. A. House Industries is a type foundry.... which means they play with fonts, creating a look that, as evidenced by the photo above - stunning.

The corrugated (in layman's terms... fluted cardboard layered) box is a  Fellowes flexographic corrugationed Banjo H pattern model 703 Bankers Box, and was created exclusively for The Conran Shop Japan.

If you are a converter having to make these artisan boxes, you have your work cut-out for you. There are some (and I'll use some PR quotes): "stout serifs and spindly strokes around those bends, slots, scores and tucks required lots of cuttin’ and compin’".

It means that the machine operators have to ensure that the die-cutting on the corrugated flats is precise, because there are a lot of tabs that have to be folded correctly into slots to make this box stand out. 

Obviously the customer, The Conran Shop loved it, and even commissioned a mini-version of the banker's box so that they could send them out as an invitation for their Case Study Reception party at their Marunouchi location in Tokyo (see photo below).

Andrew Joseph

Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima

Every now and again, I receive spam and other odd advertisements in my e-mail account... most of which are unsolicited. And that's fine. It's called phishing... because sometimes a person will nibble on the e-mail and be drawn in.

While in this case, I am hardly being drawn in to my death, the subject matter was.

The e-mail from the publishers Stone Bridge Press are - in November of 2012 - publishing an 858 page hardback entitled Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima, written by Naoki Inose with Hiroaki Sato.

I'm going to be a bit lazy here and pretty much present what they sent me, and see if it doesn't capture your attention as it did mine.

Yukio Mishima was a brilliant writer and intellectual whose relentless obsession with beauty, purity and patriotism ended in his astonishing self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Nominated for the Nobel Prize three times, Mishima was the best-known novelist of his time and his legacy—his persona—is still honored and puzzled over.

, the first full biography to appear in English in 30 years, traces Mishima's trajectory from a sickly boy named Kimitake Hiraoka to a hard-bodied student of martial arts. In detail, Inose and Sato examine Mishima's family life, war experience and enormous literary output. Persona reveals the ideologies, conflicts and occasional petty backbiting that shaped the literary and political culture of postwar Japan.
Naoki Inose is a prize-winning Japanese author, writing on Mishima and Osamu Dazai - both well-known Japanese authors who killed themselves (Or was Dazai's death, murder?). He is also the vice-governor of Tokyo, elected in 2007.

Hiroaki Sato is a prize-winning translator of classical and modern Japanese poetry into English. He has also translated Mishima's novel, Silk and Insight, and his dramas, My Friend Hitler and Other Plays. Since 2000, Sato has written a monthly Japan Times column, "The View from New York." He lives in Manhattan. 

Stone Bridge Press published books about Asia... and if they asked to write a book about my adventures there, I would. I would also accept any books they send me for review. I'm just saying.

Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima will be released in November of 2012, and costs: $39.95 US / $43.99 CAN, and is distributed by Consortium.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 17, 2012

Is Green Tea Oishi?

If you've ever spent any time in Japan and have ventured anywhere outside a western hotel and McDonalds, you should have come into contact with o-cha (green tea).

I used to have about seven cups of the piping hot stuff every work day at any one of my seven schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. It certainly warms you up on a cold, chilly day...

but... don't let any Japanese person fool you with their statement: "Oishi desu ne."  

That translates to the English vernacular of : Delicious isn't it?

Y'know what? It's green tea. It's not really delicious. It's functional, and it... functional. I have no idea what else it is... but I've eaten a lot of delicious things in my life, and you know what? O-cha is hardly in the same stratosphere as being 'delicious'.

Everyday work, the office ladies would present me with a cup of o-cha (hai, domo - thanks!) and would ask after seeing me have a quick sip, if it was delicious. 

I think even they knew it wasn't exactly the highest quality o-cha out there... but I think they were really just asking if it was okay... you know... because if the gaijin (foreigner) isn't polite enough to say it's good, then someone better change the leaves in the pot!

I've watched o-cha leaves - the same ones - sit in a pot for hours and hours, as more and more hot water is poured through it to make a green tea for people... like anything being over-used, it soon loses its flavor.

Maybe what we really want is the first cup from the brew.

It's probably very good for you... in fact, I know it is.

The Japanese folks I talked to when I lived there between 1990-1993 used to tell me that it was practicaly a cure all.

I wondered to myself if they weren't correct... I mean... half the population used to smoke like chimneys, but never did I hear anyone with a smoker's cough. I did notice the smokers drinking a ton of the o-cha.

And what about Nagasaki and Hiroshima... two cities that were irradiated with atomic blasts 67 years ago? I'd expect genetic mutations, or higher incidences of cancer... and maybe there is... but not as high as one might naively expect... but everyone looked great... could that damn o-cha have anything to do with it?

Who knows. I'm not going into the health benefits or health claims of the green tea beverage companies.

I'm just talking about the green tea that had some flavor, but mostly always tasted watery to me.

 But... not all green teas are created equal. You get what you pay for.

I've actually had some high quality green tea that possess a very strong green flavor. Bitter, in fact. It's how you know you are alive.

If you ever get a green tea that tastes bitter - and someone asks you if it's delicious... feel free to lie and tell them it is... at least this time you can bet that even if you don't like it, they will be impressed with your sense of taste.

And... should you folks REALLY want to know what high quality o-cha tastes like... I suggest you go to an official Green Tea Ceremony. You want to talk about bitter? My eyes still scrunch up in remembrance.

Bitter yes... but, at least there was flavor.

That watered down stuff you get at work or school? Crap.

You ever want to make a great impression on a Japanese person... spend 10,000 yen ($100) on a pouch of real green tea leaves. You'll be at their place having a meal in no time sharing it with them. On the plus side, there may also be booze there.

But... all of this is just me. Some people find o-cha very tasty. Probably the same people who think natto (rotting soy beans) are tasty. Hey... I eat natto... but that's just to impress the Japanese. It, too is also good for you, but that doesn't mean it's tasty.  

Andrew Joseph
PS: Of course... this blog may have been more about manners than green tea. I said 'may'.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

China - Japan Relations Worsen

Things are getting even more tense with Chinese citizens not playing nice with Japanese citizens living in China after relations between the two nations became even more frosty as the dispute over ownership of a few islands has intensified.

Check out this decent news report from the Business Standard published in India: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Some Numbers On Japan

I started putting this together a month ago, and I'll be darned if I know where I borrowed the data from - probably Wikipedia. Let me look... yes... Wikipedia.. backed up with a few other things - like the books - yes, books - that I have.  

Area: 377,780 square kilometers (142,771 square miles)
           Land: 99.02 % making up 377,944 kilometers squared (145,925 square-miles.
           Water: 0.8% - all its lakes and rivers.

Population: ~ 127,692,000
Capital City: Tokyo (formerly called Edo back in 1868 and beyond). Edo means 'estuary'. Tokyo means: To: east; Kyo: capital.
People: 98.3% Japanese; 1.7 % other (mostly Chinese or ethnic Korean)
Religion(s): 80% of Japanese adhere to more than one religion: Shinto (106.8 million), Buddhism (89.2 million), Christianity (3.0 million), others (9.8 million)
Currency: Yen
Prefectures: 47 provinces, though only 43 are designated as a 'ken' (県)(province/prefecture). Tokyo is a 'to' (都) ('metropolis'), Osaka and Kyoto are 'fu' (府) ('core urban zone'), and Hokkaido is a (道) ('circuit').
Prefecture Names:
  • Hokkaido Region: Hokkaido;
  • Tohoku Region: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima;
  • Kanto Regions: Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa;
  • Chubu Region: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, Shizukoa, Aichi;
  • Kansai Region: Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama; 
  • Chugoku Region: Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi;
  • Shikoku Region: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, Koichi; 
  • Kyushu Region: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima;
  • Okinawa Region: Okinawa
Major Political Parties: DPJ - Democratic Party of Japan; LDP - Liberal Democratic Party; New Komeito; JCP - Japan Communist Party; SDP - Social Democratic PartyGovernment: Representative democracy with a bicameral (two chamber) parliament (the Diet). Executive power rests with the Prime Minister and his cabinet. The emperor is head of state, although his function is purely symbolic.
Head of State: Emperor Akihito, ascended to throne 7 January 1989.
Prime Minister: Yoshihiko Noda, since 2 September 2011.
Foreign Minister: Foreign Minister: Koichiro Gemba, since 2 September 2011
Settlement: Paleolithic culture started around 30,000 BC in the Okinawa islands area (the Japanese archipelago) , with hunter-gathers at around 14,000 BC (Ainu and Yamato peoples); Yayoi people entered around 300BC
Foundation Day: February 11, 660 BC
First Emperor: Jimmu

That photo up above is of a pottery shard I own from around 150 BC. I have such bizarre stuff...

Andrew Joseph

Man Pays Ticket With Origami Pigs

I love this!

A man who was caught via traffic camera for going through a red light decided to pay his $137 fine in cash - folded into origami-shaped like pigs. Origami, is of course the ancient Japanese art of paper folding.

And... to top it off, he delivered the origami pigs - all done in folded $1 bills - inside two Dunkin Donuts donut boxes!

Says the Houston, Texas, USA man who was trying to pay the fine: "I got this ticket in a town where the cops (and absurd red-light cameras) are pretty much a money trap and that’s it. "I decided to pay in an appropriate manner." He tried to pay the fine at the City of Jersey Village Municipal Court - but they would not accept it because they did not want to take the time to unfold the origami that took him well over four hours to do... well over.

He posted this You Tube video of himself trying to pay the fine. 

Why does this story make me want a bacon sandwich? And some donuts? Oh wait... I get it! Because the police are called 'pigs', and because they like to eat donuts... sometimes spelled 'doughnuts' when you live in a country other than the U.S.

You have to respect the effort to be a dumbass, who was caught fair-and-square by the police camera


Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's A Dog's Life

I got my first dog, an English Blue Roan Cocker Spaniel (Tin-Tin) for my third birthday... got another American Cocker Spaniel (Tippy) when I was 4 and then living in Canada... four Rottweilers (Apollo, Damien, Misty and Blackjack), and now a Chocolate Labrador (Buster). 

When I was living in Japan between 1990-1993 and away from the home for the first time, I was homesick a bit and missed having a dog. I really wanted one, because for the first time in my life, I had no family with me in Japan... and no dog.

Because I was afraid of getting a dog and then not being able to bring him/her back to Cnaada, I refrained from getting one - sucking it up and instead adopting a cat for a few days, but really making do with tropical fish and Goldfish.

But it sure didn't make up for not having a dog acting happy when I arrived home after a long, cold day at work.

Here are a few facts about pet dogs in Japan: 
  • Dogs: ~22,000,000

  • Japanese children under 15: 16,600,000
Consider if you will that Japan is complaining about a lower birth rate, and that in 2002 - just 10 years ago - the average dog population was 11,000,000.

I found a cool BBC documentary that you can listen too called "It's A Dog's Life" about dogs in Japan.. Or maybe it's really about dog owners in Japan... and how they prefer having a dog to getting married or having a boyfriend/girlfriend, or even having sex.

As such, the documentary talks about how Japanese people pamper their dogs.

You can listen to this documentary now: RUFF that was made on June 12, 2012.

That photo above? That's Hachiko... a statue of a faithful dog, situated in Tokyo, outside a train station... a landmark where people look to meet. You can read my blog on this great dog HERE.

Andrew Joseph 

China Enters Waters Claimed By Japan

Holy crap! China's not fooling around.

According to the latest news reports, China has sent surveillance ships into waters claimed by Japan's Senkaku Islands, or as the Chinese call them - MINE! aka the Diaoyu Islands out in the East China Sea.

Before you read any farther, my friend Matthew recommended some mood music... his was good, but here's a better choice, in my opinion. Play the video and continue to scroll down.

It's the classic Star Trek battle music... in this case Mr. Spock is being 'forced' to battle his Captain Kirk from the classic television show Star Trek. 

Six Chinese surveillance ships entered the disputed territorial waters on September 14, 2012, making damn near everybody wonder again if someone's on the eve of destruction.

According to China's Foreign Ministry, this act is merely a mission of "law enforcement over its maritime rights.

"It reflects our government's jurisdiction over the Diaoyu islands."

At the heart of the problem is the fact that there is supposed to be - under the waters - a potentially huge oil and gas reserve. Everyone is greedy. They could make a deal to share it, but no... it's come to seeing who has the biggest dick.

Hey! China! Japan! You're both big dicks. Put those away before you poke an eye out.

Luckily (?!), a typhoon is approaching the islands, so China withdrew its ships from within the 24-mile area around the islands.

According to the Japan Coast Guard (who may be rethinking the whole 'cool, safe job' thing), no force was used to make the Chinese leave (whew!).

Japan's prime minister Noda Yoshihiko (surname first) says: "We'll do our utmost in vigilance and surveillance."

I have no idea what that means, either. China has a butt-load of nuclear weapons, and is still pissed of at Japan for having arrested a Chinese sea captain back in 2010 after it bumped a Coast Guard cutter - oh yeah, and that whole invading and occupying China crap that occurred before WWII.

 Japan's Foreign Minsiter (not just a nameless statement), Gemba Koichiro (surname first) adds that Japan has lodge a protest with the Chinese government (So there!), stating that they should stop messing with Japan's territorial waters.

"I'd like to underscore that we should never let the situation escalate and we have strong hopes for the Chinese to respond in an appropriate and calm manner," he adds.

You can read another blog I wrote HERE offering more information about Japan, or it it just Tokyo, purchasing some of the islands from private Japanese citizens.

FYI (for your information), this past September 11, 2012, Japan finialized the sale of the islands after listening to Chinaa warning them that the purchase would 'breach China's sovereignty'. I think China meant it would 'piss them off' in non-governmental jargon.  

I'm waiting for one of Japan's allies to become involved in this Them versus USA, I mean Us pissing match.

More, when it happens...
Andrew Joseph

Friday, September 14, 2012

Size Matters... For Chopsticks

A long, long time ago... 1991 or so... when I was still living and teaching in Japan... I cam e across a study done by Tokyo university professor who calculated the ideal length of hashi (chopsticks).

Now... there is not simply one size fits all... no... this professor, worked out ideal length of chopsticks based on a person's height. That is to say, he assumed that a person's height and the size of one's hands relative to a pair of chopsticks was important.

Look... I know that there are small training chopsticks, and chopsticks for kids, larger ones for adults, and super long ones for cooking/stirring... but different chopsticks for people of different stature? Separated by a centimeter or two? 

It all sounds like hokum to me, but just for the record, he states that the perfect length for anyone's chopsticks should be 15% of a person's height.

Now, perhaps this assumes that tall people have large hands, or something idiotic like that - and many of my tall friends do... but does that mean a person who is 183 cm (1.83 m = 6'0") tall requires a pair of chopsticks 27.45cm long?

And that since size does matter if you've got wood, if you are 180cm tall... your chopsticks should only be 27cm long? Is this why some people can't pick up their soup with their chopsticks? Or that elusive pea? They have ill-fitting chopsticks?

It makes a great excuse, at least:
It's not my fault. I told the restaurant I needed 27.45cm long chopsticks, and clearly these are 27.3cm! The harmony of my meal is wrong! I'm not paying for this meal I have already tried to eat and clearly spilled down the front of my shirt. 

Does Japan make hashi based on a person's height? Not yet. 

People will buy anything... perhaps someone wants to work on a business plan with me. Hey... even if I don't believe it, if I can make money off it, I will believe anything.

Anyhow...  take a look at the photo above... I actually have close to 100 sets of chopsticks. I was given a large number by the official hashi maker of the Japanese Royal Family before I left (not included in this photo). You can tell from this small sampling that red chopsticks in the middle and the black pair on the right are the same size, while the red on on the far right and the brown ones in the middle are equal in size, while the plain wooden ones on the far left, are smaller than both. But... despite the size differences, it does not appear to cater to anyone of a particular height.  

Somewhere with left-handed chopsticks,
Andrew Joseph

This Goes To 11

Just because it's Matthew, I'm going to present a link.

Okay... It's really because it's Matthew and Spinal Tap.

The band, not the medical procedure.

For those of you young'uns out there, I'm talking about a fantastic mockumentary about a hard rock band called: This Is Spinal Tap, and it came out in 1984... oh my god... 28 effing years ago. No wonder you may never have seen it!!!

Look... just go out and rent a copy or pirate it... or steal a VHS tape from your grandpa... and watch the movie. It's a laugh a minute riot... BUT... not only is it funny... the music ain't half-bad, either!

It's all about the band Spinal Tap.

My favorite songs are:
Big Bottom
Sex Farm
Gimmee Some Money

My favorite moment in the movie was when my friend Mike W. yelled out, "Hey he's got a Rickenbacker bass!" and then someone else in the crowd yelled back: "No, it's not!"

Regardless of that, there are so many memorable moments from this movie! All of them worth remembering for how memorable they are.

Anyhow... as a fake band playing for 25 years all over the world, DKNG design + illustration got to thinking what a promo might look like for that time they played at Kobe Hall in Tokyo, Japan back in 1982!

Click HERE to see it.

You'll notice, that this goes to 11, see? Matthew picked that up from my blog - THIS ONE
Somewhere sniffing the glove,
Andrew Joseph 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Russia And Japan Play Let's Make A Deal For Natural Gas

Here's some good news for all of long-suffering natural gas sufferers.

Russia and Japan are putting energy co-operation ahead of a longstanding territorial dispute as they move ahead with a long-awaited liquefied natural gas project in this far eastern seaport.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Japanese prime minister Noda Yoshihiko (surname first) oversaw the signing of a memorandum for a $13-billion project with Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit.

The project “will have a great meaning for developing the eastern part of the Unified Gas Supply System of Russia as well as raising Russian gas supplies to Asia-Pacific markets including Japan,” said chairman Alexei Miller of the Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom.

“I would like to emphasize that the Japanese market has an advantageous size and is considered a top priority in the Far East,” adds Miller.

Japan used 83 million tons of LNG (liquified natural gas) in 2011, accounting for 14 per cent of its total energy use. Almost all the natural gas Japan uses is in the form of LNG.

Gazprom is the world’s largest producer of gas, but its pipeline gas business has been hit by sliding demand for gas while competing liquefied natural gas carried by ship has flooded European markets. Gazprom relies on pipelines and long-term pricing agreements.

Miller says that Gazprom’s exports of natural gas to the Asia-Pacific would soon exceed the volume sold to Europe, and as such Gazprom and its partners have conducted a feasibility study on transmission and marketing of natural gas and chemical products in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan Far East Gas Co. - a consortium participating in the government-backed project, includes Itochu Corp., Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Marubeni Corp., Inpex Corp. and Itochu Oil Exploration Co.

As of now, Gazprom plans to extend a natural gas pipeline from Sakhalin to Vladivostok to a seaside terminal where the gas would be processed for shipment to Japan and other markets. The new project, if completed, would have a capacity of 10 million tons annually, doubling Gazprom’s capacity from its only other plant, also on Sakhalin.

The photo above shows a tanker carrying liquified natural gas at a port in Chiba.

Andrew Joseph

I'm An Evil Bastard Sometimes

As an out-going, reasonably good-looking, somewhat self-assured gaijin (foreigner) teaching junior high school in Japan, I can sometimes be an evil bastard.

Y'see, I know I possess a certain power over many of the students I teach at the seven middle schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

I'm talking more about the female students, of course. Oh don't worry... I'm not going to tell you I slept with one - because I have more class than that... but I do know how to amuse myself...

First - I'm in a junior high school surrounded by 12-15 year-olds... this place is out-of-control-hormones central!

Second - I'm surrounded by a plethora of teenaged girls who are yearning to be noticed by boys, men, foreign men - whatever. And me... as a foreign man at the age of 26 (nearly 22 years ago) am aware I possess a somewhat exotic quality. At least I did back then. Maybe I do now.

Third - that exotic quality has me as your un-typical Canadian... brown, tall, always smiling and inviting, wearing better clothes than any of their regular teachers, possessing a long pony-tail and a diamond earring in my left ear (the cool side - which was the style in the day). (In fact... the nice clothes I wore then in 1990 are clearly out of fashion in 2012, but back then, I clearly stood out).

Let's just say for clarity's sake that in Japan I have a lot more teenaged girls vying for my attention than I ever had back when I was a teenager. In fact, back then I could have exploded spontaneously into a green cloud of flame in the Toronto high school cafeteria during lunch time, and not a single person - male, female, teacher or student - would have noticed me, the nerdy kid with the zits, glasses, large floppy feet and glasses.

As such... since arriving in Japan six months ago... I have slept with more women than I would have thought possible. Six. Bringing my combined Japan-Canada total to: six. Yup. Virgin no more. Woo-hoo.

So now I have confidence with women... and I certainly have it with teenaged girls I have no intention or desire of sleeping with. Give me a woman any day over a kid.

But that doesn't mean I can't screw WITH them.

While the students are working quietly on an in-class assignment, I would walk quietly between the rows of desks and glance at their work - both boys and girls - and offer encouragement... providing a smile and a simple, gentle comforting light touch to the back of their shoulder. Hey... I'm a touchy-feely guy, but I know what constitutes a friendly pat versus a grope. And I only provide the kids with the friendly pat. Women, on the other hand...

The boys knew it was a nice show of affection and would smile back.

But the girls... the girls... hee-hee-hee... regardless of what they knew I was doing with the pat on the back... my simple touch would cause them to turn red in the face, gasp for breath, and leave a puddle on their chair.

The first time that happened, I was kind of embarrassed that I was able to garner that type of reaction... and then I became the evil bastard I mentioned I was sometimes, and purposely began causing puddles on the chairs.

I suppose I may go to hell for that, but when every class in every school is the same lesson plan, I would sometimes go coo-coo bananas. This was the result.

Somewhere with the kavorka,
Andrew Joseph 
Happy birthday C!