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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Who Is Enshrined In Yasukuni Shrine?

What would Japan be without a bit of conflict? Boring.

The Yasukuni Shrine has been a source of international conflict for Japan for a number of years now - and I'll try and offer a reason for it.

By the way... in the photo above, that's former Emperor Hirohito visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in 1935.

The Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 or 靖國神社 Yasukuni Jinja) is a Shinto shrine located in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo, founded by Emperor Meiji (reign February 3, 1867 - July 30, 1912) in June of 1869 as a means to commemorate the soldiers et al who had died for Japan during the Meiji era... which was his reigning period.

It was founded initially for the spirits from the Boshin War of 1867 (戊辰戦争 Boshin Sensō, "War of the Year of the Yang Earth Dragon") the civil war fought between the remainder of the Tokugawa Shugunate and those seeking the return of the Emperor's Imperial Court... it went on until 1869.

Since that time, its purpose has been changed to include all Japanese people who died up to and including World War II... which for Japan also includes those charged after the war for war crimes.

Basically... the shrine states that the dead are kami... not necessarily gods... but are indeed the spirits of the dead.

I should point out that at the nearby Chinreisha shrine contained within the area of the Yasukuni Shrine, it also has a spirit soothing shrine dedicated to all those who have died in Japan's battles throughout history. Basically... the Chinreisha Shrine covers all soldiers.

Chinereaisha - photo from

Basically... all together, the Yasukuni Shrine commemorates more than 2,466,000 people. 

According to Shinto beliefs, the Yasukuni Shrine (henceforth it includes the Chinreisha Shrine) is a home for all the dead who fought on behalf of the Emperor - regardless of whether they died in combat. This means that some of the World War II vets still alive will one day be enshrined here.

It also means that regardless of international public opinion on the honor of the dead, the Yasukuni Shrine will still honor you.

So... what's the big deal?

Well... the Yasukuni Shrine includes 1,068 prisoners of war (POWs) who were convicted of some level of war crime at the conclusion of World war II, and were enshrined here.

But... here's the rub.

When one is enshrined, according to Shinto beliefs, the spirit (kami) is absolved of all Earthly misdeeds... even (or especially) if one was convicted by The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE).

The IMTFE are also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, and as the Tribunal - which was begun on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of war crimes. The Tribunal was convened at Ichigaya Court, formerly the Imperial Japanese Army HQ building, in Ichigaya, Tokyo. It was adjourned on November 12, 1948.
Ichigaya Court held the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.
There are three (3) classes of war crime.

Class A war crimes: participation in a joint conspiracy to start and wage war. These charges were leveled against what I would call upper-management... those who made the big decisions.

Class B war crimes: those who committed conventional atrocities or crimes against humanity. I would assume crimes against humanity would include raping, pillaging, murder of civilians. I'm sure it includes more than that.

Class C war crimes: those who planned, ordered, authorized or failed to prevent such transgressions at higher levels in the command structure.

Class A: 28 Japanese military and political leaders
Class B & C: more than 5,700 Japanese nationals - most for prisoner abuse. Of this number, 984 were initially condemned to death; 475 received life sentences; 2,944 were given more limited prison terms; 1,018 were acquitted; and 279 were never brought to trial or not sentenced.

The Japanese Royal Family was not charged with any war crimes, as the Allies realized it would be easier to placate Japan's citizenry with changes to its Constitution if they were left alone... with the main proviso being the Emperor had to denounce his God-like powers... which, in fact, was a big deal. I'll get to that in another blog.

Who was on Trial for Class A War Crimes:
Six defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for Class A war crimes:
  1. General Kenji Doihara, chief of the intelligence services in Manchukuo; 
  2. Kōki Hirota, Prime Minister (later Foreign Minister);
  3. General Seishirō Itagaki, War Minister; 
  4. General Heitarō Kimura, commander, Burma Area Army; 
  5. Lieutenant General Akira Mutō, chief of staff, 14th Area Army; 
  6. General Hideki Tōjō, commander, Kwantung Army (later Prime Minister of Japan from October 17, 1941 to July 22, 1944).
One defendant was sentenced to death by hanging for Class B & C war crimes:
  1. General Iwane Matsui, commander, Shanghai Expeditionary Force and Central China Area Army. 
Excluding the top three people, the remaining six Class A and Matsui were all executed on December 23, 1948 at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

A total of 16 defendants were given Life imprisonment: three died in prison: Koiso, Shiratori, and Umezu (see below), while the 13 others were granted parole between 1954 -1956. Those who received life in prison were:
Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment but died in prison in 1949.
Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu was sentenced to seven years.

Class A War Crimes Released:
There were actually 70 Japanese who were arrested for Class A war crimes, but, and I'm not 100% positive here, it appears as though because their trials had not and would not come up in time - perhaps owing to a lack of evidence, these people were all set free by 1948.

They were to have been tried in three groups:
Group 1 consisted of 28 leaders in the military, political, and diplomatic area;
Groups 2 & 3 consisting of 23 and 19 people respectively were the industrial and financial folk who were involved weapons manufacturing, narcotics trafficking, and also included lower-level leaders in military, political, and diplomatic areas. Some of those - the more interesting ones include:
  • Nobusuke Kishi: In charge of industry and commerce of Manchukuo, 1936–40; Minister of Industry and Commerce under Prime Minister Tojo's administration;
  • Fusanosuke Kuhara: Leader of the pro-Zaibatsu faction of Rikken Seiyukai;
  • Yoshisuke Ayukawa: Sworn brother of Fusanosuke Kuhara, founder of Japan Industrial Corporation; went to Manchuria after the Mukden Incident (1931), where he founded the Manchurian Heavy Industry Development Company;
  • Toshizō Nishio: Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, Commander-in-Chief of China Expeditionary Army, 1939–41; war-time Minister of Education;
  • Kichiburo Ando: Garrison Commander of Port Arthur and Minister of Interior in Prime Minister Tojo's cabinet;
  • Yoshio Kodama: Radical ultra-nationalist;
  • Kazuo Aoki: Administrator of Manchurian affairs; Minister of Treasury in Prime Minister Nobuyuki Abe's cabinet ; followed Abe to China as an advisor; Minister of Greater East Asia in Prime Minister the Tojo's cabinet;
  • Masayuki Tani: Ambassador to Manchukuo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and concurrently Director of the Intelligence Bureau; Ambassador to the Reorganized National Government of China;
  • Eiji Amo: Chief of the Intelligence Section of Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; Director of Intelligence Bureau in Prime Minister Tojo's cabinet;
  • Yakijiro Suma: Consul General at Nanking; in 1938, he served as counselor at the Japanese Embassy at Washington; after 1941, Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain;
  • Ryoichi Sasakawa: Ultra-nationalist, later businessman and philanthropist.
Did you see an interesting name there? Prime Minister Noboyuki Abe? Abe was Japan's 36th Prime Minister and ruled from August 30, 1939 to January 16, 1940.

Is he related to Japan's current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? No.

But there is still a relationship between the current Prime Minister and World War II. Abe's mother was Yoko Kishi... and her father was Nobusuke Kishi who was Japan Prime Minister from January 31, 1957 – July 19, 1960. Grandpa Kishi was, however, part of Prime Minister Tojo's Cabinet during the war. He did spend time in prison for his part, but when released he formed the Japan Democratic Party. In 1950 Shigeru Yoshida's Liberal Party and Kishi's Democratic Party merged to become the current Liberal Democratic Party.

Let's go back to the Yasukuni Shrine now.

Back on January 31, 1969, Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry and representatives of the Yasukuni Shrine met in a hush-hush way. It was then that they agreed that Class A war criminals from the Tokyo Trials would be enshrined. They also decided NOT to tell the public about it. Because... even then... they knew it was controversial.

On October 17, 1978, 14 Class A Japanese war criminals were enshrined as "Martyrs of Shōwa" (昭和殉難者 Shōwa junnansha).

This information only came to light when the National Diet Library of Japan released the information on March 28, 2007.

However... the enshrinement was revealed to the media on April 19, 1979... just not the hows and whys. That took until 2007.

And that's how Japan's war criminals got in... and according to Shinto tradition... forgiven for their Earthly trespasses...

So... do you want to know who are the 13 Class A war criminals who are honorably enshrined and worshipped at the Yasukuni Shrine?

Class A War Criminals Enshrined At Yasukuni Shrine:
Death by hanging:
  • Hideki Tōjō;
  • Seishirō Iragaki;
  • Heitarō Kimura;
  • Kenji Doihara;
  • Akira Mutō;
  • Kōki Hirota
Life Imprisonment:
  • Yoshijirō Umezu;
  • Kuniaki Koiso;
  • Hiranuma Kiichirō;
  • Toshio Shiratori
20-Years Prison Sentence:
  • Shigenori Tōgō 
Died During Trial:
  • Osami Nagano;
  • Yosuke Matsuoka
Let's not forget that Iwane Matsui was the 14th World War II war crime guilty party... but he was only charged with Class B & C. All of these people are listed above with links to Wikipedia sites. 

There... now you know more than most people on the planet.

It's just like the classic American brain teaser of "who is buried in Grant's tomb?" You can look that one up... this is a website of Japanese whatsit, after all.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, December 30, 2013

Yasukuni Shrine: War Vets, War Criminals And PM Abe

That 'war criminals' part made you look, didn't it?

This is a blog I had initially tried to write about two years ago... I wrote the opening line back in 2012 of December 28. Who says you can't look back at the past and try and move forward?

Well... if you are the Prime Minister of Japan, apparently you can't.

On December 26, 2013, one year to the day after taking office as Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo (surname first) visited the Yasukuni Shrine in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo for 15 minutes.

What's the big deal, right? He was simply paying his respects to the dead, right? A Shinto shrine dedicated to Japans soldiers... its war dead... what's wrong with that?

"I prayed to pay respect for the war dead who sacrificed their precious lives and hoped that they rest in peace," he told the media.

Well, the Yasukuni Shrine is both famous and infamous because amongst the 2.5 million war dead enshrined at Yaskuni there are also 14 Class A war criminals from World War 2 enshrined.

It is because of those 14 individuals - Japanese leaders who were either executed or who died in prison or during their war crime trials - that countries such as China and South Korea are pissed off royally not only at Abe, but also at Japan for allowing their leader to do such a thing.

Look... I can understand wanting to pay respect to the dead... it's not MY thing, but I don't begrudge anyone the right to do so... but why did Abe chose to honor the Japanese soldiers as opposed to say... oh, I don't know... the people who died during the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear diasters up in the northeastern part of Japan?

Because Abe is a self-serving idiot. He is a war-monger with a deep-rooted nationalist pride that is throwing Japan into a state of extreme chaos. He is going to lead Japan into a war. A war it will not win.

Both China and South Korea have warned that Abe's actions at the Yasukuni Shrine will further erode relations with Japan... possibly pushing it closer to an all out dismissal of Japan's right to exist.

You will recall that Japan doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation, historically speaking, in its relations with China, South Korea... hell... all of Asia... and specifically, because it terrorized China before and during WW2... and had colonized Korea not too many years before that.

In fact, you can thank Japan's militaristic actions of the past 100 years for the reason that China is the way it is... and Korea, too... and I'm not just talking about SOUTH Korea. I'm talking about good ol North Korea.

You can read about the history of Japanese-Chinese relations HERE and HERE. I do write these blogs for a reason. You can also read about those damn Southern Islands that Japan says it owns that has South Korea, China and Taiwan all with twitch trigger fingers HERE.  
"Hey China and South Korea! Read between the lines!" Photo of Abe from Reuters back in April 19, 2013.
Abe is considered a nationalist who really, really, really wants to alter Japan's pacifist Constitution, and has previous said he would really like to visit Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister.

Now... I believe that Abe did NOT visit the Yasukuni Shrine in an official capacity... and that it was done solely as an individual thing... but who's kidding whom? You don't get to be an ordinary citizen at any time when you are an elected official.

That would be like saying it is okay for the Mayor of Toronto (where I live) to hook up with hookers, get drunk and smoke crack, but it's okay because he was finished with work for the day. I'm not saying any of those things happened, by the way, because that would be libelous, and I have no idea what any Mayor does when they are not in their City Hall office... I suppose it would still be being the Mayor.

And the same holds true for the Prime Minister of Japan.

By the way... I am currently reading a book by Canada's CURRENT Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It's not a book about politics, it's a book about the history of hockey (ice) in Ontario - specifically the history of hockey in Toronto. It's dry, because that's what history is, but dammit! He's captured my attention - in a good way! Thank you Prime Minister Harper for teaching me more about what it means to be not only Canadian, Torontonian, but also a hockey fan!

Now... let's get back to Japanese Prime Minister Abe.

His visit to the Yasukuni Shrine also raised the hackles of one US President Barack Obama. That country says it is disappointed "that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors."

Japanese analysts were also dumfounded who thought Abe might stay away from inciting the foreign masses and instead take the pragmatic approach to his leadership and focus on reviving Japan's crappy economy.

After his visit inside the Yasukuni Shrine, Abe says that he is NOT paying homage to war criminals... that he is not specifically praying for the souls of the 14 war criminals.

"Unfortunately, a Yasukuni visit has largely turned into a political and diplomatic issue," Abe states. "It is not my intention to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people."

He adds that Japan must never wage war again. "This is my conviction, based on the severe remorse for the past."

I believe if one is smart enough, Abe is saying that Japan will not START a war, but it won't back away from one. Probably because the U.S. will come to Japan's rescue... and if it won't... well... that's why Abe wants to rewrite Japan's Constitution... so that it may once again be allowed to form its own armed forces... a power that was stripped of it after Japan's surrender to The Allies at the end of World War 2.

Whatever Abe's desires are or says they are... he should have been smart enough NOT to have visited the Yasukuni Shrine. But he's not. And neither are the people of Japan... you not only vot3ed him into office... you've done it twice.

Pride goeth before the fall.
Andrew Joseph
Photo at the very top courtesy of Wikipedia. Photographer Wiiii.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Japanese Cigarette Brands

In my small city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan I lived in an apartment complex that was called Zuiko Haitsu... or perhaps better known as Zuiko Mansion because it was the biggest place and the most luxurious. Compared to other AETs (assistant English teachers) and their living quarters, it was - though Matthew had a really nice place, too!

Between 1990-1993 when I lived in apartment 307, the seven-story building was the tallest building in my town. It still might be, but I would need confirmation on that.

Anyhow... directly across the street there was an old abandoned factory... a cigarette factory.

It wasn't a factory with lots of automation, but in its hey-day, it was a place where cigarettes were packed and rolled by hand. It had long been out of business - maybe 20 or 30 years - by the time I had moved in across the street... and while looking dingy and closed off, it was opened up from time to time for various festivals to be held in its grounds.

Since smoking cigarettes still seems to be a Japanese tradition - one that I hated, but then came to embrace years later after leaving Japan - I thought we could take a look at just the Japanese brands of smokes available. All seven of them.

Don't worry... I'm sure my comments will become more pithy.
Caster is a brand of the Japan Tobacco Inc. company... and you have your choice of: Caster Original, Caster Mild, Caster Mild Box (Premium Blend), Caster Super Mild, Caster Super Mild Box (Premium Blend), Caster One, Caster One Box, Caster One 100s, and Caster Menthol.
Caster apparently comes with a subtle hint of vanilla flavoring... so you don't taste the cancer. Was that more pithy?

Golden Bat
A folded open pack of the Japanese Golden Bat brand available in China during the 1930s. Now with more terror.
Ahh... Golden Bat from Japan Tobacco Inc. My mentor and boss Kanemaru-san smoked these babies religiously... at least one-and-a-half packs a day...
Golden Bat has been around since 1906, and is a filterless cigarette - perfect for those who enjoy spitting out bits of dried tobacco from their teeth. Well.. the cigarettes came filterless, but the user could add the filter if they wanted.
Actually, Golden Bat was first produced in Japan back in 1905 - but only for the export market to China... the bat is considered a good-luck symbol in China.
I can not confirm this, but rumor has it that Japan's Chinese exports of Golden Bat back in the 1930s used to add a small amount of heroin and or opium to the mouthpiece areas of the cigarettes as a way to make the imbiber addicted... which is quite weird, as they need not have wasted all the heroin or opium, as tobacco on its own seems to be more addictive than heroin. It was supposedly conceived of by Japanese Imperial Army General of China and Manchuria Doihara Kenji (surname first), a wonderful gentleman who was eventually prosecuted and sentenced to death by a War Crimes tribunal for his horrible actions in China and Manchuria. It sure sounds like the drugs in the cigarettes is a likely fact.
Golden Bat is an inexpensive cigarette, and is apparently made from low-level tobacco, so the smoker does not always get the same smooth tobacco flavor. Oh, Mr. Kanemaru.

What is the Man hoping for? A manicure?
I don't know what Japan Tobacco is hoping for, but Hope is available as four brands: Hope Filter Cigarettes; Hope Lights; Hope Super Lights; and Hope Menthol.
They are available in three sizes: Short (70mm), King Size (85mm) and Long (100mm), which should confuse everyone, as King Size usually means the biggest. You can purchase each brand (and size ) in the soft or hard package, and can purchase each in 10 or 20 smokes per pack.
If you look below, you'll see the cigarette brand Peace... which is a sister brand of Hope... Hope and Peace. Lung and Cancer.

Are you looking at the blurry pic of the four hot Japanese babes or the largest pack of smokes ever?
Mevius was previously called Mild Seven until August of 2012... and as a brand of Japan Tobacco it remains the fifth-most smoked smoke in the world with some 76.5-billion inhaled annually. I believe Mevius stands for M (Mild)-Ev (Evolution)-I (as in I)-U (for You)-S (Seven)... but I wouldn't hold my weakened breath on that explanation... 
No full explanation regarding the strange made-up name of the cigarette has been offered by the monopoly that is Japan Tobacco.

Japan Tobacco controls the Japanese cigarette market... and is owned by the Gov't of Japan. They are trying to control every breath you take! Or don't take!
Peace... does anyone not look at the downward sweep of the peace dove and not think that it is dying or dead? It's so two-dimensional that the peaceful mourning dove looks like it has been squashed flat by a 53-foot trailer carrying coffin nails (cigarettes) into the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
Now... despite my critique of the Peace brand name, this logo was actually designed by Raymond Loewy back in 1952. Loewy was a French-born American designer who also designed (I'm just going to copy from his Wikipedia entry here): Shell, Exxon, TWA and the former BP logos, the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, Coca-Cola vending machines, the Lucky Strike package, Coldspot refrigerators, the Studebaker Avanti (One of the ugliest cars ever, in my opinion - he did much better work earlier on the Hupmobile stylings) and Champion, and the Air Force One livery. He was involved with numerous railroad designs, including the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 and S-1 locomotives, the color scheme and Eagle motif for the first streamliners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and a number of lesser known color scheme and car interior designs for other railroads. His career spanned seven decades. His nicknames were The Man Who Shaped America, The Father of Streamlining and The Father of Industrial Design.

Pianissimo Péche
Momo is Japanese for peach, but it doesn't sound as cool as Péche.
Shhhh... I'm smoking.
Pianissimo is a musical term I am quite familiar with - having once taught taught piano and clarinet to earn money to complete my journalism studies, which helped get me into the JET Programme. It is an Italian word meaning to play 'very soft'.
Péche... is the French word for 'peach'... as evidenced by the cigarette packaging.
Produced by Japan Tobacco (owned by the Government of Japan), Pianissimo Péche appears to be an attempt to cater to the female smoking audience of Japan.
These smokes are sold in packs of 20 or in cartons with 10 packs each for a total of 200 cigarettes in a carton.

Seven Stars
Manufactured by Japan Tobacco (again), Seven Stars (セブンスター Sebun Sutā), comes in a variety of cancers brands: Seven Stars (Soft Pack/Box), Seven Stars Medium (Box), Seven Stars Lights (Box), Seven Stars Black Impact (Soft Pack), Seven Stars Menthol (Box), Seven Stars Lights Menthol (Soft Pack/Box), Seven Stars Black Charcoal Menthol (Box), Seven Stars Revo Lights Menthol, and Seven Stars Revo Super Lights.
It is packaged as king size (85 mm), 20 cigarettes in a hard pack. The brand was created in response to customer demands for a low tar, menthol and D-spec product.
If I had to make a guess, and I am, I believe the name is based on the Pleiades star system... who are known collectively as the Seven Sisters... In Japan, the Pleiades are known as Subaru - yup... the car company name (which, for some reason only has six stars on its logo), and subaru means 'cluster'.
Okay... I looked it up... the Subaru car company? It has six stars in its 'cluster' logo NOT because of the star system, but rather because it is a cluster of five car companies that merged into one... five small stars equals one large star for a total of six stars.
The tobacco brand... let's assume it's for the star cluster system:
A color-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitized Sky Survey.
Credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech
Interesting brand names, eh? I know... many of you are thinking... there is no way I would ever buy anything called Golden Bat... but people have been smoking Camels all over the world for decades now.

And Mevius? Hope? Peace? Seven Stars? Pianissimo Péche? Why isn't anything replete with a Japanese name? Caster? WTF?! I suppose foreign names are still cool in Japanese product branding.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo at the very top was taken from HERE, by Daniel Hageman.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Kanji Of The Year

Every year for the past 19 years (including this one), the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation in Kyoto chooses a word (via kanji, the Chinese-based alphabet) that best represents what it feels the pulse of Japan.

Under the heading "better late than never", the 2013 Kanji of the Year  - chosen back on December 12, also known as 'Kanji Day' - is the word - rin, which means 'ring' in English.

It was apparently chosen because of the success of Tokyo et al being chosen as hosts of the 2020 Olympics... you know... because the Olympic flag has five rings... each ring a different color... and I believe each flag in the world uses at least one of those colors.

Receiving a total of 9,518 votes,was also chosen because it represents the "circle of support" for the recovery of areas impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The 2012 kanji chosen was also Olympic-related -
金 (kin), gold - owing to Japan's respectable showing at the London 2012 Olympics with seven gold medals - a new high. Pretty weenie selection of kanji, in my opinion. The athletes get full credit for their efforts, but it was only seven gold medals, and it pales when compared to China's 38 or even South Korea's 13 - two of Japan's main Asian rivals in damn near everything.

Coming in second in 2013 for Kanji of the Year was
楽 (raku), with 8,562 votes... because the Tōhoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were the baseball champs. Raku means "ease"... which makes me wonder two things... WTF is up with the baseball team name? And... what is up with the voters for the Kanji of the Year? Hell... if the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants fans got together and voted for "Giants", they could easily have won, as the Giants are to Japanese baseball what the New York Yankees are to North American baseball, or what the Dallas Cowboys are to American Football or what Barcelona is to soccer.

To be fair, the word "raku" is also in reference to people hoping beyond hope that Japanese Prime Minister (just call me King) Abe will help make the life of the Japanese people easier economically with hope that Abenomics will ease their financial burden. Sure it will... especially if you like war.

In third place, we have
倍 (bai), which is taken from the expression 倍返し (baigaeshi), which means, in English, "Pay them back double!”. Hopefully that's not about yakuza loan sharks calling for repayment. Actually, it's supposed to be a catchphrase from a popular Japanese TV drama. Really Japan? WTF?!

So far we have television, politics and sports dominating people's choices for Kanji of the Year.

What was #4?

Number 4 was 東 (higashi), which means East... which is because Japan's eastern capital of Tokyo got the Olympics and because the Golden Eagles are from the Eastern part of Japan.

Oh... my... Godo.

Number 5... please let it be something with some thought.

The fifth biggest vote getter was 風 (kaze), which translates to "wind". Surely wind is a reference to politics?!

Well... Japan did get a lot of typhoons and tornadoes... but no sharknados for some reason... but definitely more of those nasty weather patterns than usual. Okay... I can see this as being an interesting word... but it's hardly Japan-specific, is it? Other countries also got the typhoons...

But... kaze is also to do with people hoping Abenomics will blow away Japan's economic troubles. Wow... these voters are reaching with this one.

Isn't the word supposed to have been representative of what has occurred in 2013? Abenomics has hardly changed the economic winds in 2013. You and I doing nothing could have changed the economic winds. Abenomics might still work in 2014... but it's hardly something that truly describes Japan in 2013.

These voters must not realize that the Kool-Aid being served by Abe is spiked with something.

Look... the 2013 Kanji of the Year, - rin, is a decent choice.

I might have chosen "island" - shima - . Because of all of the troubles involving the southern islands and China, Taiwan and South Korea, as well as the northern islands and Russia. And Fukushima... I know it's not an island, but it is part of the kanji for the still troubled area that was devastated by the nuclear issues of the Dai-ichi nuclear power station.

I wonder if MY kanji choice even got any votes?

Well Japan... rin... congratulations on winning the Olympics... when was that again? Oh yeah... 2020. Getting the Olympics in Tokyo... that's something that effected everyone in Japan in 2013? No. It's cool... and it's an achievement of the Olympic Committee... but let's face it... if Japan did NOT get the Olympics... how would it have affected the people of Japan in 2013? Disappointment?

Hell.. if you really want to celebrate the a word for Tokyo getting the 2020 Olympics, we could have chosen: 同情 (Dōjō)... which means pity... as in pity vote.

Wow... I just read all this... I'm bitter. I'm actually bitter at the lack of thought put into voting for the real word... the real kanji word that defines Japan in 2013.

Whatever. Perhaps gaining the Olympics in Tokyo will kick-start Japan's sagging economy... and everyone will think it's because of Abenomics... and Prime Minister Abe can keep his job just long enough to take Japan into a battle with China... and, as everyone knows, war is good for the economy.

Maybe not so good if you're the one being shot at. Good luck, U.S.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Case Of The Super-Secret Hold

When I run out of reading material - which happens because I read a book a week (plus 15 hours of sports on TV, hours of comedy and drama, too) - oh yeah and writing some 60 hours week, I find myself plumbing the bookshelf of my eight-year-old son, Hudson.

A book's a book regardless of its length.

Anyhow... he had one I hadn't seen before... something called Encyclopedia Brown and his Best Cases Ever.  I've heard of the character... but have never read him before.

Created by Donald J. Strobol... this 50-year-old character was a side hobby for the man who did write a book I knew of... the Two-Minute Mysteries.... fascinating little 300 word mysteries that dared YOU, the reader, to solve them! I still have one from when I was about 10!

Well... the same holds true for Encyclopedia Brown... just that he created a family of characters as a method to provide mysterious crime-solving entertainment for kids. The answers to the crime riddle are always presented at the back of the book... I must admit that despite my love of logic and fact, I'm still running at about 50 per cent in solving these kid mysteries...

Encyclopedia Brown was/is 10-years-old and helps his police chief dad solve crime mysteries around the dinner table, and for 25-cents will also solve problems for kids via his own detective agency located in the family garage. Like any great detective, Brown has his enemies... a gang of kids who call themselves the Tigers.

Here's a short story with a bit of Japanese in it. Can YOU solve the mystery? This was one I failed... and yet, in hindsight, I should have solved. I guess my encyclopedia is missing a few books.

The Case Of The Super-Secret Hold
The heart of Bugs Meany was filled with a great longing.
It was to knock Encyclopedia flatter than an elephant's instep.
Bugs hated being outsmarted by the boy detective. But whenever he felt like throwing a punch, he remembered Sally Kimball.
Sally was the prettiest girl in the fifth grade. It wasn't her face, however, that the toughest Tiger remembered. It was her fists.
Sally had done what no other boy under fourteen had ever dreamed of doing. She had outfought Bugs Meany.
Bugs had told everyone that Sally had hit him with a few lucky punches. Nobody believed his story, including Bugs himself. He thought she had hit him with a milk truck.
Because of Sally, Bugs had never bullied Encyclopedia. Sally was the detective's junior partner.
"Bugs hates you more than he hates me," Encyclopedia said as the partners sat in the Brown Detective Agency one afternoon. "You can be sure he'll try to get even."
Sally agreed. "He's like a thermometer in hottest Africa," she said. "He's always up at something."
Just then Duke Kelly, one of Bugs Meany's Tigers entered the garage. He put twenty-five cents on the gasoline can. "Bugs wants you," he said.
"He wants to hire us?" gasped Sally.
"No, he wants you to come to the judo show this afternoon," said Duke. "The twenty-five cents will pay for your time."
Encyclopedia and Sally exchanged questioning glances.
"The judo show starts at two o'clock in the junior high school gym," said Duke.
"Judo?" Encyclopedia repeated half to himself. "The gentle art of self-defense?"
"Judo is the art of using your opponent's strength against him," said Duke, "or her."
With that he departed, grinning slyly.
"Bugs has more up his sleeve than his elbow," said Encyclopedia thoughtfully. "But I'm curious."
"So am I," said Sally. "Let's find out."
The junior high school gym was already filled with boys and girls when the detectives arrived.
Coach Richards, who ran the summer sports program, spoke briefly. he explained the aims of judo.
Then four men from the Idaville Judo Center took places on the mat in the middle of the floor. They wore white trousers and a loose jacket bound at the waist by a knotted belt. For half an hour they demonstrated holds, locks, throws, and escapes.
After the children had stopped clapping, Coach Richards spoke again.
"Judo is not only for grown-ups," he said. "three of our own junior high school students will now show you what they have learned in two short weeks.
Bugs Meany and two of his Tigers, Spike Larsen and Rocky Graham, trotted onto the mat. They wore the same white costumes as the men.
"Gosh, he's really good," said Sally as Bugs began flipping Spike and Rocky to the mat like baseball cards.
"They know how to fall without getting hurt," said Encyclopedia. "But the throws are an act. Bugs couldn't throw Spike and Rocky if they didn't let him."
After a whirlwind five minutes, the Tigers lined up and bowed. Coach Richards stepped forward to thank them.
Bugs held up his hand. "I'm not finished," he said.
Coach Richards moved back, surprised.
Spike strode towards Bugs. He stopped within a foot of his leader.
Bugs shot a hand to Spike's throat. When he pulled the hand away, Spike fell over on his back and did not move.
Bugs repeated the grip on Rocky.He, too, fell over on his back and lay unmoving.
"You just saw my super-secret move," announced Bugs. "I completely knocked out Rocky and Spike. But I didn't hurt them. If I really wanted to, though, I could break their necks for life."
Rocky and Spike stirred. They crawled off the mat shaking their heads.
The gym had grown silent. All eyes were on Bugs.
"Now you are asking yourselves, 'Where did Bugs learn this terrible hold?'" he continued. "I'll tell you. I wrote to a famous professor in Japan for the secret."
Bugs strutted up and down the mat. "A lot of you have heard about a certain girl who is supposed to have licked me," he went on. "Now you know I wasn't trying. I could have put her in the hospital, only I'm a gentleman."
His meaning was clear, and all the children understood. Bugs was challenging Sally to a rematch, then and there! If Sally refused to fight, or if she were beaten, Bugs would rule the neighborhood. The Brown Detective Agency would be powerless to halt his bullying.
A small boy near Sally pleased, "Don't fight him. He could kill you!"
But Encyclopedia whispered into Sally's ear. As she listened, her lips tightened. "Super-secret hold, phooey!" she snorted. A moment later she was on the mat.
Bugs turned white. He had thought to scare her. Now he was the one who was scared.
There was nothing for him to do but fight. He reached for Sally's throat and took a thump in the stomach.
Fortunately for Bugs, his two-week course in judo had taught him how to fall. Sally 's fists gave him plenty of practice. Eventually he lay on his back and refused to get up.
"I can't go on," he wailed. "I hurt my back lifting a big box this morning."
"He must have hurt his head," though Encyclopedia, "to believe anyone would fall for his super-secret hold!"


The solution:
Bugs tried to scare Sally with his super-secret hold.
All the Children but Encyclopedia believed that Spike and Rocky were really put to sleep, and that they could be seriously hurt if Bugs had wanted to hurt them.
Encyclopedia lone saw that Spike and Rocky weren't really knocked out.
He whispered to Sally the reason he knew they were faking.
Spike and Rocky had fallen on their backs.
A person who is knocked senseless, or who loses consciousness while standing up, does not fall backwards.
He falls forward.

So... did you solve the case? Like I said... I actually knew the answer, but when the pressure was on, I couldn't come up with the solution. Outfoxed by a 10-year-old!

Anyhow... just something a little different. Check out the Encyclopedia Brown books for yourself or your kids. All the stories are as short or shorter than this one.. and all should get the old brain thinking.

While about 50 per cent of the books I read are mysteries (usually historical or period pieces set at the turn of the 20th Century Toronto, the 11th and 13th Century England or Ancient Egypt) - and the others non-fiction historical books... I can't write a mystery to save my life. I know the formula... but my brain isn't hard-wired that way, I suppose. I suppose it's a good thing I didn't go to law school even though I passed the entrance exam.

... Then I wouldn't have gone to Japan, and you wouldn't be reading this blog.

Anyhow... I present this also to encourage your kids to get the old brain cells moving... to think... and maybe to give the author's estate a few bucks (Donald died in 2012... no mystery... just old age, I'm afraid).

Visit a library and read a book!

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy 50th Anniversary Mom & Dad

Today, December 26, 2013, would have been the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents, something I doubt I will ever reach owning to the many things, including the lateness of my marriage as far as my age goes.

Fifty effing years. My mother died 19 years earlier, so my parents didn't come close... but it doesn't mean I can't think about it...

Beginning with their 20th wedding anniversary, I began purchasing works of art for them each year: a First Nations carving of an animal totem made of iron wood; an Inuit carving made of whale baleen of a pair of rutting walrus; a pen an ink here; an oil painting there... and when I went away to Japan in 1990, aside from sending my love from so far away, I purchased a piece of Japanese ukiyo-e artwork.

That's it up above... a piece from 1851, produced by noted Japanese artist Toyokuni III (also known as Utagawa Kunisada)... one of a series of The Story Of Genji... a series I eventually ended up purchasing five pieces of eight sheets (one was a triptych).

The art I sent back for their 27th anniversary is the one photographed by me this afternoon - above. The darn thing is matted and framed, and was a bugger to get a clean shot of... but hopefully you can see it well.

This image is #16, and is called Sekiya. It's an autumn scene... but what I liked about it was the fact that it has maple leaves falling... from a Japanese maple tree... of course... Canada's flag has a big red maple leaf in it...

In the second image two paragraphs above... it is actually something I found on line HERE. While we can all ooh and aah at the more brilliant colors on it as opposed to mine... I would like to point out that this brighter one is more than likely a younger print... something from post-1868 after the popping purple color was introduced to Japan. The same goes for that garish red. Ugh.

Prior to that... the colors were more muted.

The girl on the left... her kimono was certainly not canary yellow... or whatever the hell it is... it was more... peach.

I'm going to pull some data from that other website (with corrected spellings, of course):

The "Tales of Genji" were often designed by the Japanese Ukiyo-e masters. The novel includes 54 chapters and following these chapters most often the Genji series include 54 prints - although normally a title page is added so the series has 55 prints.
This Genji series was designed by Kunisada in the years 1848 to 1852. Seventeen of the prints are signed with "Toyokuni ga" in his red Toshidama cartouche and some of these are dated "year of the rat", 11th and 12th month.

Anyhow... I will not dispute this data. (How could I?)... but ukiyo-e prints have been printed and reprinted many, many times over the ensuing years... My copy is older, while newly available inks show the second print to be many years younger.

In retrospect, this was actually the first ukiyo-e I purchased in Japan... from a legitimate and reliable antique store in Nikko-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. While I did purchase what I liked (always a great idea rather than just thinking about how much money it may one day be worth), my copy has flaws... a fold... poor contact of the ink to the paper...

Such things might have once ticked me off... but now, in my opinion, the flaws make it more real than something perfect churned out by a flexographic printer of 2013.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Like the headline says: Merry Christmas, everyone!

Yeah... the weather outside is frightful... but we're all here, right? Everyone in a good mood, more or less?


The above photo is an oldie... from all the way back in 1990... my first Christmas in Japan... in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

I was still learning how to use my dad's camera... lent to me by him a few months earlier before I embarked on my own epic journey across the seas to land in the comfy confines of Ohtawara.

I had bought my own little coniferous tree - something that was still alive and in its own pot... and placed it on this table that would eventually hold my goldfish aquarium... that's its blue canopy just below the table... it's unused at this time...

I did my best to turn that little table into a bit of Christmas cheer for myself and for others who didn't have a tree... when they visited... maybe it would cheer them up? I worked with what I had. (That large lamp on the left... I used it when I was reading on the couch... which was every day.)

My maybe girlfriend Ashley was in Thailand or Indonesia with a bunch of female AETs (probably the later)... after she and I had a fight and broke up, it was time to make holiday plans... so she did... and when we got back together again three days later... she had plans and I didn't... I was trying to go somewhere... anywhere... with anyone... because I didn't want to be alone... but... I pretty much was.

I'm not sure exactly where Matthew was... but I do know that he was around for New Year's Eve that year... and he and his boss/pal Mr. Suzuki took me out to the local Ohtawara Shrine... but Christmas... it's a blur.

It didn't stick out much back in 1990... yeah... I think I was alone... no family... friends oot and aboot... but... I think I was actually the first ever AET to spend Christmas vacation IN Japan and IN their hometown.

I'm kidding, of course... but it was cool to have played the martyr... I mean, be a man and tough out the whole loneliness thing.

It sounds so pathetic... but I will have you know that I walked around town that day... saw my Japanese students and their parents, merchants and strangers... and every single person I met greeted me with a smile, a deep bow and an accented "Merry Christmas"... how effing cool was that?!

Some stopped and asked if I was alone this year and if I missed my mama and papa... (Mom and Dad, is what I would say)... and I would smile my stupid smile and bow slightly as I answered "yes"...

They felt sorry for the new gaijin all alone in Japan at what I assumed they knew was an important time of year for me... and many asked me to come for dinner that evening... how magnanimous! I didn't even know who half of them were!

But... whether it was pride, or just wanting to prove I could survive in Japan by myself - I had always had my mother and father around to look after me, and I really wanted to try and be a man for once in my miserable life - so I turned them down... besides, I really didn't want to intrude on THEIR family time.

But... it was nice, you know... it was the fact that people here were looking out for me... that they actually cared if I lived or died or was happy or sad... that they took the time to care.

And that, my friends, is just one of the many reasons why I write about a country I haven't seen in 20 years.

Merry Christmas one and all.
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Want More Power... Any Power

One of the things I hated about my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan was something I wish happened nowadays in Toronto.

Sort of.

In my apartment, my refrigerator was always running. Which was why it was in such great shape.

The heater/AC unit was not on all the time, but it was in the dead of autumn, winter, spring and summer. Oh... you know what I mean... Ohtawara-shi was a city of some decent weather extremes.

I would always have the television on - even if it was for background noise while I was reading or writing.

Sometimes, I would even do the laundry... okay... I was a bit fanatical back in those days... I would do the laundry every other day... trying to wash the sex stains from the bedsheets... or really, just because I didn't want anyone coming over and thinking I was a slob... it's also why I vacuumed my apartment every day... the place was like a train station - which I didn't mind... a lonely guy enjoys the company.

But... on those many times I wanted to treat myself, I would microwave up a bag of popcorn... 23 years ago... I couldn't find microwave popcorn in Japan... even if it was staring at my in the face at the grocery store because oft times Japanese packaging makes little to no sense when it offers graphics that do not describe its inside product...

... fortunately, my mother would send bags of the stuff over to me on a monthly basis... so I could always have a whole bag of popcorn to myself... as we all know it that while it is indeed fun to share a bowl of popcorn, it is indeed much better to have one all to yourself.

So... with the fridge, heater, television, laundry and then the microwave all going, I could always expect the fuse to blow in my apartment.


Instant darkness.

Since the popcorn was the most important item... I would make sure I went and turned off the laundry... stumble back into the living room area, trip on a chair... yelp around on one foot for a while cursing in two or three languages... English, Japanese, and of course French... the only way I am bi is bilingual... being a good Canadian... I know all the swear words in French, and one or two lines to get my face slapped nine out of 10 times (that 10th time can indeed be magic!)...

Then when my foot would stop throbbing, I would pull a chair over - one different from the foot maimer - and climb atop it to find the fuse box... located seven feet up the wall... open it and flip the breaker... and... voila! Power.

These past few days in 2013 Toronto... thanks to what some are calling the worst ice storm in Toronto's recorded history (which I'm sure pales to the one in Quebec 15 years ago or so!)... the power went out.

No heat. No television, no internet... and thanks to digital wiring... no frigging telephone service.

So... we packed up the family on Sunday... and went to Grandma's house an hour's west in Guelph and spent the night... until we heard that the power came back on in our neighborhood.

So we came back... the house was indeed nice and warm, but horrors of horrors... there was no television service... no internet service... and no telephone service. I hate Rogers Communications simply because the phone is digital... and when one service goes down, they all do... I don't have a cell phone...

And... I really had no internet service... which is why... 21 hours late - but still on the 24th... I almost missed a day of blogging... Almost...

I also had to keep an eight-year-old slightly hyper-active boy occupied without television. Thank god for LEGO... thank god for some movies I had downloaded but not shown him before... and thank god the PS3 was still working...

I'm no longer a drinking man... I mean... I can... and will... but does six drinks in the year constitute someone who drinks? No.

Despite me moaning about how crappy the last few days were... I should point out that many people in Toronto are still without power... that means no heat... and many don't have any place warm to go out to.

Regardless of this... I just wanted to say... that in three years of living in Japan... the power never went out in my town... this tiny little podunk of a town... but here in Toronto... in 2013... twice now weather has beaten the crap out of us... what with flooding destroying some transformers... and now... an ice storm. That's twice in one year we've been kicked in the nuts leaving us writing for days.

Of course... it's not like we didn't have bad weather in Japan... a few earthquakes... five typhoons a year... but my power never went off - unless I got hungry for a personal sized (IE Family-size) bag of microwaved popcorn.

Cheers... and since it's already Christmas somewhere... Merry Christmas.

I will, of course, be back soon... weather permitting.

Stay warm.
Andrew Joseph

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Wish Goes Awry

One should always be careful for what one wishes for.

Yesterday afternoon, it began raining outside in Toronto... and because I have a wonky roof I can't afford to have fixed, I was worried the rain would make its way into the house... down the walls,,, and eventually down to my computer room... but knowing of course that the water in the walls would eventually turn into some sort of mold or mildew that only I would be allergic to.

So I wished really hard that the rain would turn into that freezing rain Toronto was expecting... big whoop... freezing rain... what do I care... my Christmas shopping is done and I'm on vacation...

And so... whatever gods are out there... they actually listened to my wish and granted it. It began to get colder and the rain turned into freezing rain.

Great... two years ago I just wanted to get laid - thanks for nothing! But... this year... the gods listen to my pleas for the rain to not cause drips and drabs into my walls....

By 2AM on Sunday, the freezing rain continued... and I could see trees on my street (I looked) bowing from the frozen weight... and then... a flicker of power occurred... the microwave reset itself... and then again...

Not wanting to be stuck in the dark trying to take my contact lenses out, I shut down the old episodes of Doctor Who I was watching and turned off the lights... and moved upstairs... kaboom... there go the lights... there was lightning in the sky...

So... since I use a C-Pap machine to help me breath at night (sleep apnea), I need power to make the machine work so I can... well... not die at night from a heart attack...... so I went back downstairs determined to wait out the electrical outage...

At 3AM, the power came back on again for 1-2-3 seconds before I saw another lightning flash before landing in total darkness...

Now... 3AM is no big deal for me... but sitting in total darkness for 60 minutes... that's a recipe for sleep... so I knew I'd have to try and get some sleep....

I went up stairs... fumbled with the light switch (oh... right)... found my empty contact lens case... dug out my lenses and carefully placed them away for the night... as I moved the container away from the counter edge... I felt something... one of my lenses... apparently I missed the container... but I didn't miss the second time...

I have horrible eyesight without the lenses,,, and combine that with the inky blackness... well... I almost had an optical delusion thinking I could see my way around at night.

So... I moved my son from his room into ours... in  case the old tree there crashed into his place (always a possibility).. and went to sleep  - sans life-saving C-Pap machine.

Immediately I went to sleep, and immediately my wife left because of the snoring leaving my poor son to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...

I awoke the next morning... very tired... because without that machine I don't really sleep... and learned that my freezing rain wish had transformed some 250,000 residents of Toronto into powerless homeowners... and that it might be 72 hours before service as restored....

Twelve hours later... that 72 hour time table remains (never shrinking), and it's now 350,000 plus residents of Toronto without electrical power....

And... since the house has no heat... we decided to take a chance and drive 1 hour west to Guelph to sat with my in-laws... hoping they had power... and that they were home.... which is why I am able to write this non-traditional Japanese tale...

... and so... since February of 2011... we don't miss a day blogging here...

Now... I just hope the cat isn't dead at home (we'll go back in a day or two... ), trees haven't fallen into the house... the water pips haven't frozen and exploded... and that power is back sooner than expected.

I hope YOUR Christmas wish goes better than mine...

Andrew Joseph


Sunday, December 22, 2013

First Trailer For Godzilla 2014 Movie

The first trailer for the upcoming 2014 Godzilla movie was released a week ago... and just in case you missed it... here it is:

Like any good trailer, you don't really get a clear look at the monster... you want to keep things a bit of a mystery... but that freeze frame above... that's the best look I've seen of the critter so far.

With all of the hype being thrown at this particular flick, it's going to have to be something special... and since I've been following the makings of this particular movie for a about four years now... I can only hope they don't let the King Of The Monsters down... because it really was once upon a time a wonderful franchise.... back in 1954 when the first Godzilla movie was released... and If you've only seen Godzilla movies that weren't dated 1954... you owe it to yourself to see the original. It blew me away... and yeah, while I am one for hyperbole, this original flick was well deserved of my cheering.

From what I can tell... THIS new Godzilla looks a lot like the rubber-suit worn original... except that this time there ain't no man in a lizard suit! It's better than the dinosaur-ification that we saw with the last two American remakes... those movies reminded me of Jurassic Park.

Godzilla 2014 will be released all over the world in May of 2014 - except in Japan who will have two wait two months until July 25, 2014.

Why would Japan, the birth place of Gojira (Godzilla) get screwed up the poophole having to wait two months... well... don't pity them too much... Japan will have re-releases of a whole lot of Godzilla movies starting in a couple of weeks in 2014... as a radioactive warm-up for Japanese audiences.

I'll assume the original Japanese version will be the first one released... and that they won't show the two American ones (which, I did enjoy, by the way).

By the way... this blog did post up some video footage of the movie being shot... way back in July of 2013... it wasn't anything spectacular...  but it was some, I assume, illegally obtained footage of a scene. You can see that HERE.

Andrew Joseph
PS: That photo of the model... that is a model showing the possible look of our once and future king, Godzilla, taken back in July of 2013... compare it to the video... pretty damn close, eh? 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Japanese Food Company President Found Murdered

Ohigashi Takayuki (surname first), 72, president of the Ohsho Food Service Corp. (Gyoza no Ohsho, 餃子の王将) was shot outside his company's headquarters in Kyoto on December 19, 2013.

Gyoza no Ohsho is a Japanese restaurant chain serving gyōza (fried dumplings) and other Chinese-style food. There are over 600 Ohsho restaurants in Japan.

Ohigashi (pictured above courtesy of the Asahi Shimbun) was found lying in the company parking lot just before 7AM, taken to hospital and pronounced dead, according to someone within the Kyoto Prefectural Police, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ohigashi had been company president since 2000. And, despite the crappy photo, Ohigashi is presumed to have had eyes.

Unless someone was upset about being served a bad meal of fried dumplings, or was a disgruntled employee, people are talking about Ohigashi's murder as though it was the work of the Yakuza, Japan's famous and infamous crime syndicate.

Well actually, no one is talking about it being a Yakuza hit, which means it probably was.

I know that in Canada - especially in Quebec, we have had rumblings of many food company executives being 'taken out', with rumors of the Mafia being involved...   

With over 8,000 employees in 2013, Osho has been in business since 1967.. and since Ohigashi's untimely demise, it has named managing director Watanabe Naoto (surname first) as its president.

Last month a food scandal involving many hotels and restaurants and food service providers was uncovered - featuring the substitution of lower grade ingredients labeled as higher and more expensive ingredients... but Ohsho was NOT part of that corruption.

Personally, I doubt we'll here more of this story, because if it is a Yakuza hit, the police will want no part of it.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 20, 2013

War On Racism and Racism During The War

I'm writing this paragraph AFTER having written the stuff below... and I want to apologize for being so off topic... but what the hell... let's talk about racism.

I was watching an episode of the new Hawaii Five-O television program a few days ago... it's a splendid mix of action, adventure, mystery - and with a superb cast of actors - most of whom could probably be full-time male models if they wanted.

I watch it because... well... originally it was because I used to watch the original series back in the 1970s... and because I really dig the opening music. In fact... aside from the power of the Perry Mason opening credits, nothing else comes close to grabbing the viewers attention... okay... Doctor Who, as well... though I could never get beyond the cheesy sets and lame sci-fi of the show until it's revamp from 2005 on up... it's still cheesy, but it's often brilliant and cheesy.

Anyhow... Hawaii Five-O... the episode was done as a tip of the hat and a deep bow to the memory of December 7, 1941 - the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese on the US territory of Hawaii.

But it wasn't the usual rah-rah, America kicks Jap butt type of patriotic pap TV and Hollywood loves to serve up to the hungry masses eager to recall that the US is a-ok... no... this episode went a different way.

As you may know, Hawaii has long been a home for many Japanese, Chinese, American and native Hawaiian people since before the 20th century.

The pearl industry was one way I was introduced to the concept of Japanese having an industry in Hawaii... something I learned long after I first studied World War 2 as an eight-year-old. Yes... I was a curious child. A Mad Hatter, if you will.

Later, I learned that the Yakuza also exerted some control there...

But... what I didn't really know anything about was the fact that on Hawaii... for a generation or two prior to Pearl Harbor's infamous date, that there were many, many, Americans of Japanese descent living there... what you might call Japanese-Americans... but me... I'd just call them Americans.

Anyhow... after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this Hawaii Five-O episode touched upon one of those USA dirty secrets that was never so secret... relocation camps for anyone of Japanese ancestry...

Now... I don't wish to point fingers at just the USA... my own Canadian government participated in this filthy treatment of its own citizens... also removing Canadian citizens of Japanese descent... and relocating them to prison camp(s).

The television show told a wonderful tale that brought a tear to my eyes... because it showed how even though you might have been BORN in America (or Canada), as long as your skin was of a different color and your name was foreign, it didn't matter how American you were... you were still considered a threat in the eyes of the American government.

Look... I understand that you were at war with the Japanese... Canada , too, because we were Allies... but holy crap... Canada and the USA treated its citizens like total crap during WW2. Not all of them... just the ones who were Japanese.

Did they do the same to the Germans? No.

Germany didn't physically attack the USA, and thus it didn't attack Canada.

About 40 minutes west of my house is the city of Kitchener... during World War 1 (The Great War), in 1916, the city had its name changed... no longer New Berlin - which probably angered the populace - a mostly German-based city... and it still is home to many German immigrants to this day... but no one was sent to an internment camp during WW1 - and the same held true for WW2... no matter how many Jews or Gypsies were killed in Europe.

I know no one liked the Germans after WW1 or after WW2 for decades... but Canadian or American citizens of German descent did not have to go to prison during the war because they were a threat to the safety of their respective countries.

The Hawaii Five-O episode also mentioned that the Americans of Japanese descent (I hate the 'hyphen-American and hyphen-Canadian term with an effing passion - I'm Canadian and proud to be just a Canadian)... anyhow... the Americans of Japanese descent - they lost their homes, possessions, jobs... just because they were at one time Japanese. It's like their rights as citizens didn't count or matter.

I know I could have simply just talked about the plight of these people without mentioning the television show... but honestly... while I knew about the Canadian relocation of Canadians of Japanese descent... I did not know about the Americans of Japanese descent being treated the same way.

I know it was a war... but you don't treat your own citizens that way.

Imagine if Great Britain went to war with China... and said it was going to relocate all Chinese people in GB to a camp... now imagine the same with the US and Canada doing the same to people from India... or Jamaica... if they were to go to war...

They did it once... they could do it to me... I'm a Canadian citizen... and have been sine I was 12... when my folks felt I was old enough to make up my own mind regarding citizenship. I renounced my British passport and citizenry... but I'm still apparently full of Indian genetics even though I feel and act Canadian... would I be forced into a war prison... would my son? If that was a scenario from the 1940s... probably. And it sucks.

The paranoia exists today, of course... the existence of so-called sleeper cells... we have people in Canada and the US who have been living here for decades (!), but still hold onto the old beliefs of their former country.

My folks... much like those Canadians and Americans of Japanese descent... when they came over... they became Canadian... became Americans... and truthfully... I don't see a lot of that now. I know of people who have been here for decades and either know nothing about Canada or haven't learned a single word of English. I mean that because I know it to be true. I think it's wrong.

These people hide within blocks of culture that is just like the one they left... with no effort made to integrate themselves into western culture... unlike others who truly see Canada and America et al as lands of opportunity.

Yeah - hold onto your religions - that's your right... but why not try and embrace the full culture and society and language of your adopted country?

That's what I did when I lived in Japan. That's not how you survive... it's how you adapt and become part of a community.

I was 25 years old when I first visited Japan... and while my language skills sucked - I could communicate well enough - I made sure I became well-versed in Japanese culture and society... with more Japanese friends than the comfort of only English-speakers.

While I already knew judo and baseball and soccer - things the Japanese love, I also learned kyudo (Japanese archery), kendo (Japanese fencing), watched sumo (Japanese wrestling), learned ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), origami (Japanese paper folding), I learned to eat with chopsticks... and consider it an insult when I am not offered any at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant here in Canada or the US... I did my best to fit in by learning Japan's history... visiting its lands and historical landmarks... talking to people to get their personal histories.

I don't think people do enough of that today in their adopted countries. Why do we have a Chinatown? Little Italy? Little India? A Rainbow Village?

People need to congregate where they feel comfortable? Screw that... feel uncomfortable until you become comfortable!

Here in Toronto... I used to take a train home from work... a single train platform shared with two lines... one that went to Georgetown, and one to Markham.... each arrived in 15 minute intervals... I knew that if there was a majority of Chinese on one, it was the Markham one... I never had to look at the timetable... if there were Brown folk... they were all getting off at Bramalea... what is nicknamed Bramladesh... Me... I lived in downtown Brampton... and I was the only Brown guy in the neighborhood... which was full of Scottish and Newfoundland folks...

Ahh... it pisses me off... people nowadays aren't Canadian... they are Italian-Canadian... French-Canadian... you ask them what nationality they are and they say: Greek, German, Hungarian, Russian... so few of us seem proud enough to be Canadian, Americam or whatever we have become since landing on the adopted shores. It beats me why. Why can't you simply have respect for your country and just be Canadian... of Italian descent... or whatever.

Hell... I even hate the fact that there's an African-American term. Why? Can't you just be American?

It reminds me of my first day of university... there was the Indian Federation... the Italian Federation... clubs for freshmen to join... to feel part of a community... and it went on and on... people looking to fit in with others of their ilk... why? I thought university was supposed to be a melting pot of cultures and ideas... but it was just another segregationist waste of space. Couldn't we just be university students?

Each of those clubs was racist, when you think about it... would the India-based club let in a Black dude? No.

Ahhhhh... It's like we haven't learned a god-damned thing.

I'm pretty sure the US wouldn't start lining up people of Japanese ancestry again in 2013 should Japan declare war on the US.

I'm pretty sure... I mean... being a Brown guy... I always get hassled whenever I try and cross from Canada into the US... especially if I am by myself. I understand the paranoia... even 12 years later after 9-11... and if it helps keep out the real bad guys, then I don't mind the hassle at the border. I have nothing to hide.

Ha... you should have seen the looks I got back in the early 1990s at the borders... There I am... a Brown Guy... with a Canadian passport... issued in Tokyo, Japan... born in London, England... and it says my name is John Andrew Stephen Joseph. I sure don't seem like the type of person who would have those names... but I do. Hell... I'd double check me, too. Especially when I had such long hair half-way down my back. Yes... I am bringing drugs from Japan INTO the United States. Riiiiight.

Anyhow... I was originally going to write about some Americans of Japanese descent and their role in the war... as inspired by the Hawaii Five-O television show... but maybe later.

I just got off topic by talking about American (and Canadian) racism towards their own citizens of Japanese descent... and how sometimes the immigrants don't help their cause because they choose not to become more Canadian or American...

Fug... look at me... I have only a neutral Canadian/American accent... I don't say oot and aboot... those are the Newfoundlanders and those north of the cosmopolitan cities... and even then, not all of them do that! Because I was very aware the I was a visible minority in Canada... even as a three-year-old (some people are always keen to remind you of that)... I made sure I became more Canadian than them - not only did I shun everyone who was Indian, I learned every damn thing I could about hockey... nothing shuts up some dumbasses when you know more about a sport than they do.

I recall one guy telling me to go back to where I came from. England? I asked. And then I lit in on him about his poor syntax and lousy diction... and then asked if he considered himself such a great Canadian... if he was a hockey fan... he said yes... a Leafs fan, I asked... affirmative... so I asked him who the first Leafs captain was... he didn't know... (Hap Day)... asked him what Hamilton's hockey was once called... he didn't know (Tigers)... and I asked him... who is our Prime Minister... and he guessed incorrectly... and he would call himself a Canadian? Your ignorance is an insult to Canadians, I told him. And then I shot him and left the bar. Sorry.. I meant shot him a look and left the bar.

I know next to zero of my so-called heritage of India... I know a single hindi word... and until I went to Japan, I never ate Indian cuisine... I've never been there... I never wanted to... because that's what all the immigrants did... they came here and then went 'home' every year for a vacation... but... because of that... I know nothing of my heritage... and I sure would like to go and see the sites... but I would always want to go home to Canada.... or to England... or to Japan... all three countries that I can honestly say were/are home...

Anyhow... I am so off-topic... and on-topic... that it's not funny.

Let's see what the next column will bring... I know... something with a military angle...

Andrew Joseph