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Friday, November 30, 2012

Kentucky Fried Chicken Flies From Japan

Just in case you were worried that when you flew Japan Airlines this winter that you might actually have to go 15 hours or more without the wonderful taste of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken - some of you young'uns may not be aware that it had another name!) - do not worry! Your fear of flying can be conquered with the aid of a bird that doesn't really fly!

Now you can get high and resolve your munchies, all in one fell swoop, though Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife is pretty sure Japan Airlines does not like me using the words 'fell' or 'swoop.' 

KFC Japan and Japan Airlines have announced a new program that will bring KFC to hungry travelers, mid-flight.

Apparently that's what the release said. Mid-flight. Screw you if you want it early or a few minutes later. Mid-flight.  

Anyhow, the program will bring the Colonel’s fried chicken to select flights from Tokyo’s Narita airport to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, London, Paris and Frankfurt between December 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013.

Passengers in Economy and Premium economy classes will be served a two-piece Original Recipe chicken meal during the flight’s second meal service. The meals include one drumstick, one boneless chicken breast fillet, and a cup of coleslaw. Passengers can make a sandwich out of the chicken breast fillet, if they wish, by layering it on the included flatbread with lettuce leaves and a special mayonnaise.

Hmmm... Economy and Premium Economy, eh? What do the rich folks in First and Executive Class seats get? Obviously something NOT from KFC. Perhaps something from the Golden Arches - McDonalds, where the customer gets their choice of a Boys or Girls toy from the hit movie (insert Movie Title HERE) that will be coming out soon.  Whatever... we're guessing that First and Executive Class get something a tad more high-end than the heart-attack-inducing, cholesterol-packing, delicious fried chicken. Hey... I'm a realist. Still, I heard that Colonel Harland Sanders who founded the biz (that's his image on the packaging) lived to be 90 years-old - and he ate a lot of his product and never got fat. 

The "Air Kentucky Fried Chicken" meal is there for you on Japan Airlines for a limited time. That's it in the image up above. You do notice that the chicken appears to be far smaller than the bread given. I guess they expect us to use it as a sandwich.


I'm betting there's no bone in the chicken parts we get. I wanna bone in my white meat. You know what I mean.

Look at the chicken... I don't get a nice plump thigh - with the bone in it? I can't get the delicious, juicy white breast with the spine and ribs behind it? Eating with my fingers would have made it finger-lickin' good, and I do so like getting my fingers all sticky and having to stick them in my mouth to have my tongue suck back each and every morsel of flavor. What the hell was I talking about? I think I just joined the Mile High Club...

Somewhere wiping my face,
Andrew Joseph

Japan's Suicide Rocket Planes

Japan not only had a rocket plane, but it was actually a suicide rocket plane during the closing days of World War II. I know... holy crap.

Approved in August of 1944 - a full year BEFORE WWII ended, Japan okayed the Divine Thunder God Corp. (Jinrai Butai) a suicide flying bomb program that would feature the Yokosuka MXY-11 Ohka (Cherry Blossom) rocket-powered, human-guided Kamikaze (Divine Wind) attack plane.

Check out the photo above - a replica of the Japanese Ohka at the Yasukuni Shrine (Photo by: Max Smith).

So... what the heck is it with the Japanese and all of the suicide attacks—the Kamikaze flying the airplanes into Allied ships; the Fukuryu sea divers poking mines onto the submerged hulls of Allied ships; and now the Jinrai Butai and their rocket planes!

Japan has a long-held belief in the powers of ritualistic suicide as a way for atoning for failures or misdeeds via harakiri and seppuka.

In fact, Japanese soldiers when faced with capture by Allies often chose to kill themselves - who knows why? Possibly because they failed in their job as soldiers.

But to volunteer for missions where one is piloting a suicide machine? Well... one could chalk it up to a fanatical devotion to the Emperor of Japan who is considered to be descended from the gods.

God, god, god... what's with all the crazy countries and their fanatical devotion to god? Hey, God Save the Queen and In God We Trust. I'm just saying, we all have our own cross to bear.

And WTF is up with the 'Cherry Blossom' name? Japan sure does love its cherry blossoms. So pretty when you sit under a blooming cherry tree and sip sake during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties in the Spring... and then the divine winds blow its gentle zephyrs wafting the cherry blossoms from the trees and into the air where the cherry blossoms suddenly get it into their head that they should dive bomb the stupid humans below, whipping its petals in a floral frenzy of death and destruction. I may never look at a cherry blossom again unless it's one of those awesome Canadian sugar bomb chocolates: HERE.

Anyhow... let's look at the rocket plane and their pilots, the Divine Thunder Gods... there's that whole god-thing again.

The MXY-7 Ohka was a manned rocket with an armed warhead in the nose that was usually transported to within target range by a Mitsubishi G4M2e "Betty" Model 24J bomber plane (henceforth to be called 'Betty'). When in range, the pilot would climb down from the bomber into the Ohka, would release the rocket from the bomber and would glide a little ways towards the target before engaging the three solid-fuel rockets - either one at a time or all three in unison for ultimate speed and then pilot the rocket into the intended target. To hopefully hit the target and thus kill himself.
Ohka rocket plane being released from a Mitsubishi Betty Model 24J bomber.

Specs on the Ohka - Model 11 variant... the only one to actually fly in combat:
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 6.06 m (19 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 5.12 m (16 ft 9½ in)
  • Height: 1.16 m (3 ft 9⅓ in)
  • Wing area: 6 m² (64.583 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 440 kg (970 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,140 kg (4,718 lb)
  • Engine: Three Type 4 Mark 1 Model 20 rocket motors, each using a solid fuel, 2.60 kN (587 lbf)
  • Maximum speed: 804 kilometers (576 miles per hour) a in dive
  • Range: 36 kilometers (23 miles)
  • Wing loading: 356.7 kg/m² (73.1 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.38
  • Dive speed (3× Rocket motors Full-Boost): 1,040 km/h (650 mph)
  • 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) Ammonal warhead—an explosive made up of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder.
Would you believe that the design for this weapon was actually from an Japanese navy ensign - one Ensign Ohta Mitsuo (surname first) of the 405th Kokutai, who was helped by the University of Tokyo's Aeronautical Research Institute.

Obviously liking the idea of death dealing by self-sacrifice (sarcasm), the Imperial Japanese Navy had Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal (Dai-Ichi Kaigun Koku Gijitsushoalso known as Kugisho) build it.

While models 1-10 were not built, a total of 155 Ohka Model 11's were manufactured at Yokosuka-shi in Kanagawa-ken and 600 more constructed at the Kasumigaura Naval Air Arsenal in Ibaraki-ken.

Other versions of the Ohka were developed though none, excluding the Model 11, were actually operational.

  • Ohka K-1 was an unpowered trainer version with water ballast instead of warhead and engines, to provide pilots with handling experience. There were 45 of these built by Dai-Ichi Kaigun Koku Gijitsusho.
  • Model 21, which had thin steel wings manufactured by Nakajima Hikōki Kabushiki Gaisha (Nakajima Aircraft Company). It had the engine of the Model 11 and the airframe of the Model 22.
  • Model 22 was designed to overcome the short standoff distance problem by using a Campini-type thermojet engine known as the Tsu-11. This engine was successfully tested, and 50 Model 22 Ohkas were built at Yokosuka to accept this engine. The Model 22 was to be launched by the Yokosuka P1Y3 Ginga "Frances" bomber, which meant needed a shorter wing span a smaller 600-kilogram (1,320 pound) warhead. None appear to have been used operationally, and only three of the experimental Tsu-11's engines are known to have been produced.
  • Model 33 was a larger version of the Model 22 to be powered by an Ishikawajima Ne-20 turbojet with a 800-kilogram (1,760-pound) warhead. It was to have been ferried by the Nakajima G8N Renzan, but the project never got off the ground after they realized they would not be able to use the Renzan airplane for this.
  • Model 43A was to have folding wings enabling it to be launched from submarines.
  • Model 43B, was to have been catapult/rocket-assisted version with folding wings so that it could be easily hidden in caves.
  • Model 43 K-1 Kai Wakazakura (Young Cherry) was to have been a trainer version for the Model 43s, a two-seater (one for the teacher and one for the student pilot), and fitted with a single rocket motor. The second seat actually took the place of the warhead. Two of these Model 43 K-1 rockets were actually built.
  • Model 53 would also use the Ne-20 turbojet, but the plan called for it to be towed like a glider and released near its target.

A total of seven U.S. ships were reported damaged or sunk by Ohkas throughout World War II - all near Okinawa.

And... just so you are aware, sailors called the Ohka by the nickname 'baka', a Japanese word meaning 'stupid idiot', perhaps because the first supposed successful attack was on April 1, or because the pilots had to be stupid idiots to die piloting such a crazy weapon.

Here's a video from the History Channel's Dogfights television program, my favorite show ever from this network:

During the first actual attempt to use the Ohka in battle, a total of 80 Ohka were destroyed after the aircraft carriers Shinaro (carrying 50 Ohka) and Unryu (with 30 Ohka) were sunk by U.S. submarines USS Archer-Fish on November 29, 1944 and USS Redfish on December 19, 1944 , respectively, as they attempted to travel into Leyte Gulf to Manilla in the Philippines.

The next big attempt occurred on March 21, 1945 when 16 Mitsubishi G4M2e "Betty" Model 24J bombers were to be escorted by 55 Mitsubishi Zero to attack the US crafts USS Hornet, USS Bennington, USS Wasp and USS Bealleau Wood of Task Group 58.1. However, 25 Zero turned back due to mechanical issues or were unable to actual take-off. The 30 remaining Zero and Betty aircraft were intercepted about 113 kilometers (70 miles) from their intended targets by 16 US Navy Grumman F6 Hellcat fighters, Not wanting a stray bullet hitting the Ohka warhead, the Ohka's were immediately jettisoned by the Bettys (the Ohka pilot was still aboard the Betty's). All Betty's were downed (the Jinrai Butai pilots included) and 15 shot-up Zero returned back home.

Attacks intensified in April 1945. On April 1 1945, six Bettys attacked the U.S. Fleet off Okinawa and at least one made a successful attack with its Ohka thought to have hit one of the 406-millimeter (16-inch) guns on the turrets of the battleship USS West Virginia, causing moderate damage. However, a postwar analysis indicated that no hits were recorded and that a near-miss took place. The transports USS Alpine, USS Achernar, and USS Tyrrell were also hit by kamikaze aircraft, but it is unclear whether any of these were actual Ohkas from the other Bettys. None of the Bettys returned.

On April 12, 1945, nine Bettys again attacked the U.S. Fleet off Okinawa. The destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele was hit by an Ohka, broke in two, and sank - making it the first documented sinking of a U.S. naval vessel by an Ohka. The USS Jeffers destroyed an Ohka flying at it with anti-aircraft fire a scant 45-meters (50-yards) from the ship, but the resulting explosion was still powerful enough to cause extensive damage, forcing the USS Jeffers to withdraw. Next, The destroyer USS Stanly was attacked by two Ohkas - one struck just above the waterline just behind the ship's bow, with the charge punching completely through the other side of the hull before splashing into the sea and detonating like a depth charge, causing little damage to the ship, and the other Ohka narrowly missed (likely due to the pilot being killed by anti-aircraft fire) and crashed into the sea, knocking off the Stanly's ensign in the process. Only one Betty returned.

On April 14 1945, seven Bettys attacked the U.S. Fleet off Okinawa. None returned and none of the Ohkas appeared to have been launched. Two days later on April 15, 1945, six Bettys attacked the U.S. Fleet off Okinawa. Two returned, but again, no Ohkas hit their targets. Later, on April 28,1945, four Bettys attacked the U.S. Fleet off Okinawa at night. One returned. No hits from Ohka were recorded. On May 4, 1945 in the same area, seven Bettys attacked, with one Ohka hitting the bridge of the minesweeper USS Shea, causing extensive damage and casualties. The USS Gayety was also damaged by a near-miss by an Ohka. One Betty returned. On May 11, 1945, four Bettys attacked the area: the destroyer USS Hugh W. Hadley was hit and suffered extensive damage and flooding. The vessel was judged beyond repair. On May 25, 1945, 11 Bettys tried to attacked U.S., but bad weather forced most to turn back and no recorded hits from the others.On June 22, 1945, six more Bettys attacked, but again, no recorded hits.

The design and concept is fantastic if you can find someone willing to die piloting the damn thing—and they didn't have that problem. Check out the photo below of some of the Thunder Gods - the Jinrai Butai who were trained to pilot the Ohka of the 721st Kokutai (Air Wing). Surnames first where applicable.

Standing left to right: Petty Officer Kuwata, Reserve Sub Lieutenant Okamoto Kanae (who may have been the senior officer of three surviving pilots of the Thunder Gods Corps on Kikagashima at the end of the war); Sub Lieutenant Isogai; Sitting left to right: Sub Lieutenant (illegible)-moto; Squad Leader Mori-(illegible); and Sub Lieutenant Hosai.

The image appeared in Parade Magazine in October 1945, a month after the war ended, and when the American public first began to receive details about the suicide rocket program.

As I keep researching, I keep on finding more strange things utilized by the Japanese during World War II. So... if you will indulge me, more to come soon.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Heian Jingu

Thanks to some pretty shoddy treatment by a couple of companies I am writing on, my head hurts. It's why today I am only able to offer up this super photo I took of a hanging lantern at Heian Jingu (Heian Shrine) in Kyoto, Japan.

I just love the angles of painted vermillion wood and the angles of the lantern's top... oh, and the colors of it all... it took my breath away 20 years ago and does so again now in 2012. 

Briefly, Emperor Kammu ascended to the the Throne of Japan in 781 AD as the 50th Emperor of the country.

In 796 AD, one year after moving Japan's capital to the Heian area, he held an official welcoming party at Daigokuden palace to welcome in the new year. This was the beginning of the city of Kyoto.

Over the 25-year reign of Emperor Kammu, he was known as a pretty good guy, amending laws, helping out the poor, encouraged learning, innovated domestic administration - and... opened up the doors to foreign trade. Japan prospered under his leadership.

In 1895, the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto, the citizens sought to pay their respects and deified him as the ancestral god of Kyoto at the Heian Jingu .

Now... in 1831, Emperor Komei was born and ascended to the Throne in 1846 as the 121st ruler of Japan. His reign of 21 years saw him through the the end of the Shogun and the beginnings of modern Japan as it opened up its doors to foreigners, foreign thoughts and ideas. He laid the foundation for the Meiji Restoration and died early in 1867. In 1938, the citizens of Kyoto thought it prudent that Emperor Komei be deified at the Heian Shrine, too.

Just these two.

Now, since Komei was deified, Kyoto undertook the challenge of rebuilding and fixing up the entire complex of Heian Shrine.. and that's what you see in these two photographs I took.

The photo above shows on the left the look-out roofs of Byakko-ro, and to the far right the Great Outer Halls of Daigokuden - the rebuilt palace of the Emperor from which they ruled Japan from a shogunate took over in 1185 AD and moved the seat of power elsewhere.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

3D Miniatures Of You

I know I said I would present a story on something else, but this tale is too fantastic to pas up at this juncture.

How would you like to have an exact plastic miniature replica figurine of yourself? Ten-, 15- or 20-centimeters (3.9-, 5.9- or 7.9-inches) tall? I said tall... not long!

Check out the photo above! Awesome, isn't it? That's not a real person - it is indeed a miniature plastic replica!

Situated in Tokyo, Japan is a tiny little studio offering customers a chance to create a miniature plastic likeness of themselves for as little as US/Cdn $255 (~¥21,000/£160) for the small 10-centimeter version all the way up to US/Cdn $510 (~¥42,000/£320) for the large 20-centimeter version. The figures weigh 20-, 50- and 200-grams, respectively.

Yeah, it's a lot money, but it is pretty damn cool!

The brainchild of Party, a creative group of Japanese fellows based in Tokyo and New York (founded by the five creative directors, [surname first] Ito Naoki, Harano Morihiro, Shimizu Qanta (I doubt that spelling), Nakamura Hiroki and  Kawamura Masashi) who wanted to make the classic photo studio into a place where Japanese families could 'shape' their memories.

"Our idea is to attempt to capture you and your family's portraits in 3D," says Ito.


Using the company Omote3D - a pop-up store that will only be in business for two months... and I must state up front that they are completely booked as of this time, with no reservations being booked - Party says the figurines are created via a 3D scanner and a 3D printer.

Regardless... lets look at how it is being created!

  1. You visit the store, where you, the customer are photographed via a 3D scanner that 'photographs' your entire body in whatever pose you choose... but be warned... it takes 15 minutes of no-move posing - or at least no moving when they are scanning a particular part of you!
  2. On a computer, hair color, texture of the clothes, body details are modified or fixed up - in great detail. The scanner cannot yet detect fluffy fabrics, small detailed patterns or shiny materials, nor can it read small accessories such as earrings, glasses or bags.
  3. A 3D color printer then forms the figure from a plastic block, creating a realistic miniature figurine.

It seems pretty basic... and I must admit that this was what I was able to glean from the Omote3D website. However, I have actually seen a 3D printer in action - a couple of years ago, in fact.

I watched a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottle maker utilize a machine to create a 3D plastic bottle that the customer could see and touch and examine to ensure they were happy with the exact shape of bottle they actually wanted manufactured... it's actually easier to see a product in your hands than to see one on a flat screen.

This bottle maker used a state-of-the-art CAD (computer-aided design) system that can quickly create a three-dimensional sample of a customer’s bottle—providing a finished prototype in just a few hours afterwards.

The model BST 1200es three-dimensional prototype system—manufactured by Dimension, Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.—creates an actual physical representation of the CAD-generated bottles made from ultra-thin plastic wiring, which is built up layer by layer.

Okay... back to the figurines. I would bet the miniatures are based on very similar technology and materials.

Again... this thing is completely booked, and they are NOT taking any more reservations.


This is such a popular concept that if these guys are smart - and they are - they will do it again. And again.

Hell, I want one. Not of me, of course, but maybe they can cut a deal with some sexy models and have those made into figures we can buy. While it appears as though these could be PERFECT likenesses for wedding cake toppers (I like the idea that I can lick the bride), they look like the perfect conversation piece.

"What's that in your pocket, An-do-ryu san? Is that a gun or are you just happy to see me?"
"I am happy to see you and so is little An-do-ryu san. Would you like to see him?"
"I assume that is Japanese for 'Yes'. Now excuse me while I whip this out. ... too-doo, I mean ta-daaah!"
"Eeeeeeeeee! Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiii (squeal)!"

If you weren't already in like flint, having your own 3D plastic sex toy will get you some. I'm thinking outside of the box... or is that inside of the box? Whatever. You can not deny that this is very cool.

Anyhow... since it is sold out, you can still go and check out the exhibition of miniatures created!

Running from November 24, 2012 through to January 14, 2013 - closed on January 1 and 2 - the exhibition is held at GYRE / 3rd Floor EYE OF GYRE in Omotesando between 11AM to 8PM. The Omote3D website is HERE in case I read it incorrectly - plus there are some cool photos of some figurines they have manufactured.

Oh... and since I'm on the topic, New York has its own version of this, but at this time the MakerBot company is only offering monochrome busts of people - and certainly not as detailed as the Japanese version, as suggested by the price of US/Cdn $25 for a small head. 

And... yes! I was right about the technology being very similar to the bottle maker I saw two years ago in Toronto back in December of 2010.

Cheers - and say hello to my little friend!
Andrew (really likes figurines) Joseph

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Japanese Suicide Divers of WWII

Suicide divers for Japan during WWII? And no, I'm not talking about the airplanes, I'm talking about guys in the water. And, it wasn't only a concept, it was one that Japan actually used for devastating results for all involved.

For anyone who has ever been involved in a war or peace-keeping mission, it can be a scary place to be. I've not been in one, but I do have respect for the people involved in wars - including the poor civilians.

Now... you would think that in any war, the goal is to win... and win while surviving. There's no point in you, the soldier, having your country win a war if you aren't around. But the Japanese--driven by a fanatical devotion to the Emperor during World War II, were willing to do whatever it took--including sacrifice of their own life—to kill the enemy.

Hey... I know there's nothing wrong with your actions directly saving someone else... but to willingly give it up to kill someone? Yeah... suicide bombers... 9/11... Japan's Kamikaze (Divine Wind) pilots who would be equipped with enough fuel in their planes to get to the target, but not enough to get back home. As well as having some ammunition, the Japanese pilots would have a single bomb that they would use to drop on enemy ships in battle within the Pacific Theater. Once the ammo and bomb was used, the pilot would then attempt to ram his airplane into a ship.

Desperation breeds tiny monsters.

And, if you think that's some supreme devotion, you should learn about the Japanese suicide divers... the Fukuryo (伏龍, which translates to 'Crouching Dragons').

The Fukuryu were Japanese divers as part of its Special Attack Units trained to protect the homeland from invasion by the Allied forces. Training for the Fukuryu took place off Yokosuka-shi in Kanagawa-ken, just south of Tokyo in Tokyo Bay.

Take a look at the image above... we're talking about a guy in a diving suit... now picture him holding onto a five-meter (16-foot) bamboo pole equipped with an explosive mine containing 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of TNT(trinitrotoluene). Can't picture it? Hang on. Here you go:

A statue at a Yushukan Tokyo war museum depicting a Fukuryu suicide bomber holding a mine and lance.

Essentially, the Fukuryu would slowly dive under the water and jab the hull of a passing enemy ship triggering the explosive that would hopefully rip a hole in the ship and definitely kill the Japanese diver.

The whole diving suit consisted of a diving jacket and trousers, diving shoes, and a diving helmet fixed by four bolts. They were typically weighed down with nine kilograms (20 pounds) of lead weight, and had two bottles of compressed air at 150 bars. The divers also had a flashlight and a wrist compass.

This isn't something you swim around in at any great speed... these Fukuryu were expected to be able to walk at a depth of five to seven meters (16 to 23 feet), for about six hours - though there are reports that one could walk at a rate of two kilometers per hour (1.24 miles per hour).

According to documents found (not by me!), the Fukuryu diving suits utilized a circular breathing system with the air containing only 23 per cent oxygen... and when oxygen was spent, it was replaced by the two steel bottles holding 3.5 liters (0.92 gallons) of compressed oxygen, released to the suit via a valve-pressure device.   

The exhaled carbon dioxide was released after passing through a calcium-oxide purifier cartridge that would not release any tell-tale bubbles to the surface.

While some 1,000 suits were completed, and additional 10,000 were ordered - but never delivered as the war cut production off.
It looks so easy when the Japanese draw what's supposed to happen...

The diving suits had varying effectiveness (IE safety effectiveness) for the diver depending on length of time under water and the depth of water they were in, with reports suggesting the oxygen breathed would become 'poisonous' if submerged greater than 10 meters (32.8 feet). These are people on a suicide mission... they expect to die...

I assume that waiting for an enemy ship to pass by must be powerful tough work to make one absolutely famished, so Japan created a liquid food enabling a diver to eat underwater via a small hose. I have no idea what happens if you have to pee or poop, though I suppose the filter would be able to help the emission of a fart bubble or 12.

Exact numbers of people who were Fukuryu are not know, but estimates indicate that 4,000 men were in the special attack unit.

 This new weapon is only known to have been used a few times operationally:
  • January 8, 1945: Damage by suicide divers to US Infantry landing craft (gunboat) LCI(G)-404 in Yoo Passage, Republic of Palaus in the western Pacific Ocean.
  • February 10, 1945: Attempted attack by suicide divers on US surveying ship Hydrographer (AGS-2) in Schonian Harbor, Palaus.
So... actually, it looks like there were two official attempts - that we know off. While there was damage to at least one of the boats, it does NOT appear as though appear as though any Allied personnel were killed.

Did the divers die during the attempt? We'll never know. However, it is known that 10 people died during training while at Yokosuka owing to malfunctions of the diving apparatus and possible premature explosion of the mine. I hate when that happens. Actually, it's never happened, but I couldn't resist the joke.  

Now, contradictory to facts that I found, the US after the war got its hands on some of these Fukuryu weapons and made its own analysis... see image immediately above. According to detailed drawings, the weapon was a sort of lance mine - the Type 5 attack mine. It was drawn out as being 3.3 meters long with a 56 centimeter long sheet metal container holding a 10 kilogram (22-pound) TNT charge. The rest of the container was empty and used as a floating chamber. It was ignited by a 12 centimeter (4.7-inch) long horn fuse very similar to, if not the exact same fuse used on sea mines.

According to translated documents found, "the tested safety range between each diver was approximately . 60 meters (196.8 feet)".

Other records detailed that the Japanese special attack forces should construct submerged concrete installations and utilize sunken ships with an added diver chamber and it should be equipped to hold several divers and hold food, water and oxygen bottles. Of course, that sounds like a pipe dream and desperation of a warring faction knowing its days of war were at an end.

For a look the US report from 1946 on the Fukuryu weaponry, click HERE.

That's all for now. Next main article will take a look at Japanese rocket planes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another US Serviceman Arrested in Japan

Another US serviceman was arrested in Japan this past Friday on suspicion of being under the influence while driving.

According to preliminary reports Fernandez Lusz, 27, a marine stationed at Futenma Air Base in Okinawa, was arrested after a Japanese woman said her car was hit by Luis' car. No one was injured in the accident, though Luis denies being drunk.

Crap. Even if Luis wasn't drunk, Japan and the media are looking for anything to paint the US presence in Japan in a negative light. At this time I have no idea if Luis was drunk or not... and I'll give him the benefit of a doubt.

However, the military personnel do need to step up and start acting like they are in the military and are guests in a foreign country. There are many people who resent the way a few bad apples in the military have been acting - and who can blame them? But, for Luis' sake, I hope it was just a simple car accident and nothing more.

I understand Japan's frustration over the actions of the men on leave in the country. Disgraceful. But let's not condemn the entire military. We tend to forget when convenient that Japan needs the US military presence to help it stem the tide of Chinese expansionism that it seems intent on pursuing.

Granted the US is not taking sides in the dispute over a few small islands in the Japanese southwest, but neither does it want to see China start taking over islands. The US watched Japan do that for years prior to it having to get involved in WWII two years after it began after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Yeah... the US sat back and watched the world try and kill each other for two years during WWII.

Regardless... small soapbox aside, Japan can not adequately defend itself and need the US - especially at this point in time. And while the US likes to be liked, it needs to get a better handle on its servicemen to make sure it doesn't hurt the people it is there to try and protect.

Andrew Joseph


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Naked US Sailor Pees In Yokohama Manga Cafe

I like cartoons and comic books, but whatever it is that this Yokohama cafe is selling, count me out.

Sailor Petty Officer 3rd Class Oscar Wiygul III, 23, of the USS George Washington was arrested on November 23, 2012 after he allegedly stripped naked and peed in a manga (comic book) cafe in Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken.

Shameful. He was in a manga store.

After Yokohama police were alerted by a cafe worker who saw Wiygul walk around the cafe fully naked, police found Wiygul still naked in the manga cafe, a place where patrons can come in check comic books and anime (animated cartoons), pay for some Internet access and get drinks. Places like this are apparently popular for the young adult crowd who have missed their last train home, as the late-night clientele can sleep in the large reclining chairs at a rate far less than a capsule hotel.
Not Wiygul, but if it was - no one would have called the police.

Wiygul was arrested at 3:24AM Friday, and while he did admit to peeing in the cafe, he says he was not fully naked--though apparently the police have a different view on things. A breathalyzer test applied showed he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.09.

In Japan, the limit (to be considered impaired to operate a vehicle) is 0.03... in Ontario - the province I live in here in Canada, it is 0.08 - though you can, of course still be impaired at levels below this.While Wiygul's 0.09 shows he is wasted by Japan standards, it's really not that bad if you are a hebby durinka (heavy drinker) in Canada. It's 0.08 in the US, though some individual States have different numbers.

The USS George Washington and the 5,000 or so people aboard her had only arrived in port three days earlier after having been at sea in the Western Pacific since August.

Wiygul is the fourth US service member to have been arrested in Japan since the US military installed a 11PM -5AM curfew after two US sailors are alleged to have raped a woman in Okinawa this past October.

I am stunned. I've been drunk and I get the fact that this guy was letting off some steam... but the dude was alone. Where were his friends? And how wasted does one have to be to admit to police that 'yes, I pissed in a comic book/cartoon cafe' BUT to argue that 'No, I was not fully naked'? The police say you were. I think, that even if you are wearing socks, you are naked as long as you are allegedly shirtless, pantless and underwearless. Of course, I do not have any knowledge or fact as to the actual state of Wiygul's state of dress, suffice it to say that he was probably out of uniform.

And the man is stationed on the USS George Washington! Named after the first President of the United States of America! The man who could not tell a lie!

For your edification, the USS George Washington (CVN-73) is a nuclear-powered super-carrier... a super-sized aircraft carrier. In the photo above, it shows: U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships steam in formation while participating in a photo exercise with the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) at the culmination of ANNUALEX 2008, a bilateral exercise between the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brendan Morgan/Released).

Andrew Joseph 
PS: The photo at the very top depicts a WWII US Naval uniform. It was the only picture I could find of a uniform lying in the ground... which I find disrespectful.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Mitsubishi Zero Aircraft

Want more aviation? Visit my new blog Pioneers of Aviation: HERE.
Among many of my fascinations as a child and now adult, has been equipment utilized in wars... specifically aircraft.

I truly love the UK's Spitfire and the American P-51 Mustang and Germany's Messerschmitt-109. For Japan, it begins and ends with their infamous A6M Zero.

Manufactured by Mitsubishi (yes, that Mitsubishi), the A6M Zero was a scourge during the first two years of the Pacific War (1941 and 1942) as it was more than a match for anything it fought, as it had superior firepower, range and maneuverability (though the US F6F Hellcat helped end that reign).

One of the key reasons the Allies took such heavy loses during the early stages of the Pacific Theater of WWII was the fact Allied leaders heavily underestimated Japan's ability to build a top-flight aircraft. It was an arrogance that cost many a fighter his life.

When the U.S. first encountered the Zero at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Zero was not a new plane, but western experts expertly shrugged off reports that Japan possessed a world-class warplane as the notion that Japan could produce a superb combat craft was an alien concept to the West.

Despite the rhetoric of its leaders, Allied pilots knew that even if they themselves were better pilots than their Japanese counterparts (not always a given, of course...), the Japanese A6M Zero was a well-designed aircraft that allowed its pilots to gain a superior advantage.

For the Japanese, the A6M Zero became more of a symbol of its military might than any other piece of hardware in the war until the atomic bombs... though I suspect the might of the German Panzer tanks was also right up there, close to the Supermarine Spitfire of England. And just remember... I was born in England, named after one of the Princes and derive my humor from that country.

Let's take a closer look at the A6M Zero, which was actually known as the Reisen in Japan. Keep in mind that the crux of this article as about the A6... though I will try and provide some background on its development from other planes.
So... if the Japanese call the plane 'Reisen', why does everyone call it the Zero? Well, Reisen comes from the official Japanese designation of the plane as a Rei Shiki Sento Ki (shortened to Reisen), a Navy-type Zero Carrier-based Fighter... and yet, it was an Allied code-name for the plane—Zeke—that stuck. No kidding. People during the war called the plane a Zeke more often than a Zero.

Brits in Malaysia and Singapore knew the planes as Navy Noughts, as 'nought' means 'zero'.

The A6M (M is for Mitsubishi, 6 = the sixth generation of the A plane from the company) fighter first flew in April of 1939 and was built until the war's end in 1945.

With the Japanese Navy calling the shots about the type of plane they needed for further annexation of Asia, they said they wanted a fighter that was viable on an aircraft carrier, lighter in weight, fast, maneuverable and have superior range, climb rate and armament—essentially, they wanted the best possible killing machine out there.
A Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter (tail code A1-108) takes off from the aircraft carrier Akagi, on its way to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of December 7, 1941. The aircraft was flown by PO2c Sakae Mori, 1st koku kantai, 1st koku sentai, and flew with the second wave.
Just to be up front, the A6M Zero delivered all of that... but it in order to achieve its speed, light weight, climb rate and maneuverability, designers gave it a low-powered engine... but at the beginning of the war, that was not an issue. The plane also omitted armor protection for the pilot, did not use self-sealing fuel tanks, and building lightweight wings as an integral part of the fuselage.

When the requirements for the plane were first presented in 1937, both Mitsubishi and the Nakajima Aircraft Company must have sucked a lot of air through their collective teeth as they thought the demands were impossible. While Nakajima withdrew, Mitusibishi continued, and appointed Horikoshi Jiro (surname first) the project leader.

The design of the A6M Zero was derived from the A5M Type 96 fighter that was actually the world's first monoplane (one level of wings only) aircraft carrier fighter. The Allied nickname for it was Claude.

Horikoshi used the A5M design team (with a few additions)—(all Japanese names are surname first): Sone Yoshitoshi and Tojo Teruo performed the calculations, Sone and Yoshikawa Yoshio did the structural work, Inoue Denichiro and Tanaka Shotaro designed the engine installation, Hatakenaka Yoshimi worked on the armament and ancillary equipment, and Kato Sadahiko and Mori Takeyoshi were responsible for landing gear and related equipment.

For the engine, the Mitsubishi MK2 Zuisei 13 featuring 875 horsepower was first chosen. They also used the lightweight duraluminu for lightweighting purposes.

Now, as you might expect from Japan, the best defense is an excellent offense, and so it was for the Zero, as the chief specification for it was that it be used ONLY for attack purposes... which is why there was no armor protection for the pilot and safe-sealing fuel tanks... in other words... if you were stupid enough to get hit, you were probably going to explode in flames. That's not just me saying that, but obviously the designers and Japanese military thinking that.

  • two Oerlikon 20mm cannon (Type 99) in the wings;
  • two 7.7mm machine guns (Type 97 ) in the fuselage.
A 20mm Oerlikon wing gun from a Japanese Zero.
Construction of the first prototype began later that year and was completed in March 1939. With no provision for armor, lightness of airframe, and lack of heavy fittings, the prototype Type 0 weighed only 4,380 pounds (1986.7 kilograms) compared to the prototype Spitfire's 5,332 lbs (2418.6 kg).

Light weight and modest power gave it long range and good performance, but meant that substantially heavier and more powerful engines could not be fitted without extensive redesign. As an offensive, rather than a defensive weapon the Zero's very success contained the seeds of its own downfall.

The prototype was declared ready for tests at Mitsubishi's Nagoya factory on March 16, 1939. Engine tests were run on the 18th, and the next day it was towed by an ox-cart to the airfield at Kagamigahara in Gifu-ken.

Test pilot Shima Katsuzo (surname first) lifted off on April 1, 1939, and later after correcting perceived braking and vibration problems, official tests of the A6M1 took place and a second, identical prototype was built.

Apart from its lack of outright speed—304 miles per hour (489.2 kilometers per hour) instead of the required 315mph (507 kph)—all requirements were met, and the A6M1 was officially accepted by the Navy on the September 14, 1939 and received the military designation of A6M1 Type 0 Carrier-borne Fighter. The Reisen. The Zero.

Further modifications to the Zero would eventually be made, but initially, the A6M first saw combat in China in the late summer of 1940.

After the delivery of only 65 aircraft by November 1940, a further change was worked into the production lines, which introduced folding wingtips to allow them to fit on aircraft carriers. It's my opinion that the small wing tips folding up—rather than more of the wing was the minimum required for the planes to be stored below deck on an aircraft carrier, as well as to clear the hangar to the deck lift.

The resulting Model 21 would become one of the most produced versions early in the war. These were the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor (known as Operation AI in Japan).
Folding wings on a Japanese Zero.
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (the American base—and thus considered American territory was in the country of Hawaii... not yet a State) on December 7, 1941, a total of 125 Zero aircraft from six Japanese aircraft carriers participated. I won't even suggest that this sneak attack was fair... but even if American fighters could have got their planes off the ground to combat the enemy, it still wouldn't have been a fair fight. The Zero was a deadly quick plane.

Because everyone was needed by Japan in the war effort, Mistubishi and Nakajima Aircraft Company built the Zero, with 740 model 21s from Mitsubishi and 800 by Nakajima.

Nakajima also built the A6M2-N floatplane called the 'Rufe' that was another version of the Model 21, while Hitachi (yes, that Hitachi) and the Sasebo Naval Air Arsenal constructed 508 two-seat trainer planes, the A6M2-K.
Japanese Zero 'Rufe' floatplanes at Bouganville in the South Pacific.
Other models soon appeared as Japan tried to keep its superiority by correcting design flaws it found - namely the poor horsepower from the engine:
  • A6M3 Model 32: had a 1,130 horsepower Sakae 21 engine; got rid of the folding wingtip section, giving a clipped wing. To retain the center of gravity positioning with the heavier Sakae 21 engine, it was moved back, which caused its own problems - a reduced fuel tank volume and thus less time in the air.
  • A6M3 Model 22: Adding the original folding-tip wing to the Model 32 engine/body combination, and adding a 12-gallon fuel tank in each wing to regain lost range. By the time the Model 22 reached production, the Model 52 was approaching operational status; thus the Model 22, appearing in combat after the Model 32, had a short operational life with only 560 built late in 1942 and early 1943.
  • A6M5 Model 52: Similar to the Model 32, but with some weight saving measures in the wing structure, heavier gauge wing skins to allow higher dive speed, individual exhaust stacks for additional thrust.
Eventually the West caught up with Japan and its Zero.... but it was because they learned the same things that Zero designer Horikoshi Jiro did: light weight, minimum armor, non-self-sealing tanks. All things that would allow American fighters to catch up or gain the upper hand. The advantage the Japanese had with the superior plane was lost, as the Americans had similar planes, but now they had developed tactics for combating the pesky Zero... which was to avoid getting into a one-on-one dogfight.
Horikoshi Jiro is the designer of the Japanese Zero.
The key was use the better guns against the Zero and perform hit and run diving attacks, which would light up the weak armored Japanese plane. Part of the run and gun attack was achieved thanks to their planes having extremely powerful engines that gave them more speed along with the firepower advantage.

Japan in an effort to keep up created a 1,150 horsepower engine (too little an increase) and added more horsepower and self-sealing tanks—it added weight making it less nimble—degrading the overall combat performance.

As the war dragged on, the Americans were buoyed by more experienced pilots going up, while Japan's skill level went down... and by October of 1944, during the Battle for the Philippines, the Divine Wind - the Kamikaze attacks U.S. ships using the Zero equipped with just enough fuel for a one-way flight and dive and crash into a U.S. naval ship.

By the time WWII ended, the number of Zero aircraft built was:
  • 3,879 by Mitsubishi;
  • 6,215 by Nakajima;
  • 844 additional trainers and floatplanes;
  • 10,938 Zero planes TOTAL
Now... if you are like me, you might have seen photos of the Zero in various color schemes. I had always thought it was a white-grey color—based on the first model kit I had built 35 years ago.

Apparently there is a science to figuring out the color scheme, and I'm going to leave it to the experts: HERE, and I bet we still won't find the proper answer, as I found two other illustrations similar to the one below with far different color schemes shown!

That's all for now. If you know of any errors and can provide corrections - I'm all ears. I'm hardly an expert on this plane, though I do have a bent towards pioneer aviation and will soon be starting up a fact blog on some of the earliest flying machines, including balloons, zeppelins, possibly a Chinese rocket chair, and of course aeroplanes and other craft that may or may not actually have made it up into the wide, blue yonder. I really am.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, November 23, 2012

Japan's Last Ninja

Matthew has once again sent a lead my way... this one is a BBC News report on Japan's last ninja, a 63-year-old Japanese man named Kawakami Jinichi (surname first) who look a hell of a lot younger than that! He is supposed to be Japan's last ninja grandmaster.

Link is HERE.

Now, personally I am unsure if this old guy is Japan's last ninja... I mean, how would you know? It's a secret cabal of super elite assassins who blend into the shadows, killing silently like a ventriloquist's fart. (Where'd that come from?!)

Regardless... it's that mysteriousness about a group of killers that has become revered in a society that loves its violence - if done quietly. Which society? Why the one you are in, of course.

It's funny, though. The ninja must have a great marketing department. How else to explain their popularity? Anyone who has seen a real ninja is dead and can't really talk about what that experience was like.

My kid dressed up as a ninja a couple of years ago for Halloween. He plays with Ninjago LEGO figures (okay, I do), and thinks they are all cool. He wants to be a ninja or an architect when he grows up... in case his career in hockey falls through. Say what you will about my diversely-talented son... he likes to have options. My options usually revolve around whether or not I want fries with that.

Anyhow... back to Kawakami... you'll notice he is called the last ninja grandmaster... that could imply that there are other ninja beneath him... hidden... I mean, I have shuriken and know how to throw them. I'm just saying... and I'm a stupid gaijin. Surely there are kids in Japan who grew up NOT wanting to be a robot.  

Cheers - and thanks, Matthew for the cool story.
Andrew Joseph

Cool Japanese Packaging: Chicken Pecker

If you have come here looking for a large cock, you won't be disappointed.

Welcome to Chicken Pecker Restaurant located in Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido-ken, Japan who seem to get all of their chicken from a farm in the village of Nakasatsunai, Hokkaido. Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan - by population. 

Here's the Chicken Pecker slogan from their website: 'With tasty chicken happy one time'
That is one big cock.

I have no idea if they mean the chicken was happy once or that you will be happy once you eat a tasty chicken... but why is it in English? At least let someone who speaks English and Japanese create a better translation of the message! 

Now, while I could rail on about the wonderful food and atmosphere at this restaurant - I won't. I've never been to this place, and to be honest probably wouldn't go just because of the name. It's a stupid name - even if the place might be great. It's the same reason why I would never buy a Loverboy album back in the 1980s, regardless of how good I thought their music was. Stupid name.

So what I am doing here in this blog? The place has some cool branding and packaging. I am a packaging expert, for some reason. I don't call myself that, however, as I tend to know a fair bit about a lot of things in the packaging genre, but certainly aren't an expert in any one field.

Kind of like being a blog writer.

Anyhow, let's take a look at the branding and packaging, shall we? Created by the Sapporo-based Commune, Inc., they have helped class up a stupidly-named, in my opinion, restaurant.
A Chicken Pecker sac(k).

Look... I get it. English is cool. Even the design firm has a Japanese name - and a thought-provoking one at that that harkens back to the hippie 1960s, man, and the freedom to just, like, be.

And while I am sure Commune had nothing to do with the naming of the restaurant, they still managed to work wonders with the brand and ellevate it up and out of the guttural elements that my brain keeps creating.

Chicken Pecker. Yes... chickens peck. Pecker is an English slang word for penis. A proper word usage of a male chicken is 'cock'. Penis jokes aside for the moment, Commune has played with the cock and created some cool looks for the restaurant's menu, bags and logo.

Yes... I wrote that Commune played with the cock. You can see that my adult brain lasted less than half a sentence in the previous paragraph. Sorry. The blood was rushing to my head and I forgot myelf in the moment.

Rather than go all Rhode Island Red with the colors, Commune utilized a light, citrus green color. Along with the limited color palette, Commune has kept the graphics to a minimum. I think a lot of classier logos do that very well - and that is what we have... except for the damn name.

Anyhow... have a look. I might actually visit the place just to get a bag that I could use here in Toronto. The whole look is kind of classy sassy.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What The Hell Is Tamari?

There I was sitting on the couch minding my own business - which is none of your business - when the wife pops by and pours something into my palm, which has opened up all by itself in a reflex to catch whatever it is that she is pouring.

Almonds. Yeah, whatever.

Try it. It's flavored. Yeah, whatever.

Hmmm. Mmmmmm. What the hell is it?

It's Tamari-flavored almonds.

Now, for some reason, I've been eating these damn things for about two weeks now, and not once did my curious mind ask - what the hell is tamari?

And then it did.

Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce - only it's not a soy sauce. Y'see, after soy sauce became a commercial product one could buy rather than something one made in one's own home back in the 17th century - the new commercialized soy sauce was different from the old style soy sauce which was called tamari sauce.

Soy sauce was cut like cocaine, becoming 50% soybean and 50% wheat. After fermentation - shoyu, aka soy sauce, aka soya sauce.

But... the old school tamari is all soybean providing a smoother, balanced and complex flavor. I can vouch for that. These almonds are sweet - and fricking addictive.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Free Movie: A Story Of Floating Weeds - 1934

Here's a very cool movie called A Story Of Floating Weeds (小津安二郎 - 浮草物語), a Japanese movie made in 1934. It's a silent movie with Japanese subtitles, however, you will see a tiny red button marked 'cc'... press that and choose the language of your choice for captions: English, French, Polish Spanish, Russian, Portuguese and Turkish.

I'm sorry if it isn't translated for all of you, but if you are reading my blog, you must know some English.

A bit of background... Ozu Yasujiro (surname first) made this movie. He later re-made it (in color) in 1959 - but this is the classic version. I watched the 1959 version a few months ago - and it was brilliant. As such... I am assuming this version is brilliant, too for its cinematography... and the story was interesting as well.

Like most Japanese movies of the day (and for 30 years after this), Ozu's movies are about the common Japanese family and how screwed up they really are.

In A Story of Floating Weeds, it's about an aging actor returning to a town with his troupe of performers where he meets an old lover of his with whom he had an illegitimate son. But, rather than the happiness of seeing her, it is complicated by his current mistress - and actress in the troupe - who causes some trouble... resulting in heartache for all involved.

Like you, I hope, I shall watch this movie over the next few days at lunch while at work. I hope you all enjoy it.

Popcorn is a must, but bring your own bag, because who wants to share.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Japan Loves Its Anti-Fart Underwear

While the concept of anti-flatulence undergarments have been around for about 11 years, the Japanese have taken the concept a bit farther than the gassy Americans who pioneered it.

Marketed as the Under-Ease underwear by the Yanks back in 2001, it had a coal filter in the underwear - something akin to a filtering system in an aquarium that would absorb gassy odors.

But Seiren, a Japanese textile company, has made an underwear via its Doest brand that is fun to wear featuring fart-absorbing ceramic particles within the materials fibers.

And... the flavor of the month is the flavor of the year - at least as far as the humble, noxioous Japanese businessman is concerned as now they can fart away to their fart's content heart's content and no one will know... except perhaps for the sound... and perhaps their wife who will still have to remove the skid marks from the tighty-whities.

Now... businessmen in Japan can squeeze out a stinker and it won't stink... which kind of defeats the purpose of having that idiot son-in-law around to blame such matters of the fart on. Fire his ass while you fire up yours! 
Apparently it absorbs your farts AND your package!

"It took us a few years to develop the first deodorant pants that are comfortable enough to wear in daily life but efficient in quickly eliminating strong smells," explains Seiren spokesperson Yoshida Nami (her surname first).

She continues: "At first we thought about selling them to those who require nursing care and to hospitals. But to our surprise, lots of ordinary people, like businessmen who are in positions that require them to see people on a daily basis, bought them."

How the hell do they know that Japanese businessmen are buying these things? Seriously... are men in Japan going shopping? Unless it involves lingerie for their mistress, I'm pretty sure these guys aren't buying their own fart underwear. I'm also sure they are just supplying cash to the mistress and letting them buy their own clothing. No woman really wants a man to buy clothing for her. But... I'll give Seiren the benefit of the doubt that they have some magical way of knowing exactly who is buying their products.  

Seiren developed the technology after being contacted by a doctor who wanted something to disguise the regular farts emitted by people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. Apparently this doctor had not heard of the Internet and thus could not possibly know that Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colorado created the very product back in 2001 for his wife who suffered from  the same problem as the Japanese doctor's patients.

I'm guessing Seiren does have the Internet, and thus decided to improve on the American version. Nowadays, Seiren via the company Deost ( offers 22 products that absorb smell, including socks that prevent feet from smelling and t-shirts that mask the whiff of sweaty armpits.

Takako... here's the perfect Christmas gift (yeah - I called it a Christmas gift - because that's what it IS!) for Matthew!  

Andrew Joseph

Monday, November 19, 2012

Failed 1950's-Era Japanese Inventions

Fresh from the BBC News comes a short video piece on failed Japanese gadgets for the home from the 1950s and 1960s that failed to take off.

Featured pieces include the 'walking' toaster and a ColorScope - a tri-color plastic screen that simulated color on a black and white television because color TV's were very expensive back in 1961 when color programming first came into vogue in Japan.

I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure I saw something akin to the ColorScope on television when I was watching an episode of Happy Days (a 1970s sitcom set during the late 1950s-early 1960s in Wisconsin, USA)... and I recall there being jokes about it.

As far as the 'walking' toaster - it looks cool, but I'm pretty sure it's just one more way for a kid to stick something they shouldn't into its opening. Let's face it... in this case, an extra six inches in height can mean the difference between safe and medical emergency.   

Watch the video over at BBC News, and be sure to thank Matthew for the lead!


Thanks Matthew!

Andrew Joseph

My First Day Shopping For Food In Japan

It's been over 22 years since that day, but I can still recall that day I first went shopping for food in Japan - by myself.

I had been living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken for about three days back in the summer of 1990. Freshly arrived from Toronto on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, one day after arriving in my new home - escorted by my two bosses Kanemaru-san and Hanazaki-san... I spent the first day wondering just what the hell I had gotten myself into.

I was a simple guy... 25 years of age... virginal in body but not mind... having never left home before, as both university and college where I received seven years of post-secondary education (we also do Grade 13 here in Toronto, until a few years ago), was nearby... I was spoiled... never having learned to do anything more than change a lightbulb or fill up a gastank in my car... though I did shovel all the neighbors' driveways of snow in the winter and cut their lawns when the snows melted...but I had never learned to cook, do laundry, iron, sew, or god help me, even to shop for my own food.

Oh, how the mighty race of man has fallen with the advent of the miscreant that is me. From noble hunter-gatherer to someone who knows how to do neither.

But I could communicate. If I had one gift on this big, blue marble it was that I had the gift of gab without having ever kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland... and I could also make others feel comfortable enough to talk with me. It's not a bad gift, I suppose.

On  my second day, Hanazaki-san, armed with three women women from the Ohtawara Board of Education where my office was, came and took me out to the local department/grocery store.. a superstore, if you will, that was like what Walmart is doing nowadays, but somehow not as gaudy. To be honest... it was similar to the old Woolco stores near my home in Toronto... so at least there was an aura of familiarity about it.

Yes I had given up a job with the Toronto Star newspaper to come to Japan, but I was not hardly the brave world-traveler I had read of in the books of my youth. No... I was afraid. Afraid of making a mistake and looking like a complete idiot to the people of Ohtawara and Japan... because my job was to teach them English.

That's what I thought, of course. I later learned it was more about internationalization... to teach them that they were just as wacky and nice as other people's of the world... that neither of us is superior to the other. But... that's not what I thought my job was about a mere five days into the country (Three in Tokyo before heading to my new homebase).

So... while Hanazaki-san held the purse-strings, the women helped me shop. Only Hanazaki-san could speak English - and he did it well enough injecting a sense of humor into everything, for which I was grateful. Where was the stereotype of the stiff, no-nonsense Japanese? Not anywhere in Japan that I had seen yet!

So... I picked up every food stuff that looked familiar... bottle of Coke... milk... Kellogg's Corn Flakes... eggs, bacon and baked beans... and Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs. I bought dry spaghetti, a tin of tomato sauce and minced meat that I would use to make meatballs....

And I was satisfied.

Back home, I soon realized had no idea how to make spaghetti and even less of an idea how to make the meat bind to make proper meatballs. After a miserable dinner, I ate breakfast for dinner and cereal for breakfast. But I had only bought enough for three days.

And so... on the ninth day of being in Japan (the 6th in Ohtawara), I decided I needed to leave my apartment and walk out to the local Iseya. That's where I had gone with the office and that's where I would shop. I sort of knew the way, as I passed it once being driven to the office by my bosses.

I walked there because my bicycle was built for someone about a foot smaller than me (my predecessor on the Programme), and my knees kept hitting the handle bars. It was also red with a pink basket, and despite me knowing I wasn't gay, I didn't think anyone else in this country realized that... and besides... since I had not yet slept with a woman, I had no proof I wasn't gay either.

Twenty minutes after leaving my apartment... I arrived at Iseya, smile permanently etched on my face... I walked in through the doors - holding it open for a woman who bowed deeply as she walked out with her load of groceries... and entered.

I spent a few seconds orienting myself and grabbed a shopping cart and proceeded towards the grocery aisles... and holy crap... if I wasn't already paranoid, I was well on my way... because it felt like the entire place suddenly became quiet - the music stopped - and everyone turned to stare at me.

In reality, after the panic died down a degree, it was only a few shoppers glancing at me... smiling and bowing in respect or greeting, and continuing on their merry shopping way.

I still had no concept of shopping. Combine that with the fact that I also had no concept of what the exchange rate was, so I had no idea what I was actually spending in Canadian dollars - even though I only had Japanese Yen on me... some $1000-worth of cash - a gift from my dad to help me get through until my first paycheck in a few weeks time.

So... I bought as much food as that shopping cart could handle... but everything I recognized... I dared not try anything new... I was new in this country and while I knew I would be subject to a lot of experimentation, it would not be at the expense of my tongue... my bread and butter, if you will.

I bought bread, cans of corned beef, butter, peanut butter, jams, orange marmalade, soups, Captain Crunch - this is Japan?  - bananas, one apple - why was it so huge?, one pear - why was it round and so huge?, grapes - why am I buying fruit? Milk... but it looks like chocolate milk (turns out it was actually green tea and made the Captain taste like soggy seaman... multiple bottles of Coke... cookies... more milk, eggs, bacon, was that baked beans? Yes! And then... cup of noodles... Yes!...

I got cocky and started looking at every single item on the shelf and I realized that when you take the time to look at the graphics on the packaging - you still have no fricking idea of what is inside because at that time at least, Japan's packaging was less that useful.

I picked something up... stared at it... and shrugged my shoulders and put it in my overflowing cart. The woman beside me, bowed deeply to me... looked at my cart... looked at me... picked up that can... and said in perfect English - "Whale?"

She smiled at my confusion... bowed deeply and then put the can back up on the shelf and walked away.

That's when I realized that here in Japan... even if I was going to embarrass myself, they weren't going to let me.

Although... my 30,000 food bill (that's about $370 Cdn in 2012) was actually a lot of food... and I still had to carry the nine bags back home. On foot. Those damn 2-liter bottles of Coke were heavy! At least the cashiers/bag boys double-bagged everything!

Did I mention that my fridge was only 3-feet (1-meter) tall? I learned after that to only purchase enough food for three days at a time or less. I had bought enough food for a month... with most of it spoiling after a week.

Somewhere learning that Iseya doesn't have music playing at their store,
Andrew Joseph      

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hello Kitty Dreams

Talk about the absurd.

Welcome to Hello Kitty Dreams, a Hello Kitty restaurant licensed from the Japanese company Sanori that created her located in the Sanlitun (Chinese: 三里屯) area of the Chaoyang District in China's city of Beijing

Check it out! Look at the photo... not a smile anywhere! Hello Kitty can be excused, perhaps, as she never presents her mouth, but the young lady outside the restaurant that just might be the happiest place on the planet that Disney doesn't own yet--she look downcast, to be polite. Perhaps she failed to realize that on this particular day she would be immortalized for the world to see her in a too short pink dress and that she had told all her friends she actually worked for the Volkswagon Group.

Sigh. Let's go inside and take a look at this place. I would expect that if any Chinese person actually entered a Japanese-themed restaurant at such a time when the two nations seem ready to go to war over a bunch of islands no one except the media and its politicians had ever heard off, well... Little Brother is watching, and he's going to tell mom... I mean, Mao. Who the hell is running China? Oh yeah. Xi Jinping... he just took over a couple of days ago. 

I wonder if he knows about this place? 

Hello Kitty Dreams... OMG. Thank you Caroline. Kiss-kiss. 

I think Hello Kitty is an amusing concept. It has a loyal and devout fanbase that loves to spend money... for example, there's Eva Air in Taiwan that has five Hello Kitty airplanes. Dubai has a upscale Hello Kitty spa, where I imagine women dressed up as Hello Kitty lick you with their rough pink tongues, and scheduled for opening is a $200-million Hello Kitty theme park in Anji... which I looked up and is actually in Shanghai. 

So... a Hello Kitty Dreams restaurant in Beijing does seem appropriate. I swear... if Japan and China do amend their ways, it will be because of this mouthless white pussy cat. I'm talking about Hello Kitty and not Caroline who sent this story my way. I'm pretty sure Caroline has a mouth.      

Let's take a look inside the restaurant.... because we're here, that's why.  
Opened in December of 2011, a good month for old Andrew, Hello Kitty Dreams was a big success when it opened, as it was taking reservations days in advance. Wow. No fooling?

Now...  like me, you might expect that the vast majority of visitors to Hello Kitty Dreams would be young girls who like cute things, but apparently, like me, you would be misinformed. Couples. Adult couples. I can inlay assume these couples are into CosPlay and go home and take turns raping each other dressed up as Hello Kitty.

Says Ted Chen (Is Chen a Chinese name?), the restaurant's manager: "The most exciting thing is when couples come here to propose.

"Men think that this will be a memorable place for the proposal, and so far all the women have said yes."

According to restaurant chief executive officer Sarah Wang (Is Wang a Chinese name?)--she's a 25-year-old actress and singer who has far too much money--that her idea was for the restaurant to be geared to female customers aged 15-35.

Hunh. (Is that a Chinese name?) I was still way off... even on the front part of the age.Whatever. No matter what Caroline and I or perhaps even you think about this, it's making money hand over paw.

The 70-seat restaurant is covered in Hello Kitty... stuff... yes... that's the correct word. Wang has had the place stuffed with everything Hello Kitty, including: sinks and mirror, dolls, toys, cat-shaped dining booth and, as you have seen in the photo above, staff dressed in appropriatly pink Hello Kitty-inspired work outfits... like the chefs below.
Has no one any shame? I mean.. I'm weird, but I draw the line at dressing up a a cartoon character to get a job. I suppose that's why I did seven years of post-secondary education to earn the fabulous riches I make now. Okay... that's a bad example. I suppose I would dress up as Donld Duck - my favorite of all time - mostly because he doesn't wear pants... but that's okay... he's in the navy, and who doesn't love a man in half a uniform?

Says Wang Bing (Now that's a cool Chinese name!) who has been working there since the place opened: "I had other options for work, but I chose this job because I find Hello Kitty really interesting. My friends don't think it's weird that I'm a guy and work here; they know it’s just my job."

Good for him. I kid. I would take $5000 a year just to do voice-over animation because I think it's cool. 

So... Wang Bing... what's the food like?

Apparently it's an eclectic melange of Asian and Western cuisine, though if you listen to the fod reviews for the place, it's not a good melange.

Really? How could you screw up soups, sandwiches, pizza and pasta? Curry? What the hell is that doing there? Meat dishes - okay... but here's the rub... and we're not talking about spices on the meat.

Here... take a look at one of their dishes at Hello Kitty Dreams:

That's a cheese-baked chicken chop. I have never heard of a chicken chop, but then, I'm satisfied with a burger from the golden arches. For $9 or so, you get the chicken, pasta and tomato sauce that looks like it came from a dry can of Chef Boyardee (minus the meatballs), veggies (cherry tomatoes, snow peas and what I assume are a carrot slice and a cucumber slice shaped with the likeness of Hello Kitty's beautiful mug featuring her iconic hair-do. There's even French fries... which if you count them--you can actually count the number of fries rather than the calories--there are three.

Oh yeah... these meals are not made for men like me.  

But what the Hell is the Hello Kitty writing made out of? Paprika? That's my guess. No clue. 

Oh well. They do have hamburgers... hopefully whatever animal they made the hamburgers on doesn't go extinct.  They also have ice-cream. That's tough to screw up... I've even made ice cream once and it was good. I ran out of cream and used mayonnaise, and it still tasted good on my spam sandwich.

Who's kidding whom? If China would ever let me in--this blog is banned in China according to my friend Cathy who was there earlier last month--I would go there and at the very least try the food and the washrooms.I'm curious to see if there's a gaijin-sized litter box filled with pink clumping gravel.

Anyhow... for all you Japanese folks... once China annexes you and you become Chinese and are forced to give up your names like Kenichi and Emi to become more Chinese as Ken and Amy, well... you, too can head over and try to get a reservation at Hello Kitty Dreams.

Is this actually Japan's way of following Machiavelli's The Prince.. the Italian version of Sun Wu's Art of War? Take over a country from within... like what Canada is doing to the U.S.? Do you know how many Canadians are in Hollywood? All of them. Lorne Green on Bonanza. Captain Kirk. Wolverine. Need I say more?    

For me... please say hello to your new Chinese master... Hello Kitty. She was Japan's... now she's also China's. And Taiwan's (same thing) and Dubai's. What the hell is Dubai doing with a Hello Kitty spa? Oh yeah.. the whole tongue bath thing.

Andrew Joseph