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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More Trouble Coming With FrankenStorm

For those of you on the east coast of North America... hopefully you'll be able to share a laugh... 'cause it ain't over yet as you can see from the photograph above at New Jersey's shores......

Damn Godzilla...

Hope every one is all right...
Andrew Joseph

Godzilla Versus The Super Snake

Relax pilgrim, this ain't your typical monster movie, though it does involve two two very nasty cars going head-to-head on the dynometer and on the track.

Welcome, in this corner, from Japan... Nissan's powerful GTR, nicknamed Godzilla.

And, it's squirmin', well-known cousin, the U.S. Shelby GT 500 Super Snake... a new version of the classic Cobra that ruled the streets for decades.

Topping out at 412 horsepower, Godzilla will be in tough to survive the awesome might of the 635 horsepower Super Snake.

Check out the Motor Trend Magazine report to see who shall prevail! 

Now... from what I have been able to determine, some of the older GTR's came stock with a 330 HP engine, but for a mere $2000, you could have it tuned to roar out at 750 HP. In fact, some people have topped them out at 1000 HP. Nobody, I know, of course.

Regardless... in this drag race, this is a 2010 GTR, and it was stock with the 412 HP.

Is size everything? Or is it the motion in the ocean? We're not sure what that has to do with cars, but it sounds desperate enough to be a euphemism for something else.

Anyhow... I visited Nissan Canada's website and saw the 2013 GTR. That bastard has a 545 HP twin turbo V6 engine  - it offers 545 HP at 6400 rpms! Holy crap! That's it in the photo at the very top. Anyhow... should you be interested in more specs, visit HERE. And... if you are thinking of buying one, Nissan Canada's website does not offer a base price for one of those (it does for every other one of it's great cars, though), making me think that if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.

No kidding. I'd drive it once and lose my license.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unexploded WWII Bomb Found At Sendai Airport

A bomb found at Sendai Airport is believed to have been an unexploded one from World War II.

As a precaution Japan rounded up all known gaijin in the area for interrogation.

Just kidding. Still... all flights in and out of the airport were closed while workers determine if the dud US bomb (a bomb that was supposed to explode - but didn't explode on impact) should be detonated on site or removed and then detonated.

Full story from Japan Today: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Tochigi's Car Plant Visited By F1 Champ

I'm a Tochigi-ken boy... I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan between 1990-1993. As such, I tend to look for things about the old prefecture... which is why I present this to you... more so than because it involves an F1 racing champ.

I used to watch F1 races all the time, but marriage and fatherhood seems to have got in the way. But... I still love fast cars...

Earlier this month, the 2010 and 2011 F1 world champ racing driver Sebastian Vettel visited the Infiniti global automobile manufacturing facility in Kaminokawa-machi, Tochigi-ken ahead of his scheduled race in the Japanese Grand Prix.

It must have been lucky as Vettel won the race! It was his second win in a row, winning the Singapore Grand Prix. Following his victory at the Japanese event, Vettel then won two more races in a row: the Korean Grand Prix and this weekends Indian Grand Prix!     

At the Tochigi-ken Infiniti plant (the Infiniti brand is owned by parent company Nissan), Vettel test drove his own Infiniti FX Vettel Edition production car for the very first time.
What? A white Japanese car??!!!?

Part of the Red Bull racing team, and Infiniti ambassador, Vettel was at the Tochigi plant to approve the first cars off the assembly line - as he helped co-design them.

After touring the facility and giving it the smile of approval, he also hung around to meet staff at the plant before hopping behind the wheel of his car to test it on the plant's track.

What was also cool was the fact that Vettel was allowed to test drive some other cars not yet produced and provided performance feedback to engineers and other test drivers.

Anyhow... the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition is limited to just 150 cars and is priced at about $155,000--but don't break open your piggy banks yet! If you are in the US or Canada - it ain't coming here. Maybe you could buy one in Japan and have it shipped over. No biggie... if you have the cash to buy one, you can afford the shipping, right? I've heard, though that there are some regulatory issues keeping it from being sold in North America. 

The SUV supercar - that's what it is - contains upgrades over a standard FX50 S... which is also what the car is based on... but this baby includes: a restyled grille, a carbon fiber front spoiler modelled on the front wing of a Formula One (F1) car, LED daytime running lights, carbon fiber wing mirrors and sills and a rear spoiler. The powerplant is a 5.0-litre V8 engine that was upgraded to 414 horsepower and has the speed limited removed from it allowing it to cruise at an eye watering 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour... which is about 60 kilometers per hour faster than I have ever driven... in my 2001 Hyundai Tiburon.

I said I liked speed. But that whole fatherhood thing has me rarely over the speed limit nowadays. Obey the traffic laws, boys and girls. Don't be an idiot like I was/am.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 29, 2012

Circus Goes To The Dogs In Japan

Okay... I saw this on and I watched a little news report about a Japanese gentleman named Uchida Hiroaki (surname first) who runs a dog circus called the Super Wan Wan Dog Circus in Tsukuba-shi, Japan.

Wan wan is how the Japanese believe a dog barks: wahn-wahn, is the pronunciation... is it any stranger than bow-wow or bark-bark or yip-yip or others...

The video located on You Tube shows a great report on the circus, and is worth the watch of these great animals... and should you be wondering to see if this will offend you or not... Uchida takes in strays, gives them a loving home, feeds them and cares for them even after the dogs retire until they pass on. The fact that they do a few cool tricks to amuse us humans is, I feel, a a feel-good story.

After the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit t he northeast coast of Japan, there was a tremendous loss of life, not to mention families being forced to re-locate... and not be allowed to take their pets.

As such, there were quite a lot of animals running around looking for food. While Japan had many cool agencies looking out for the welfare of these lost pets, people still needed to adopt them or, if they were lucky, re-claim them. It seems like Uchida is doing his fair share to adopt dogs when and where he can.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Samurai's Three Sons

A long time ago in Japan, there lived a samurai master named Bokuden Matsuta (surname first), who was known throughout the land for his bravery and sword skill.

As with most men, Bokuden grew old, and felt he could no longer run his martial arts school (dojo), and decided he would pass the leadership of it to one of his three sons--but which one?

Each was a strong fighter, but each had different qualities. His friends all laughed politely at his quandry, and simply said that the eldest son always took over from the father.

Despite it being Japan and the need to follow protocol an important tradition, Bokuden wasn't so swayed. "Tradition is not always the way to solve a problem. A problem must be thought through."

Would the eldest son be the best teacher (sensei) merely because he was the oldest? How would it be fair to his many students to have a teacher teach them merely because he was the oldest? And how would his other two sons react--one of them might be a better fighter or a better teacher... would not resentment fester merely because he chose to appoint a successor based solely on age?

Now... all three of his sons were excellent martial artists in their own right. Bokuden realized that physical strength alone would not prove enough in teaching or in life. Bokuden was wise to know that a real leader encompassed many qualities.

Being one to talk the talk and walk the walk, Bokuden formulated a plan and called for his assistant Yamamoto to join him. Bokuden had been Yamamoto's first teacher of the martial arts, with the two of them having known each other for as long as anyone could recall.

Yamamoto, while younger than Bokuden, was not as healthy as his Master, having lost much of his strength and flexibility.

Now, while Yamamoto deeply respected the wishes of Bakuden, he wished he would reconsider his retirement. He knew that each of his three sons had his own set of followers, and should he not be named the dojo leader, and did not respect the new leader, a divide would occur causing one or the other to leave to form their own dojo, thereby weakening the name and reputation of Bakuden. He told Bakuden that he should resists retirement while he could still move.

But, as mentioned, Bakuden had a plan. I will test each son to see who will be the next sensei. "We shall see whose talents will serve him best."

Trusting Bakuden, Yamamoto was relieved. Each son was different.

The youngest possessed physical strength greater than the others with huge muscles we worked on every day. He could cut a tree down with the single swing of his katana sword.

The middle son, while not as strong, was extremely quick and could block a blow and counter attack in the blink of an eye. Bokuden had watched avoid an attack by leaping high into the air, sometimes landing behind his opponent with such speed that he was seen only as a blur.

The eldest son was not as strong as his youngest brother nor as quick as his middle brother, but he did possess a focus that made fighting him quite difficult. When an opponent thought to hit him, he had already moved to block--before the opponent had actually move.

To test them, Bokuden set about setting a pillow--a nice comfy pillow--atop the entrance of a room. "When anyone enters, the pillow shall fall on their head."

With the test set, Yamamoto was asked to fetch his youngest son, whom he found in his room admiring the way he flexed his biceps. "Your father wishes to see you. Please follow me."

Hurrying after Yamamoto, when he reached the dojo where his father was awaiting, he quickly through open the sliding door and entered.

The pillow landed upon his head.

Angered by the sudden attack, the youngest son drew his katana from its sheath and before it could even hit the ground turned it into a pile of feathers and fabric that floated in the air.

Bokuden and Yamamoto sneezed from the feathers tickling their noses.

Turning to the youngest son who waved the floating feathers furiously away from his face, Bokuden chided: "My son... must you always overpower everything... even a pillow?"

The son breathed a feather away from his face and responded, "I would have cut a real attacker into a thousand pieces."

Bokuden looking at the mess at his feet, shook his head, "If that pillow had been a real attacker, you would have been dead. Block first and then attack. If you allow an attacker to get in the first attack with a sword, your strength matters not.

"You need to work harder to anticipate an attack if you are to defend yourself."

Angry at his failure, the youngest son stormed out of the room. "He does not understand," said Bokuden.

After cleaning the room of feathers, and the test set again, Yamamoto went to fetch the middle son.

Slipping through the barely opened doorway, the middle son caused the pillow to fall--but being quick, he caught the pillow in his hands, smiled and asked his father how he was.

Bokuden smiled at his middle son's composure and speed. The family's honor seemed to be restored.

Now it was time to test the oldest son. But... when he approached the room, he spied the pillow atop the door and reached up and pulled it down, looked at it, and as he fully entered the room, turned back and fluffed the pillow and replaced it back atop the doorway.

"How did you see the pillow?" asked Bokuden.

"I saw it because it was there," answered the eldest son. "You taught me that a samurai must always be aware of his suroundings. You have ever taught us when training here in the dojo that a samurai must always be alert.

"And so I saw the pillow. I hope you don't mind that I took it down before I caused it to fall as I entered--I assume you had it up there for a purpose?"

Bokuden bowed long and deep to his eldest son. "My son, you are a true samurai and will be the best sensei for this dojo when I retire."

After Yamamoto handed Bokuden the ceremonial sword, the father passed the sword down to his eldest son and most excellent student.

"You, my son, shall lead the dojo not because your are my eldest child but because you truly understand what it means to be a samurai."

The End

Andrew Joseph
This is my adaption of a famous Japanese samurai tale. It reflects a samurai proverb:

"A person who has attained mastery of a martial art reveals it in his every action."

By the way... did you notice that the photo of the samurai pillow above has a samurai holding an electric guitar? I didn't.

Japan's Instrument Of Surrender (WWII) Document

Have you ever wondered what a war surrender treaty reads like? Below is the actual wording of the Instrument Of Surrender of Japan to end World War II. The version pictured above is a copy of the document owned by Japan.

We acting by command of and behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China and Great Britain on 26 July, 1945, at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.

We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and all of the Japanese armed  forces under Japanese control wherever situated.

We hereby command all Japanese forces wherever situated and the Japanese people to cease all hostilities forthwith, to preserve and save from damage all ships, aircraft, and military and civil property and to comply with all requirements which may be imposed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by agencies of the Japanese Government at his direction.

We hereby command the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters to issue at once orders to the Commanders of all Japanese forces and all forces under Japanese control wherever situated to surrender unconditionally themselves and all forces under their control.

We hereby command all civil, military and naval officers to obey and enforce all proclamations, orders and directives deemed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to continue to perform their non-combat duties unless specifically relieved by him or under his authority.

We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever action may be required by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by any other designated representative for the Allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that Declaration.

We hereby command the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters at once to liberate all allied prisoners of war and civilian internees now under Japanese control and to provide for their protection, care, maintenance and immediate transportation to places as directed.

The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these these terms of surrender.

Signed at Tokyo Bay Japan at 09.04 on the second day of September, 1945.

(Signature of: Mamoru Shigemitsu)
By Command and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government.

(Signature of: Yoshijirō Umezu)
By Command and in behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters.

Accepted at Tokyo Bay, Japan at 09.08 on the second day of September, 1945 for the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the interests of the other United Nations at war with Japan.
(Signature of: Douglas MacArthur)
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.

(Signature of: C.W. Nimitz)
United States Representative
(Signature of: Hsu Yung-Ch'ang )
Republic of China Representative
(Signature of: Bruce Fraser)
United Kingdom Representative
(Signature of: Kuzma Derevyanko)
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Representative
(Signature of: Thomas Blamey)
Commonwealth of Australia Representative
(Signature space blank:)
Dominion of Canada Representative
(Signature of Dominion of Canada Representative: Lawrence Moore Cosgrave)
Provisional Government of the French Republic Representative
(handwritten)(Dominion of Canada Representative)
(Signature of the Provisional Government of the French Republic Representative: Philippe Leclerc de Haureclocque)
Kingdom of the Netherlands Representative
(handwritten) (Provisional Government of the French Republic Representative)
(Signature of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Representative: C.E.L. Helfrich)
Dominion of New Zealand Representative
(Signature in empty space: Leonard M. Isitt)
Dominion of New Zealand Representative

If you are wondering what the hell was going on at the end, with things being crossed off, just know that the Dominion of Canada Representative signed his bloody name on the wrong line... signing it in the line reserved for the French representative. Oh, Canada. That meant everybody else had to sign one space down... ending with poor New Zealand signing in empty space.

The ceremony aboard the deck of the Missouri lasted 23 minutes and was broadcast throughout the world.

And that's the way it was.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Smoking In Japan Takes 10 Years Of Life - Not Four

According to a new study published on (formerly the British Medical Journal), smoking reduces one's life expectancy by 10 years in Japan - not four as originally suspected from previous studies.

Holy crap! Smokers... get the hell out of Japan or you'll lose six more years of your life!

I suspect the assumption that Japanese people only lost four years of life from smoking was due to the heavy drinking of green tea (o-cha), which people believe contained anti-cancer benefits.

Now... the Japanese are back on par with smokers from Britain and the U.S... not that they actually were ahead of them.

Here's the interesting part, though. These tests actually owe their origins to the Life Span Study (LSS) that was begun in 1950 to discover the effects of radiation by tracking the lifespan of some 100,000 people around the world... including Hiroshima and Nagasaki which had the crap bombed out of them by one atomic bomb each... so far the first and only country ever to be exposed to an atomic weapon on purpose.

Now... you might be wondering how a radiation survey could provide results on smoking... well, the respondents were those who had some minimal exposure to radiation... but over the years researchers began to wonder if other outside factors could also affect human lifespan.

So... for Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the smoking status of 27, 311 men and 40,662 women were picked from 1963 through 1992. As well, the mortality rates from one year after ascertaining the smoking status until January 1, 2008 was finally analyzed and the results presented two days ago.

I'll spare you the details, but just know that no matter where you seem to be from, smoking tends to knock off 10 years of your life.

Andrew Joseph

Police Charge Man Who Had Genitals Removed For Public Dinner

Well... this is a complete cock-up.

Thinking he had crossed his T's and dotted his i's, Sugiyama Mao (surname first), a Japanese asexual artist has been charged by police for indecent exposure.

Whoopidy-doo, I hear you say... but this is Japan.

Back in March 2011, Sugiyama, 23, had a professional chef cook up his genitals—previously removed and certified disease free by a penis-removing professional... you know the ones who have a shop on every corner beside the bicycle repair shop... anyhow...

He then had a dinner party and charged his guests to eat his balls and wiener.

Sugiyama was doing this for notoriety, to pay his medical bills and to bring the awareness for sexual minorities, x-gender and asexual people like himself... you know... to show that they are not weird and are just like you and me, but willing to cut off their genitals for cash. For realsies.

Anyhow... you can read about that story HERE.

Here's a picture of the meal carved up by the head chef:
Head chef carves up Sugiyama's genitals... what's obscene is the chef isn't wearing gloves. No glove - no love.
  So... Sugiyama - some nine months after the meal... was charged by Tokyo Police for indecent exposure. Yes... indecent exposure... because apparently cannibalism is not against the law in Japan.

As a writer and pundit, I love this country. 

Apparently after exhausting ways to try and punish Sugiyama, Tokyo Police after hundreds of man hours and how-many-10s-of-thousands of dollars, came upon the brilliant idea of harassing the angst-filled, lethargic Sugiyama and the three other people who organ-ized the wiener roast event.

"Mister Sugiyama-san... we are charging you with indecent exposure. Yes... you people were showing a penis and set of tiny unused testicles upon a dinner plate—there for all the world to be exposed to. Have you no shame? Why do you help the stereotype of Japanese people having tiny genitals? This is why we are really pissed at you!"

Okay... none of that was actually said except in my own echo-y head.
Apparently in Japan, indecent exposure doesn't necessarily mean flashing your privates at people... it can also come to mean the display of obscene objects. The penalty could be a maximum jail sentence of up to two years and/or fined up to ¥2.5 million (~Cdn/US $31,309.97).

What's stupid about this whole harassment and charging of Sugiyamama and company is that I'm betting no actual person invited to the charity event actually made a complaint to the police... but the Tokyo Police have probably taken it upon themselves to be the guardians of all that is seen and obscene.

And... if the Tokyo Police do have such powers... able to arrest and charge a person without being present at the commission of the so-called crime or have not received a complaint from anyone actually at the event when the genitals were served (and why would anyone there really be offended... they knew what the event was about in advance - why go and be offended?) ... then it all sounds kind of fascist to me.

For shame.

In response to the police arresting and charging Sugiyama, he is reported to have said: "Bite me."

Because Sugiyama has no genitals for the police to bite, Tokyo Police were reportedly at a loss for words.

Andrew Joseph
I made those last two sentences up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rare Photo Of Japan's WWII Surrender Treaty

Here's a rare sneaky photo of the original signed documents whereby Japan officially surrenders to the United States of America to end World War II.

The photo was taken by a young turk on the sly at the New-York Historical Society in New York City, as photography of this important document is supposed to be expressly verboten. I have no idea why New and York are hyphenated.

According to my source, the document is huge - at least 2 feet wide x 3 feet high.

In the close-up of this photo, you can make out the signature of one General Douglas MacArthur, nicknamed by the Japanese as the Gaijin Shogun.

The treaty was signed by representatives from Japan, the USA, China, UK, USSR, Australia, Canada, France, Netherlands and New Zealand on September 2, 1945 aboard the battleship USS Missouri docked in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

And...while I greatly appreciate the efforts of my friend to present this document to me, let me at least show you Japan's copy of the treaty...

You can see that the Japanese have presented their version of the treaty with some nice matting. Yeesh.

Andrew Joseph

Japanese Man Wins Auction - Gets To Boff A Virgin

Man... what is it about Japan and cherries? Sakura, ohhhh sakura (cherry... moan... cherry).

A man from Japan who calls himself Natsu, fended off strong competition to secure a 'date' with 20-year-old Brazilian student Catarina Migliorini, who is set to sell her virginity for $780,000 (~¥62.6 million) after she put it all on the line for an on-line charity auction that ended on October 25, 2012. 

Migliorini, a physical education university student, says she put up her gash for cash to build homes for poverty-stricken families. Personally, we would have used wood and nails, but I'm a lover not a construction worker.

There were 15 bids for her... though not necessarily 15 people bidding.

The young woman adds that she would be followed every step of the way by an Australian camera crew for a documentary film called 'Virgins Wanted'.

Says Migliorini, "I saw this as a business. I have the opportunity to travel, to be part of a movie and get a bonus with it."

Migliorini's heart is in the right place if she is helping the poor - and why shouldn't she gain a little notoriety and semen as well?

She's attractive enough, I suppose (not my cup of tea), but will the Japanese buyer be checking the goods, so to speak, to ensure he is buying a virgin? How will he know? Blood? Screaming? Her pleas for him to call her the next day?

It's all kind of bizarre. Natsu is actually paying for sex. Regardless of what Migliorini plans to do with the money, she has just sold her ass for cash.

I hope it's cash. I have always wanted to make a money angel, lying atop the money and swooping my arms and legs back and forth. I also love to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head. That's what I would do if I was Migliorini or Scrooge McDuck. Doing it with Monopoly money isn't the same, I imagine.

Why is she not reading a sex manual?
You might as well have some fun after having been pierced by Natsu's katana. Oh... and Natsu, when you read this blog (and thanks for reading these past few months)... make sure you use red sheets. You know why, you perverted philanthropist, you.

Okay... now to Natsu. Is this the frothings of a Japanese pervert looking to deflower a gaijin (foreigner) virgin? I was deflowered in Japan. Does it matter if she's a gaijin? Does it matter if she's a virgin? Are you really just doing all of this to help out the poor? Rather than saying "fug the poor", you're going to get off your ass and onto someone else's ass to be a part of the solution?

I wonder Natsu, if you realized that many young Brazilian women (and girls) are forced to sell their bodies for food and money, and that this whole thing just smacks of yet another stereotype. Brazilian and Japanese.

"Oh look, Diedre, those wacky Japanese are at it again! This one's boffing a virgin he bought on a website!"
"Oooooh. E-bay, I suppose?"
"I don't think E-bay is a virgin."
"Oh. Who do you think screwed E-Bay?"
"Don't know, Diedre. But I bet it was one of those Japanese businessmen with more money than length."
"I wish a Japanese businessmen would pay to screw me."
"Yes... me, too. I need a new telly. The old one has penguin poop all atop of it."

Okay, I shouldn't have brought Monty Python or E-bay into this, even though there are often some bizarre things found for sale on the site - though I have not seen a broken hymen up for grabs - yet. And E-bay, to their credit, will shut down truly offensive sales.

I would be curious to learn just how many different bids were placed for Migliorini's... er... virginity. Who gets to confirm her claim to inflame (virginity)? What was the starting bid? Aside from Natsu of Japan, where were the other bidders from? Why doesn't Migliorini smile in any of the photos I've seen of her? I know. I know.

So... does Natsu give the cash up front to Migliorini? Or... does he give her the money after she checks to ensure he's not a cop by asking poignant questions like: "You're not a cop, are you?" - because failure to answer truthfully could be entrapment if he was a cop.

Or is nothing said... and he just leaves the money on the sink in the bathroom... and then slowly dresses himself in his Pikachu costume before exclaiming "I choose you, Catarina!" and throwing a rice ball-shaped Pokeball at her her Brazilian crotch.

Is it his place or her dorm room? Does he buy her dinner first - a kind of last supper for a virgin? What does a virgin eat for a last meal? Add your joke here. Probably not sausage. Or baked beans - gives you the farts. And what will Migliorini wear to her deflowering? I'm thinking Natsu might like a nice Catholic School girl uniform... I could lend Migliorini mine!

At least Natsu has the common decency not to be reveling in his win, and isn't bragging to the media about his upcoming ravaging of the virgin. We don't know his real name, where he is from, why he likes to pay for the 'honor' of deflowering young foreigners, or... how old he is. Ugh... what if he's like my age?  Or worse, 40? (I can hear you laughing). Okay... she's 20... what if Natsu is 60? 70? 80? Will Migliorini be able to help him get it up and keep it up?

Hey! What happens if Natsu breaks and enters and quickly leaves a mess? Does he get MSOG (multiple shots on goal) or what? Does he supply his own condoms, or will she? Natsu - you better bring your own properly-sized condom(s) (plural means we're hoping, buddy!) Or, is the virgin expected to use feminine birth control products. Or, a day-after product (get ready to be sick).

And dude? A virgin? Really? Someone who doesn't know their way around the boudoir?

"No, no... not like that! Ahhh, crap! It doesn't matter! Just go make me a sandwich!"

Can you imagine if she actually said that? Or him, even?

Will he make up stuff about sex, hoping she has no clue:

"In Japan, a virgin is not considered deflowered unless each opening is perforated. Even your ears. Shhhh! You know the safety word - no... that's not good Japanese pronunciation... Now! NOW! Choke that goat and punch me in the nuts while I eat this sandwich!"

Well... no one said the sex couldn't be 'interesting'...

Why do I care about this story?

I don't. Okay, I do. I'm just asking questions as they pop into my head seeing as how the news reports aren't very forthcoming in proffering details. What? Does no one kiss and tell anymore? Oh good grief... will she write a tell-all book or a blog for the attention-deficit challen... is that a squirrel? I like nuts. Heh... their union is a Brazilian Natsu.

Will the movie company make this available on You Tube? Does she need a business manager? Probably not. This seems like a once in a lifetime proposition. 

Migliorini entered into this contract with her eyes open (soon to be closed for a period of three minutes and 47 seconds) as she imagines herself anyplace but underneath his sweaty Natsu.

He entered into this contract with a boner and a lot of money. As long as no one gets hurt (there might be blood letting involved), who cares what two people do in the privacy of social media? Social media does indeed make strange bedfellows.

But... Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife wishes Migliorini and Natsu nothing but fun in their unholy union in the eyes of whatever god you believe or don't believe in. Really. Whatever... enjoy your less than 15-minutes of fame. And don't forget to help the poor!

Somewhere wanting a woman who knows what she is doing in the sack (or $780,000),
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Japan And Shakespeare

This one is for Caroline who challenged me when we first met over some William Shakespeare (pictured above). Or rather... it was I who first challenged her about a year ago. I'm not a Shakespeare expert, but I do love a good challenge.

I recently got to wondering about whether or not Shakespeare's works ever made it to Japan. Then I slapped my head and said - d'uh Andrew. Akira Kurosawa's famous movie (that I still haven't seen in English yet): The Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jo) was proof that it had. This was supposed to be Macbeth done Japanese-style with samurai in place of moody Danes. Of course the samurai were probably moody, too.

Kurosawa also did Ran (aka King Lear) in 1985 - his last big hit - and 1960's Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru (The Bad Sleep Well), a version of Hamlet.

Despite this, I never did hear anyone quote Shakespeare while I was in Japan, but the Japanese are literate, despite their penchant for comic books. Of course, yours truly has over 30,000 comic books, has written comic books, and has been a blogger, magazine writer and newspaper journalist - and I still read a book every couple of weeks. I'm reading The Eyre Affair right now... it's a sci-fi, detective with English literature surrounding the novel Jane Eyre. I bought it for my wife last Christmas, and though she didn't read it, I finally am.

Anyhow... there are many queries in this particular book (The Eyre Affair) wondering aloud if William Shakespeare did actually write all the plays it is claimed he wrote or if someone else did - and if not him, then who?

That's what got me wondering about Japan and Shakespeare... that and the fact there was an innocuous Japanese character in the book who could travel at will between the real world and Jane Eyre so she could see the characters up close and personal in the confines of the chapter. The Japanese woman was also smart enough to set up a travel agency and charge an incredible amount of money for one Japanese tourist to accompany her at a time into the book.

I know... I know... now you don't quite blame my wife - but the series now has eight books to it, so it can't be as bad as you all fear - and it's not. It's a decent book.

Back to Will and Japan.

Because Japan was closed off to the rest of the world from the early 1600s until 1868, Japan got to experience the immortal works of William Shakespeare or whomever it was that wrote the plays, rather late in life.

But like any country that gets Shakespeare - I mean really gets Shakespeare - Japan has a special place for the bard. I even found The Shakespeare Society Of Japan on-line: HERE.

A bit of history for you. I love history. It's how we truly learn who we are today.

Now... historically, the earliest attempts to stage Shakespeare in Japan were put on in English by foreign visitors to Yokohama between 1868 and 1891.

The Japanese themselves put on a Japanese version of a Shakespeare play back in 1885 entitled Zeni no yononaka... which translates into 'Life as fragile a cherry blossoms, A world of money'. Again with the effin' cherry blossoms. Anyhow... the money part should be a dead giveaway if you know your Shakespeare... it's The Merchant of Venice.

Performed in a kabuki style as part of the Engeki kaiyro-undo (Theater Improvement Campaign), this was actually the second Shakespeare play put on, but the first actual full production of a Shakespeare play. To be honest, I can't figure out what the first 'minor' adaption actually was, but I suspect it was also the Merchant of Venice.
Kabuki star Onoe Kikugorô VII in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
So... what's with the 'Improvement Campaign'? Apparently back then, with the western world finally allowed into Japan, the whole kairyo (improvement) thing was another way of saying 'westernization'... internationalization of Japan.

Part of the reason for this, was that Japan itself - when it opened itself up to the world - found itself to be uncivilized... a bit backwards, if you will... and thought that the productions of Shakespeare would help alleviate that bit of cultural embarrassment for itself.

Shakespeare was one of the ways Japan sought to create a national image of itself in the 18th century.

In that adaption of the Merchant of Venice back in 1885... during the prologue, a fictional college student is on stage stating that Eigaku (English education) is the 'best way to civilize and enlighten Japan'. The actor was the one who called Japan uncivilized and said that Shakespeare is the ultimate icon of civilization.

You have to recall, that in 1885 this was Japan's first exposure to high English literature... but at least by adapting it and making it into a Japanized version of the Merchant of Venice, they still made it uniquely Japanese. Artistic license, if you will.

After that play, Japan took a harder look at Shakespeare. It is estimated that between 1885 and 1934, there was an average of four Shakespeare plays a year performed in Japan. With a break for attacking China and WWII, Japan again put on about four plays a year from 1946 to 1969.

During the 1970s, Shakespeare became hot in Japan and the average rose to 19 productions a year... and then to an average of 23 productions in the 1980s and rose again to over 50 in the 1990s, where the number remains in 2012.

I must admit I have only actually seen one professionally produced Shakespeare production - A Midsummer Night's Dream... performed in Japan and once in Toronto. It's funny... it's the one Shakespeare play I have never read.

I did watch the 1996 movie Romeo and Juliet set in modern times, but with the actors using Shakspeare English - that was most enchanting.

After the kabuki style of theater, Japan experimented with shimna (aka shinpa) doing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in 1901. Othello, Merchant of Venice and Hamlet were performed in 1903. Shinpa (新派) is a style of theater and cinema with melodramatic stories. Shinpa actually means 'old school' in direct reference to kabuki's 'old school' theater, and did feature more contemporary (for the era) and realistic versions of novels converted to the stage.

By 1906 a gentleman named Shoyo Tsubouchi founded the Bungei Kyoukai (Literary Society) that was specifically set up to train Japanese amateurs how to properly perform Shakespeare.

At around the same time, the Waseda University Tsubouchi Shoyo Memorial Library Theatre (a replica of London's The Fortune Theatre) was constructed. The Fortune Theatre was the home base of many a Shakspearean production.

After the new school Shinpa, the realistic Western values were introduced as a part of Shingeki (New Theatre). Unlike kabuki in which every role, both male and female, is played by a male, shingeki became the first to introduce the first performance of Shakespeare featuring an all female cast. Early performances in the shingeki style include the Bungei Kyoukai's version of Hamlet in 1907, and Osanai Kaoru's Romeo and Juliet in 1904.

I would like to see the an all-female cast of Romeo and Juliet kiss.

Because people simply couldn't perform a play the way it was written, after WWII, the Japanese performed Shakespeare plays in a style that was beyond 'modern' realism - such as the 1955 edition of Hamlet. I have no idea what 'beyond realism' means, but maybe someone could do a Romeo and Juliet version involving sembei rice crackers and a cup of green tea (o-cha) falling in love, but knowing their union would not be looked upon favorably by their feuding families. I would watch that.

In the 1970s - hey what happened to the drug-crazed 1960s? - the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) visited Japan between 1970 and 1973 and then then there was the Bungaku-za (Literary Theatre) Shakespeare Festival of 1972 - all important influences on the way Shakespeare was received in Japan... classically.

Let's leave off from there, because Japan hasn't been so weird with Shakespeare since the 1950s... sure, a rock opera here or there, but whatever.

I can read the tiny print, but this is not a fun way to go blind.

Parting is such sweet sorrow (別れとは、それは甘い悲しみだ),
Andrew Joseph
By the way... that photo just above... that's my thumb and a tiny book of Shakespeare containing four of his plays from 1860 or before. It's a carriage book... meant to be read while traveling via carriage. It does not contain a publishing date, but luckily it does have a date signed perhaps by its first owner... a person named Godley from Bath, dated April 1, 1860. I purchased it five years ago from England via E-bay for a couple of bucks... and that Brit told me he purchased it from an American 20 years earlier... and that book must have then made at least one more trip across the Atlantic from England. It contains two of my favorite plays: As You Like It and Taming Of The Shrew, as well as All's Well That Ends Well and Winter's Tale. Cool, ne?
Thank the bard my fingernail is clean. Heh... page 47.

Tokyo Governor Quits

This just in - FLASH! - Tokyo's embattled governor Ishihara Shintaro has announced he is stepping down as governor of Japan's largest city, Tokyo, in order to form a new rightwing, nationalist party.

Of course... you will recognize that Ishihara was the one who kind of sparked the ongoing battle Japan has now with China over a bunch of floating rock and dirt in the southwest part of the country.

Ishihara says that in anticipation of having a fully functioning political party up and running for the next August 2013 elections, his platform will revolve around fixing Japan's political and economic problems.

Cool. I suppose the time is right for Japan to elect a nationalist who wants to fix all that is wrong with the country - much the same way Hitler wanted to do a few wars ago. Of course, the possibility of war with China will fuel the Japanese economy... and death and destruction, too.  War has a funny way of doing both things very well. Yeesh.

I'm not in Japan feeling the pulse of the average Joe Suzuki, so I have no idea if Japan has breadlines (sorry, ricelines) and massive unemployment and is forced to burn money rather than pay for fuel to heat their homes - BUT, there is always a possibility that Ishihara could win... after all... the Japanese tend to be quite proud of themselves and their heritage.

I don't think there is anything wrong with being proud of their country. The Middle East does that and thows in some old tyme religion to boot.  The US does it and tosses in some old tyme religion, too... sure... look at your money and see how it says in God We Trust. Which God? Ah... there's the rub.

Canada has little nationalistic pride - except when talking about hockey - and I wish we had more. But... Isihihara could be the man who pulls Japan into a nationalistic frenzy.

Or... he just met some people who want to pay him a crazy amount of money to lead a new political party that secretly has their own hidden agenda.

Or... Ishihara means well and actually has a plan to bring Japan back to the heights of the 1960s when the US  fueled its recovery after bombing the crap out of it in WWII. See... war can be profitable.  

Japan won't go to war. China might. But Japan's allies will help out, like the US. A number of economies are counting on it.

Anyhow... enough soapbox crap. Check out the story on Ishihara's resignation written up by The Guardian: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Hot Japanese Girl In Free Japanese Horror Movie

Yeah... the title is a complete sell-out, even if the movie isn't.

Let's start again.

Holy crap.

That's what I have to say about the Japanese horror flick: Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment (幽霊マンション) a movie made in 2005.

I first saw the link to this on Mike Rogers' blog: Marketing Japan... I figured what the heck... it's a YOU TUBE video of a real Japanese flick - complete with English sub-titles.

I began watching the movie at home at around 11PM three nights ago. I watched about 20 minutes of it and was sufficiently creeped out to not want to watch any more that night, and thought I would be smarter and less afraid to watch it at lunch at work.

I watched another 40 minutes the next day and was again creeped out. Daylight had no affect on how the movie made me squirm.

I watched the remainder of it yesterday at lunch - and was completed creeped out again. Not grossed out - creeped out.

Just two evenings ago, I watched the US horror flick The House On Haunted Hill (1999). Boring. Slash and gore and very little to scare me. But Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment... that one gave me the heebie-jeebies. Ugh.

A brief synopsis that hopefully won't give too much away and ruin your enjoyment:

A father and daughter move to an old apartment complex where everyone is so happy to see them.

Along with being informed of a midnight curfew, as the family moves in, another family in another unit moves out). It turns out that once you move into the place... you can't move out until others move in. Last in. Last out. As for why you can't move out when you want... ghosts. Pissed off ghosts. Who torment you for a reason. I think. It wasn't perfectly clear - but who cares?! It creeped me out.

The movie's not completely in-your-face with the horror... which is what makes it creepy. To be honest... people can become desensitized quite easily to violence. But creepiness... that keeps you on your toes.
You know you want to watch me... act.
Overall, I would give it a 7 out of 10... which, isn't bad at all. I think there should have been a bit more creepy things happening - perhaps more creepiness for every other apartment unit member... but dammit... the ending of the movie... creeeee-peeeee. That looks wrong. Creeeee-pyyyyyy.

Anyhow... go and watch the movie over at Mike's blog if you will: HERE... his blog is always entertaining and sometimes inflammatory... and I don't always agree with him... but it's nice to learn something new. Mike is the one who inspired me to get off my ass and write a blog everyday. He didn't say anything to me (he didn't know me then), but I saw that he worked hard on his craft - and how could I do any less? I could, but now I didn't want to.

And... if you are a buncha lazy bastards - which is cool, because I don't judge - you can watch the video below.

I still think you should go to Mike's, though.

As for the movie... seriously... it's free... you don't have to download anything... it's got English subtitles... and a really sexy young Japanese actress named Kurokawa Mei (surname first)... who was an 18-year-old playing the part of a 17-year-old. Now that's acting! Anyhow, Mei was named after the English word for her birth month in 1987.

Anyhow... thanks Mike for inspiring me to blog everyday... and for telling us all about this horror film.Now go and visit Mike's blog: Marketing Japan.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monster Roll - The Video

Over at my buddy Mike Roger's blog is a 6-minute short about the state of Japanese sushi makers in America.

It's a comedy and it's a laugh. It's got monsters, sushi chefs, a hick American and strip malls. What more do you want? Oh yeah... the link...

Watch it by going to his blog: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Sakura The Robot

I'm unsure what is less surprising... that Japan has yet another robot built that will attempt to recapture some of the nationalistic pride lost during the Fukushima disaster - OR that the damn thing is called 'Sakura' (cherry).

Just the other day (HERE) I quipped about how Japan's streets have no name and that it was probably a good thing as every damn street would involve having the name 'sakura' in it. Gods... give me strength.

Regardless... there is a Sakura robot built by the Future Robotics Technology Center at the Chiba Institute of Technology.

As I also wrote recently (HERE), Japan lost some face after foreign-built robots led the way in work at the Fukushima reactor after Japanese robots (mostly) were found wanting.

In this case, Sakura was built specifically for the Dai-ichi nuclear it will enter and survey the basements of the damaged Fukushima reactor buildings.

According to the robot's builders: "Sakura's mission is to go into the underground levels of nuclear power plants. It's very compact, as it has to go down stairways just 70 centimeters wide and turn around on landings that are also 70 cm."

Sakura comes equipped with a video camera, microphone (what, in case it needs to call for Quince?) and radiation measuring devices. Quince, another Chiba Institute of Technology robot is also working at the electrical generation plant trying to repair damage caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Sakura will just be able to work deeper in to the stricken plant.

According to the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company - who own the Dai-ichi facility), "Coolant water is leaking from somewhere inside the reactor, because no matter how water much is pumped in, the level doesn't stay above 60 cm. But unless that space can be filled with water, the melted-down fuel rods can't be removed safely. So, Sakura's first job is to find out where the cracks are."

If all goes according to plan (and why wouldn't - everything has worked out perfectly for TEPCO and Japan's robotic rescue industry) Sakura will use the camera to look for cracks, but as the camera can't see everywhere, Sakura also has a directional microphone to detect the sound of water. Ah. That makes more sense than my sarcastic comment earlier. It's a listening microphone - not a speaking one.

Because the stairway into the basement is quite steep, Sakura has better climbing performance than Quince and should be able to handle it.Apparently the area above ground slopes at 40 degrees, while the area below ground is 42 degrees. That additional two degrees is apparently difficult for a robot to handle. Let's not mention that the stairway slopes at an imposing 53 degrees.

To minimize the operator's exposure to radiation, Sakura has an automatic extension and retraction device for communication cables, and a plug-in charging system. Sakura is also made from specially selected materials, with the aim of making it maintenance-free for three years.

Sakura's makers say: "To make the robot radiation-hard, the previous model, Rosemary, has a 2mm aluminum plate on the bottom, but Sakura has a 5mm stainless steel plate. Radiation is expected to be high in the underground areas, so the bottom surface is designed to provide at least some shielding."

"We've only just got Sakura to move, so for the next month, we'll be testing its mobility and durability. Once that's done, we'll test its ability to carry the necessary equipment on a stairway. Then, we plan to fine-tune Sakura by testing it with TEPCO."

Hmmm... sounds like it has a long way to go before it will work properly. Sakura... sigh.

Andrew Joseph 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Strange Customs Of Japan

The first thing I want you to understand is that I don't really find any of the following 'strange' customs of Japan to be strange. It's just a part of the way Japan is.

Every culture is different. If we were all the same chances are we'd be a pretty boring race ready to advance to the next level of social evolution. I know I contradicted myself. It's just an opinion.

Anyhow, in no particular order are some strange Japanese customs I saw mentioned on a few other sites. I will mention what they are, and if possible explain why they aren't really that strange... when you stop and think about it. I will admit that while in Japan I might have found these things odd, but I accept odd for what it is.  

  •  No Tipping: TIPS is an acronym, meaning: To Insure Prompt Service. When you go to a restaurant and are served a great meal... or ride a taxi... unlike other parts of the world where you are expected to give a tip to your server or driver, in Japan you do not tip. In fact, I recall leaving a tip in a restaurant a month or so in to my stay in Japan and actually had the staff come running out after me because I had obviously made a mistake and forgotten some money behind on the table. That's classy. they didn't have to come running after me. I also had a taxi driver refuse to accept a ¥10,000 (cdn $125) bill when the actual trip was ¥Y1000 (Cdn $12.50). My mistake in not knowing what the money looked like. When I said it was okay, he could keep it, he looked at me like I was from Mars - which I suppose I was having only been in Japan for two days at the time. Basically, that was me giving the taxi driver an extra $112.50 for a Cdn $12.50 trip. Here in Canada, that money would be gladly pocketed and me, the gullible visitor none the wiser. And really... to quote Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs... why do you tip at a restaurant, but not a fast-food place. Just because someone gets you a menu and a glass of water does not mean they should get 15% of the bill... Someone prepared my meal at the fast food place, gave it to me and I took it to my table... I may or may not have taken it to the trash can when finished, but someone came out and cleaned the tables... no tip. So... which way is correct? In Japan - no tipping. In Japan... they are correct.
  • Wear A Mask When Sick: I thought this odd... when you are really sick and contagious, stay home and get better. There's no need to infect the whole city. But in Japan... people want to work so badly that they wear sterilized masks. This is admirable, because they don't want to pass on germs... but pushing themselves like this when sick may not be the best thing their body needs. Undecided if this is weird or a great way to ensure no one thinks they are lazy punks like us in the west who will gladly fake being sick for days in advance of actually taking a 'sick day' off.
  • Streets Have No Name: There are signs indicating what part of town you are in... but rarely is there a sign telling you a street name. I can't understand this for the life of me. Why not have a bloody street sign up somewhere? Aside from big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, it is very rare to see street signs indicating the street's name. I don't know... maybe it's good that there are no street names... if they did you can bet your bottom yen that every bloody street would have the name sakura (cherry) in it.
  • Restaurant And Store Clerks SHOUT 'Welcome' As You Enter: Weird? Yes. A great thing. Yes-yes. My only beef with this is that they shout it out to you. Geez... if you are that interested in greeting someone, come up to them bow and say welcome. Shouting at people from behind a counter - atop other customers seems rude... but you get used to it quick enough. It's still a lot nicer than NOT being greeted when I walk into a store here in Canada. In fact, half the time I get the feeling people are staring at me as though I'm going to steal something. Okay... less so as I age, but just to keep them on their toes, I do like to steal things. Kidding. I don't like to steal things, but the voices - the VOICES command me to. No... really, I'm kidding. I don't steal things. Anymore.
  • Plastic Toilet Slippers: If you ever need to utilize a washroom in Japan - public or private, you will see - placed at the entrance of the facilities, a set of small plastic toilet slippers that, if you are a typical gaijin (foreigner) like me - these bad boys will never fit your feet. Ever. If they do... you have small feet or are more Japanese than you realize. The whole point of slippers in Japan was that a long time ago every single room in a typical Japanese house utilized grass tatami mats as the floor. You were provided slippers to walk on them. But... when you use a washroom or, as the Japanese called them - the WC (Water Closet) (Thank you, England) they figure you might accidentally splash some toilet water on yourself. It wouldn't do to then walk around the nice clean tatami mats with toilet water on your slippers - so the plastic toilet slipper was introduced. I imagine plastic was used because at one time having anything made of plastic was rare. Now it's just cheap and something you can throw out after the gaijin has used them in your water closet.
  • Washing BEFORE You Take A Public Bath: I found this complaint of Japanese customs to be strange. What's wrong with taking getting clean before you take a bath? It's like cleaning the house before the maid arrives to clean the house... you don't want her to see how much of a pig you really are. in this case, part of the problem is in assuming that Public Baths are for the public to take a bath. They are not. Public Baths are more like a hot spa... a place to relax. To take a load off. It is not a place to soak away the day's grime. Before entering a hot spa public bath, you should indeed have a bath and get all the dirt off you. This isn't strange or weird to me and I only present it because others think it's strange.
  • Bus Drivers Turn The Engine Off At Red Lights: Really? They do this? It must have become a phenomenon after I left the country. Apparently there is a national campaign to stop the idling of cars and other motor vehicles. The idea is to help stop or lessen the impact of car exhaust as smog pollution. This is admirable. I do think that shutting an engine down at every stop light is excessive and throw out the gauntlet that says maybe it is actually worse to shut an engine off at every red light than to leave it idling. What? How? I'm not saying this is true, but I question just how much more energy and smog is created when you are constantly re-starting an engine. Actually... the Japanese have it right... less energy is required and fewer emissions arise from restarting a warm engine versus idling for longer than 10 seconds.
  • Adult Bike Riders Wear Gloves But No Helmet: This has nothing to do with safety versus cleanliness and has more to do with vanity. In Japan, I know for a fact that the lighter skin a woman has, the more beautiful she is considered. As well... having darker, tanned skin is a sign you are a field worker - aka a farmer and thus not of a 'higher social standing'... yeah, yeah... eat your 3 bowls of rice a day and tell me rice farmers have no social standing. This is just plain silly.
  • Slurping Food Is A Good Thing: While many cultures say that slurping is bad manners, in Japan it is an audible sign to the chef or meal preparer that you are enjoying the cooked meal. Men and women slurp. The louder, the better. Is this strange? No. the reasoning is sound. Middle East countries allow for belching out loud to show that the meal was good. It's just the way it is.
  • Flashing a Vee Sign When Posing For Photographs: I have no idea why damn near everyone does this - except those 40 and up. It's a Peace sign... or it's the Victory over Japan sign... I have no idea. And I bet the Japanese don't either. It's just something they do. It makes everyone look cute... but I don't have a problem with this... people show some life when they are flashing the Vee sign and generally when they do this, they also smile. There's nothing wrong with looking happy in a photograph. That photo above - those are two of my favorite students from Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, pretending to join a procession of monks in Nikko-shi.
Do you know of some strange Japanese customs you would like to share? Feel free.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Sake Shop Below My Apartment

I have a sake shop/convenience store two levels below my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. I lived at 307 Zuiko Haitsu between 1990-1993.

I've written previously about the people there: HERE when they invited me in to have a drink and get wasted and talk about World War II... in which the father had served the Japanese Army. It's an amusing tale, believe it or not, despite the sadness one feels when reading about it. People joined who didn't want to be in the army and forced to battle a foe they had no interest in killing and defending the honor of an Emperor they didn't really consider to be god-like.

That's what I got out of it, anyway.

That little store was dynamite. It was a sleepy little store in which I never saw a customer enter while I was there, and yet the family made a living out of it - enough to afford the apartment directly above their shop and directly below mine.

Now... let's get things straight. This isn't one of those tiny little apartments in a crappy part of town. My place was in the central part of the city (okay, it was called a city, but dammit, it was a town)... but it was also called Zuiko Mansion by the locals because it was the ritziest place in the city... or so I was told. In fact, it was said that a few years before I moved in, a yakuza family (the actual member and his wife) had been murdered in one of the places - so you know it must have been nice.

Anyhow... at seven stories in height, it was, at that time, the tallest place in the city, and had the highest rent for an apartment... not for me, of course. Thanks to the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, my rent was subsidized by the Ohtawara Board of Education (my bosses)... so I only paid $320 a month. Not bad considering my old girlfriend Ashley was paying something like $80 a month... or maybe it was $120... but whatever... my place had a western amenities, while hers had everything a Japanese squat pad should have.

Regardless... the sake shop. Small, quiet, dark and unassuming. The place was always kept neat and tidy and had none of those funny smells or layers of dust on things that I have come to expect from the variety stores in my hometown of Toronto, Canada.

The shop had everything you would expect in a sake shop. Sake is actually the general term for alcohol, and perhaps I should not call this place a sake shop, because all they had was Japanese rice wine... what I thought was called sake... but is in actuality known in Japan as nihonshu.

But, because nihonshu is so utterly Japanese an alcoholic beverage, it was the only main alcoholic drink you could get in Japan in the old days. Nihonshu was sake = Japanese Rice Wine was Alcohol.

There were about 50 different varieties of nihonshu in the shop... neatly kept up and out of the way of the customer... up behind the cashier, in fact. So... if you wanted some tasty nihonshu, you had to ask for it by name, and it would be handed down to you with great humility.

Despite my love of nihonshu... I never actually bought a bottle while in Japan. It was always there at any party and it was always shoveling itself down my throat in copious quantities that would kill a hippo, but had little to no deadly effect on me. I'm 47, and I've never had a hang-over. I've been wasted drunk, but have never had a hangover. I haven't even been drunk since after August 13, 1999. Yeah... I know the date.. though it may have actually been a week earlier when I last got drunk.

If you read the article about this shop attached above, you will know that I have had some nihonshu from this shop and enjoyed myself a lot.

The place did have two things that were a necessity for me, however. It carried large amounts of 2L bottles of Coca-Cola, of which I bought one per day, plus it had the tastiest snack foods on the planet.

It was here that I was first introduced to Pocky... a baked cracker in the shape of a thin straw, 2/3's covered in chocolate or strawberry. I have no idea who would have strawberry after trying chocolate, but good luck to them in hell. I still buy a box a week when I get sushi for lunch from a place near my work. Ahhh... the memories.

The other must have was a pack of dried red squid. Yup... squid. It was a less hard and less dried version of beef jerky... only this stuff was squid. I'm sure I ate so much I must have oozed squid from my pores, but it was good.

Occasionally I would by some Lotte gum, but really, other than the bags of chips, gums, peanuts, rice crackers and other free-dried sea products, there was little else there that caught my attention... and why would it?

This was a sake shop. When you are buying booze... this is the type of stuff you might buy as an accompaniment... I think they had beer, too. yes... yes they did... I'm pretty sure Ashley and Matthew bought beer from here and brought it up to share with me.

Why am I unsure? Because I never actually bought alcohol to drink at my place. It was a rule I had.

Since I knew I could out-drink a fish, and was on my own for the first time ever... I wanted to ensure I didn't turn into the type of guy who needed to drink when he got home. I would gladly drink when other shared with me... and I would gladly drink if out at a bar or a restaurant... but... even though I had a booze cabinet at my place... it was from all the gifts given to me... and I gladly shred them with any woman I was trying to screw... which was all of them... and back then... I mostly successful - even if they didn't drink.

And... while I am now in Toronto in 2012... in the same house I grew up in, I still don't drink alcohol in the house, and now thanks to elevated blood sugar levels, I only drink Coke Zero... but I do have a bottle of sake every now and again... unfortunately there don't seem to be as many women out there who want to screw me... what with the whole married thing.

Somewhere missing that pack of dried squid,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yakuza - Ninkyo Dantai

Would you believe the Yakuza refer to themselves as Ninkyo dantai? Not Yakuza, of course, as that has a negative connotation from what I read in the media.

Instead, clling themselves the Ninkyo dantai makes them seem more like an exclusive gentleman's club, because the term actually translates to 'chivalrous groups.'

Now I've had a drink or two with a ninkyo dantai leader (aka Yakuza boss) in my city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan - 20 years ago. That would be in the 4C bar, my choice of hangout mostly because it was classy, probably over-priced, but then again it had a better class of women.

I must tell you that although he didn't try to speak any English - speaking a deep guttural growl of Japanese instead - I thought he was a nice enough guy.

I'm not sure if chivalrous would come to mind as a means to describe him, but he wasn't unchivalrous.

I mean, I didn't expect him to hold my chair out for me or anything like that, but he did call me over - by name - AN-DO-RYU-sensei! he bellowed as the bar grew quiet. He waved me over in that typical Japanese way: arm up, elbow bent and with his palm down moved his fingers (not his thumb) back and forth.

He was dressed in a yukata... a male, Spring kimono. I had not seen any other Japanese man dress like that - except at an onsen (hot bath house. When his arm moved to call me over, I spied a mess of red and green and blue ink on his arm as the yukata slipped to his shoulder...I have no idea what type of tattoos he had, though I was curious as all get out.

I like tattoos. I do. Especially when they are done right and actually have some meaning to the person. I was sure his tattoos had meaning, but because he quickly pulled the yukata down to cover them, I played the chivalrous coward and did not ask him to show me them.

But man... I wanted to. I have always wanted a tattoo... but I'm a hairy guy and even now, to this day, failed to come up with a piece of art that would convey what I say. That's what my mouth and typing fingers do, so I guess I don't really need a tattoo.

Anyhow... I suppose I may have mislead you all... maybe he did speak English, as he bellowed out a question: DURINKU?!

That means 'drink' - at least it was katakana English. I'm not sure if he was asking or telling me, but I stammered out a 'hai' (yes). I might already have had a drink when he called me over, but when a member of a chivalrous group wants you to drink, you drink. That's the chivalrous thing to do.

I still have no idea how the bartender got me the whiskey straight up so quickly, but he did.

I don't drink whiskey, and if I did... it sure as hell wouldn't be straight up. I prefer bourbon and the bartender knew that, but since whiskey is what the leader of the cultural group was drinking, he knew better than to provide me with anything other than the same. It just wouldn't be chivalrous.

Now... just so you know... his son was in the third year (Grade 9) over at Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School)... the main one of seven junior high schools I teach at as part of my duties as a junior high school assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

From one of the other gentlemen with the glorious leader of the Ohtawara Chivalrous Group who spoke English, he confirmed that his son spoke highly of me to his father.

I thought back to what sort of impression I might have made on the lad and figure it might have been me complimenting him on his orange hair color.

Quite naturally, he was the only kid in the school who wore orange in his hair.

Adding a hair color to one's hair is a sign of rebellion, and usually the nail that stands up get's hammered down in Japan. For some reason this kid was not chastised for his hair color. I thought that very chivalrous of the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office (my bosses). And smart.

I am sure they probably went and set up a meeting with his dad and explained their predicament. Apologizing the whole time they were doing it, but they must have come to some sort of chivalrous agreement that allowed the boy to keep his hair color and them to keep whatever it was they were doing... breathing, is my best guess.

Anyhow... the chivalrous group leader sucked back his drink... so I did the same. He bowed in the most subtle manner possible for a Japanese person (I think he lowered his head a millimeter. Actually, I don't think he moved at all) and quietly said 'domo' (thanks).

For that chivalrous outburst, I bowed so deep my head hit the table (thankfully no drinks were hurt - especially the leader's) and told him thank-you very much for looking after my well-being in the city, stood up, bowed deeply again, saw him smile broadly at my sign of respect as he did give me a bow... the head slightly to the side kind of bow that you might do to a friend... and then I bowed yet again before I backed into the bar, sat down and had a free drink from the bartender/owner who was impressed that I wasn't killed in a chivalrous manner.

As if.

If I had done something stupid, these guys weren't going to exact a measure of chivalrous revenge in broad daylight to a well-known gaijin (foreigner). No.... it would be done in a completely chivalrous manner in which nobody saw nuthin'.

I wanted to ask how it was possible for a gaijin to become involved in the chivalrous club... as I could always use the extra income and respect and fear that came with it, but that damn whiskey had burned my throat in a chivalrous way allowing my brain to come to its half-drunk senses and shut my mouth the hell up.

And... although I once forgot upon which side of a beautiful woman and the road I should have walked, I've learned my lesson quite well from the chivalrous group leader.

Somewhere being chivalrous,
Andrew Joseph
Oh... and the photo above is not a Japanese Chivalrous Group shot, though I like the imagery.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Canada-Asia 2012 In Osaka

Canadian food producers have celebrated the opening this week of Showcase Canada-Asia 2012 in Osaka, Japan, October 15-19, 2012.

Produced by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), the annual Showcase Canada-Asia allows Canadian tourism and food businesses to meet directly with travel buyers throughout Asia—approximately 200 travel buyers from China, India, Korea, and Japan—as well as representatives from the Canadian agri-food and tourism industries.

Canada’s abundant local produce and culinary excellence is a key selling point for positioning the country as a premier travel destination, and throughout the week-long event visitors will sample a variety of Canadian products promoted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), including seafood, pork, beef, duck, bread, lentils, cranberries, mustard and maple products.

I assume the press release meant to say 'maple syrup' products, as there isn't much demand for the leaves or bark or wood of a maple tree in the tourism and food industries. Though maybe you can get a Maple Leafs hockey jersey as part of the tourism thing. Of course, what with a hockey strike, why would you bother?

"This event is an opportunity to profile Canada’s diverse and high-quality agri-food products to tourism buyers and media from some of our key markets," says AAFC minister Gerry Ritz. "Our government knows that market development leads to trade, which creates jobs and overall economic growth for Canadians."

Several other AAFC 'Canada Brand' promotional events are taking place in Japan throughout October, including restaurant and retail promotions, and other events for buyers, sellers and importers.

Japan is the world's largest net importer of agri-food products with Canada accounting for 5.6% of the $68 billion in Japanese Agrifood imports in2005 (see image above).

In 2011, Canada exported $4 billion worth of  agri-food and seafood to Japan.

Andrew Joseph

Japanese Frog Like A Comic Book Character

It's time to mix real science with stupid jokes.

I have no idea what weirds me out more... the fact that a rare frog called the Otton Frog living on the Amami Islands in southern Japan has spikes that shoot out from its fingers like Wolverine, the Marvel Comics character from Canada OR the fact that they are just discovering this fact NOW.

The Otton Frog (Babina subaspera) is native to Amami Oshima and Kakeromajima in the Ryuku Islands (the Japanese call it the Nansei Islands or the Ryukyu Arc). The islands currently in dispute between China and Japan are just a hair's breath west of theses islands... so their habitat is safe... for now, though your everyday standard deforestation and the accidental introduction of mongooses (mongeese?) to get rid of the snakes - is playing havoc with the frog population.

The standard frogs you and I know have four toes on each foot. This Otton Frog sems to have a fifth toe that hides within the foot, coming out when required... which is apparently only when it's mating or when it's fighting... which as far as I can guess is only aside from eating, pooping and watching stuff while it sits around thinking which one of the other four things it should do next.

The expert on this frog is Iwai Noriko from the University of Tokyo. Cool. A woman who likes frogs. I hate frogs. I hate touching them. But I like women.I like touching them.

She recently discovered that the Otton Frog has spikes that protrude from a false thumb. While both males and females have them, it appears as though only the males utilize them.

Unfortunately, I'm guessing this frog does not emit a cool sound effect like SNIKT when its claws pop out.

When the claws do pop out, the male frogs attempt to jab one another... or the male frog tries to jab the female so that he can hold on for dear life while copulating, as apparently frogs are all slimy and like to hop around while caroling - which is what I call having sex in the winter time while going door to door... not that these frogs are doing that. Strike that part.

The Otton Frog shares the rare fifth digit with the five-fingered Hypsiboas rosenbergi frogs of Latin America... which makes you wonder how two species of frog could evolve with the same trait but be from so far away from each other. And with no other similar frog species in between.

"Why these 'fifth fingers' exist in some species remains an evolutionary mystery, but the extra digit of the Otton is in fact a pseudo-thumb," Iwai says. "The digit encases a sharp spine which can project out of the skin, which fieldwork demonstrates is used for combat and mating."

Iwai has studied the Otton Frog since 2004, examining its distribution, breeding habits and range-all factors which will contribute to any conservation strategy.

But ... she is either ONLY just realizing the frog has an extra thumb OR is only just releasing that information.

So... the frog has an extra thumb that is hidden in the frogs hand... only popping out when it's laying the smack down on the boys or getting bizz-zay with the lady horny toads...

No surprise here: male Otton Frogs were found to have larger pseudo-thumbs than the females and Iwai believes that the spikes evolved for anchoring to the female, known as amplexus—in Latin, it means 'embrace'—during mating.

Even if it weren't larger, the male would lie about it.

Here is a brief video showing Otton Frogs have a short brawl. VIDEO

And... in case you missed it, allow me to present the dialogue you would have heard had you been able to speak Japanese - they are Japanese frogs, afterall.

"You know we're being filmed, right?"
"So... do you want to make our own sex tape?"
"I'm supposed to be on top!"
"No! I'm on top!"
"I shall stab you with my thumb spike!"
"OW! I'm going to stab you with my thumb spike! Iku-iku!"
"Oh crap! You're a guy!"
"Oh God... you're a guy, too? I think I'll stab myself... "

And that's what you miss when you aren't around me enough. Stupid mutant frogs.
Andrew Joseph