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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Similarities Between Japan's 1854 And 2011 Earthquakes

Here's a news item hot off the press of 1855 - April 21, 1855, to be exact, from the Daily National Intelligencer of Washington, DC - plucked from the archives of Newsbank, the best source ever for scholars, would-be scholars and even dumb bloggers looking for a resource center of early American newspapers.

The image above is an 1855 ukiyo-e depicting the epic event referred to in the article. I have no idea who the artist is, or when it was actually painted.

For your edification, where it discusses "Ohosaca", "Japau", "Jeddo" and Niphon, the article actually refers to Osaka, Japan (I'm sure it was a typo) and Edo, now known as Tokyo, as well as Niphon, also known as Nippon, Nihon or Japan. Also, keep in mind that one fathom = six feet (1.83 meters). Lastly, the Yan-taze-kiang is an alternate spelling for the Yank

This particular news item discusses the an 1854 earthquake. Let me know if any of you who experienced or saw footage of the March 11, 2011 Japan earthquake find any similarities. I know I did.

Terrible Earthquake In Japan.

The "North China Herald," received by the late arrival from Europe, furnishes the following extracts of a letter from an officer of the U.S. steamer Powhatan, announcing the exchange, on the 21st of February, of the ratifications of the Treaty between the United States and Japan, and the visitation of Japan, on the 23rd December last, with a violent earthquake, whereby the city of Ohosaca, the largest city of Japau, and the town of Simoda were destroyed and Jeddo much injured. The loss of the Russian frigate Diana, after the earthquake, is also narrated:
"Powhatan, March 2, 1855,
"Off the mouth of the Yan-taze-kiang.
 "We sailed from Simoda a week ago last Thursday, expecting a run of about five days to Shanghai; but we had scarcely got out of harbor before we encountered a hay gale of wind, which required a large expenditure of coal to enable us to breast it, without making any headway, but, on the contrary, rather losing ground.
This had scarcely subsided when we had another gale more severe than the first, which lasted much longer, and after that subsided we had still another directly in our teeth, which seemed to combine in itself the severity of both the previous ones. I never before have experienced anything to compare it with at sea.
Being short of coal, the ship could not be placed in the most favorable position for weathering the gales, as the captain thought it necessary that he might make his fuel last to get the ship into port when the gale abated.
By the greets good luck we have managed to avoid the necessity of taking off our paddles and beating up under sail.
"The exchange of the ratifications of the treaty between the United States and Japan was made on the 21st day of February and we sailed on the 22d.
"The island of Niphon, in which Simoda is situated, was visited on the 23d December by a severe earthquake, which was most disastrous in its effects. The city of Ohosaca, one of the largest in the empire, was completely laid waste. Jeddo itself suffered considerably, but has since suffered more seriously from the extensive conflagration. The town of Simoda, on our arrival, presented a complete scene of desolation and ruin. After the shock of the earthquake, the sea commenced bubbling up as it were along the shore, and then receded with great rapidity, and as soon returned with such increased volume as to flood the whole town to the depth of sic or seven feet, sweeping away houses, bridges, and temples, and piling them up in a mass of ruin. Five times during the day did the sea advance and recede in this manner, spreading desolation far and wide. The largest junks in the harbor were driven from one to two miles above high-water mark, where we saw them lying high and dry. About two hundred of the poor inhabitants lost their lives by the overflow, the remainder saving themselves by fleeing to the mountains with which the town is surrounded.
"The Russian frigate Diana, having Vice-Admiral Pontiatine on board, was lying in the harbor at the time, engaged in finishing up the treaty they had made with the Japanese.
Immediately after the shock was felt the waters in the harbor became convulsed to such a degree, in eddies and whirlpools, that in the space of thirty minutes she swung entirely round forty-three times twisting her chains up into knots; so rapid was the motion that the people on board could not keep their feet and all were made giddy.
When the seas receded it left the frigate in eight feet of water on her side, when her usual draft was over twenty one feet.
On its return, it is stated, the water rose five fathoms above its ordinary level.
On its again receding four feet only of water remanded, so that they saw the stocks of their anchor above the water.
The heaving of the bottom of the bay was then so violent that the frigate—although, as I said, in only four feet of water—was moved bodily past her anchor.
The officers momentarily expected that the bay would become the outlet of the subterranean fires, and that they would be engulfed in it.
When the frigate again floated they saw her keel and rudder, which had been wrenched off, floating alongside, and the ship filling with water.
By getting sails under her they managed to keep her afloat, and the next day, things having got quiet once more, they hauled her off into deeper water.
Occasional shocks of earthquake still continued to be felt, but none were attended with serious consequences.
After repairing damages as well as they could, and having rigged a temporary rudder, and the weather becoming fine, they attempted to take the ship round to another bay, where she would be less exposed, and they could complete repairs, (Simoda being badly adapted for such a purpose;) but when within seven miles of their harbor a gale sprung up, the hundred Japanese boats that were towing them abandoned them, (not, however till they had got out all the officers and crew,) and shortly after the gallant ship sunk in deep water, the officers and men saving only the clothes they stood in.
Nothwithstanding all their misfortunes and the dangers through which they had passed, they only lost one man, and he was accidentally killed by being jammed by one of the guns which had gone adrift."


Whew! What a brilliant piece of writing by that letter writer, obviously a crewmember of the USS Powhatan.

I could FEEL the earth moving, the waters receding, the frigate spinning from his description!

And THAT is why libraries are so important. They hold glimpses into the past (just like you staring up at the sky) that can provide important reference for anyone creating a modern day article of merely seeking to improve their personal knowledge base.

The December 23, 1854 earthquake is known as 安政東海地震 (the Ansei Tōkai Jishin) and is, according to a French-language Wikipedia page (HERE) an 8.4 Magnitude shaker.

In fact, on December 24, nearby, another 8.4 M earthquake hit - this one designated 安政南海地震, (Ansei Nankai Jishin).

When I read about the earthquake, I immediately wondered if the Japanese thought that the kami (gods) were upset at Japan having agreed to formalized treaties with both the U.S. and Russia, and that the earthquakes, via those earthquake-causing giant catfish (the Namazu) were at work to show the spirit of Japan's displeasure.

Turns out, yes, some Japanese at that time did talk about such things... mostly those who enjoyed the non-gaijin way of life before...

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stevie Wonder In Japan - A Japanese Joke

Stevie Wonder is playing his first gig in Tokyo.

The place is absolutely packed to the rafters. Stevie, in a bid to break the ice with his new audience, asks if anyone would like him to play a request.

A little old Japanese man jumps out of his seat in the first row and shouts at the top of his voice:

"Play a jazz chord! Play a jazz chord!"

Amazed that this guy knows about Stevie's varied career, the blind impresario starts to play an E-minor scale and then goes into a difficult jazz melody for 10 minutes. When he finishes the whole place goes wild. The little old man jumps up again and shouts:

"No! Play a jazz chord! Play a jazz chord!"

A bit peeved by this, Stevie - being the professional that he is - dives straight into a jazz improvisation with his band around the B-flat minor chord and really tears the place apart. The crowd goes wild with this impromptu show of his technical expertise. The little old man then jumps up again:

"No! Play a jazz chord! Play a jazz chord!"

Well and truly ticked off that this little guy doesn't seem to appreciate his playing ability, Stevie says to him from the stage.

"Uh, hey, man... how about you get up here and do it?!"

To his amazement, the little old man climbs up onto the stage and grabs the microphone out of Stevie's hands. Or at least we assume he is amazed... those sunglasses are dark!

As the crowd falls silent, the little old man clears his throat and belts out:

"A jazz chord to say I ruv you!"

I make no apologies for this joke, except I am sorry to say I didn't write it.

Andrew Joseph

Noboko And Andrew: Yearning To Be Free Of Sports

Somewhere - somewhen - I've got my dates all screwed up.

But that's okay… except for this blog, don't believe everything you see on the Internet. I did, and I'm outtatime.

It's the day after badminton, and despite what I may have written earlier, it is Wednesday, September 8, 1993.

This is my second go-round in Japan, after a scintillating three-year stay on three one-year contracts as a junior high school assistant English teacher in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme).

Towards the end of my initial stay, I met Noboko… a JTE (junior high school Japanese teacher of English) at one of my schools and fell madly in love with her.

I've come back to Japan to see her and to convince her that she and I belong together forever.

She knows we do, too, but is torn between us and the whims of her father who doesn't want her to marry, let alone date me - the gaijin… the outsider.

This has nothing to do with racism against the color of my skin, but rather racism against the fact that I am not Japanese.

It doesn't matter what I want or what Noboko wants… it's what he wants, nay demands to ensure he isn't prejudiced against in his quest for future job promotions within Japan's education system.

No one wants to be screwed over for job futures, I get that, but… at the risk of screwing over his own daughter's future happiness?

Father of the year… and not the good type.

I'm staying at Colin's apartment in Kuroiso-shi just 10 kilometers north of Ohtawara-shi. It's Noboko's hometown, where she currently lives with her folks - after spending many a year away from their clutches in Kobe and Osaka working in various capacities for a couple of shipping corporations.

Noboko's English is damn near perfect, or as damn near perfect as I, a gaijin too dumb to learn Japanese could ever hope for.

In my defense, though I did try to learn the language - and flamed out owing to more of an interest in sleeping with women - gaijin and Nihonjin (Japanese person), and being successful at it for reasons that confound me to this very day - I did successfully learn a fair bit about Japan's culture.

I'm a pretty easy-going, happy fellow - always have a smile on my face - and so people tend to trust me, what with me being a nice guy and all… so people will take the time to explain things to me, answering any and all weird questions I could muster, and I do the same for them.

In the past, while trying to resolve this whole daddy-issue and Noboko, I chatted with a few female Japanese friends that I would indeed have slept with, but who didn't want to sleep with me. I never understood why, as Japan has a funny way of messing with one's ego - both good and bad.

Keep in mind that in each case, these women had all asked me advice on how to proceed with their boyfriend - all foreigners - and I gave multiple answers to each as it was impossible to truly provide the be-all and end-all answer, not being in THAT guy's shoes.

All of the women sucked in air between their teeth after I explained my living, loving made-in-Japan problem…

Each understood Noboko's problem of having to satisfy the wishes of her father… and to a person, without kicking me in the nuts, each tried to gently explain that the Japanese do what they have to do regardless of personal satisfaction.

Noriko was one of those JTE's I trusted. Yes… many people knew how much I was troubled (when I wasn't smiling) and may have been pleasantly surprised when I told them exactly why - something the Japanese never do, except at some drunken after-work office party or get-together.

I'm not Japanese, so I didn't follow protocol, which, to women like Noriko, was something they craved.

In my opinion, they wanted to escape from the confines of rigid Japanese structure… yearning to be free… and having a foreign boyfriend and/or husband was an excellent way to achieve that. And they were in love, too. That always helps.

I think I did make a few of them jealous, however, when I described all the little things I would do for Noboko - things that even their foreign boyfriends weren't doing (I'm not talking about sex, either), but I am, at heart, a romantic when given an opportunity to express myself.

It's why each was so reluctant to disappoint me.

They were still Japanese enough to avoid saying something negative to me to disappoint me, but as I mentioned earlier… I knew a fair bit about Japanese culture because I wasn't afraid to ask any question that came to my mind.

I don't know if being a newspaper reporter helped, but I suppose it couldn't have hurt.

So… I knew these women - even Noriko - didn't believe I had much hope in Buddhist Hell of convincing Noboko to ignore everything she was brought up to believe to take a flyer on me.

My buddy Vince put forth the proposition that I have really tried to take the mickey out of Japanese culture with my blogs about Noboko and myself—and it's true… I have.

It's like society has dictated that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Stoopid Vulcans.

Sure, if it means being brave enough to try and save scores or even one other person from dying or being hurt or sick…

But, if I channel my inner Allan Iverson, we're talking love. We're talking 'bout love… I mean, it's love. C'mon, we're talking about love. Love, man. Love. I mean come on… love.

Maybe I had all of this going through my head, but as it turns out, Noboko was unable to see me today until 4PM, and Colin took the day off… so we went to a public gym and played some 1-on-1 basketball.

Colin is around 5'6" (1.68 meters) tall and overweight - though he is a physically powerful and brilliant man with an artistic streak - at night he's carving a Japanese-style chest, and it looks as real as anything professionally built in Japan.

I'm 5'-11-1/2 inches, officially, though I have noticed that I don't appear to be that tall any more, now coming in at 5'-11" (1.80 meters). My driver's license says I'm 1.83 meters (6') though I swear, you could write any number down and they would still issue you a license. I'm also fairly svelte, and not muscular - except in the lower half, thanks to years of playing soccer.

You would think a guy five inches taller would have some sort of advantage, right?

Well, I did.

I could leap high, and get up close to almost touch the bottom of the net... that was my advantage... it just didn't matter.  

Apparently the air up there was thin, and my brain was filled with thoughts of Noboko and how I was not going to lose her and how maybe we should just elope and come back and just be - and then see what her father does next…

Hmmm… that's a plan.

I can and will sit an run through 10s or 100s of different scenarios, but nothing I've thought of has been particularly successful or unsuccessful... it seems to make her want me more, but... no... this seems like a good enough idea, even though it scares the crap out of me. 

With my head clear, my basketball play improves, but I'm still so lousy at the damn game that I get maybe three baskets to Colin's 40.
Hmmm… the fact that Colin wanted to play basketball should have been a clue to me that I was going to get my ass kicked.

Y'know, for a guy the Japanese folks deemed 'sportsman', I've had my ass kicked in consecutive days by Noboko in badminton, and Colin in basketball.

Oh god... what sport will I be forced to endure tomorrow?

We shower at the facility, dress and head back to his place, stopping off at a 7-11 to stuff our face with tuna rice balls and Coca-Cola.

At 4PM on the nose and keeping with the Japanese tradition of always being on time - even though time doesn't exist except as a man-made construct - Noboko arrives with a gentle rap on the door even though a doorbell is handy.

Noboko is a strong woman - just not physically, so even if I didn't know to expect her, I would have recognized that door knock anywhere.

She comes in, bows to Colin, bows to me… I scowl and smile (not that hard to do, actually), and she blushes and moves forward to give me a hug.

Before she does, I embarrass us all by intercepting and kissing her on the lips instead.

Nothing long or too lingering, because I don't want to embarrass Colin, but Noboko doesn't seem to mind, and instead lunges forward, jumping up and wrapping her legs around my waist.

"Holy cow," Colin mutters.

And he's right.

Yearning to be free, my Noboko is.

With my right hand cupping her bum (away from Colin's shocked stare - he's never seen a Japanese woman act this way in public, I guess), I pull my head back as she pouts, slowing lowering her the floor.

I'm up… let's leave it at that… so I suggest to Noboko that we get out of Colin's way and go for a walk or a drive… though both appear to be difficult for me to enjoy at the moment.

I'm also yearning to be free.

Crushed, Noboko opts for the car-ride, and when we get somewhere quiet, I'll casually suggest my suggestion.

Somewhere with a plan,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above from: 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Inside Daddy's Mind

When we examine the goings on of myself in Japan between 1990-1993, I give you my perspective on things... but I do try to be fair, and present multiple sides to a conundrum—mine and any and all else involved.

Obviously I can't be expected to mind read - not my forte - but I do read people fairly well with my powers of observation...

But at the same time, ego and naivety play a huge role in my thought processes in those days, and the 2015 me makes no current claims on how right or incorrect I was - unless I can now see how bloody obvious it is.

Everything was obvious (as far as what I knew everything was) when it came to myself and Noboko.

I love Noboko.

Noboko loves me.

That's pretty much as absolute as it can effing get, isn't it?

These are known facts... known by both myself and Noboko.

If we were living in Europe in Medieval Times, all I would have to do is declare my love for her, kiss once and we'd be married by the morn.

But despite being anachronistic, this isn't Europe, nor is it the Middle Ages.

It's Japan... and it's 1993 (September, even) - the Dark Ages... or at least it seems to me.

I don't know if it's funny or not, but for me in 2015, writing about the trials and tribulations of myself and Noboko has been difficult.

And yet, I can honestly state that the me of 1993 that was going through all of this first-time was not nervous in the least.

I knew that common-sense and love would win out over this crazy thought process many Japanese people are forced to go through.

The thing is… that letter I re-typed a couple of days ago (HERE)… I hadn't looked at it since October of 1993… 21 and 1/2 years ago.

I have no idea if I am glad or not that I didn't see it before embarking back to Japan to win the hand of Noboko, rescuing her from that evil ogre known as Fa-ther, who wants her to get married - just not to a gaijin (outsider/foreigner) that would bring down his stock at work.

I've explained ad nauseum what the issues are (just read any blog here that starts with the title 'Noboko and Andrew')… but let's look at a couple of other things that might be playing into the natto confusion that is Noboko's mind.

Noboko is NOT the only child. She has an older brother.

In Japanese tradition, the oldest son is supposed to look after the parents when they get old and feeble, allowing them safe refuge within their own home…

Noboko's brother is apparently an idiot. No, not in the IQ-sense. Although married, he has no plans or desires to look after the parental units.

His complete disregard for Japanese traditions—while admirable in itself—is causing me a headache.

Noboko has taken it upon herself to do what her brother was supposed to do—namely look after the parents when the time comes.

As well... Noboko IS Daddy's little girl.

I hate to say it, but even Noboko told me that.

Like her father, she's even involved in the education system as a JTE (Japanese teacher of English).

She's already disappointed him once, however... twice, I suppose... breaking off a previous engagement and not being married prior to age 25.

Dating a gaijin? Marrying a gaijin? Hafu (mixed race) grandkids? Forced to live with the gaijin and call him 'son'? Having to eat Noboko's cooking?

The latter is a cause for concern for myself and her father, but truthfully, if her mom and father ever moved in, her mother would take over the cooking duties... and she's a great cook. I think about stuff like this... really.

Noboko, despite all of her physical and intellectual charms and wonderful sense of humor... her cooking isn't that good. But... being a sex-starved man who loves her, I can easily enough put up with her cooking, if she can put up with the fallen hairs on the back of the toilet seat. And my snoring... which she seems to be able to do without a single complaint. Strange... but, good girl!      

I'm very good when it comes to guessing ages of people - or at least I used to be… but there's something in the Japanese DNA that makes it difficult for me to get an accurate tally.

In my mind, Noboko's father is erect and greying… dapper… respected and higher up than most junior high school principals in the education hierarchy in the province of Tochigi-ken.

He is the boss of all such principals in the northern sector. His eye is on becoming the boss of such principals for the entire principal… a worthy accomplishment, to be sure.

Now, take in to consideration that even if he was more or less okay with Noboko marrying me… that such an action could or might not ruin his chances to move up the business-world ladder… when it comes time to retire… he would have to move in with Noboko… and me.

I would guess he's about 55-years-old.

He, to his credit, has no idea if in 10 or 15 years time, if Noboko and I would even still be living in Japan.

And then what would he and the missus do?

Regardless of monies earned or respect gained… who would look after Father and Mother?

Not his useless son… he knows that. Why isn't that happening?

No idea… but the son (Noboko's brother) while rejecting Japanese eldest son traditions, apparently also sought out a career choice for himself regardless of the wishes of his parental units (IE, father).

I like Noboko's brother. I like him for having the guts to stand up for himself and to do what he needed to do.

What I hate about him, is that he has placed Noboko in an unenviable position.

Children, regardless of society or age, dislike disappointing their parents.

Why Noboko's brother was able to do that, I have no idea… but if I know Noboko's mom, she was all for this progressive behavior. She even has it for Noboko, and has helped the two of us be a couple.

But now… Noboko.

Koi and Ai

Koi - the love for me… Ai - the love of family.

Look… even if Noboko's father doesn't actually wonder about future life with gaijin and daughter, Noboko does.

When it comes to family, the women carry that burden. The man looks after the finances - difficult, but often never life-threatening.

While Noboko's father has to concern himself with himself in order to 'better provide' for his family (bullcrap… they are already provided for)… no… he's really concerned with himself.

Noboko has to decide what is more important: the love of her family (which I think has, in this case, more to do with respect), and the love of her life.

Will she sacrifice her own happiness to keep the Japanese family unit 'happy'? It sounds so Japanese… so female Japanese…

If I had a better concept of this stuff back in 1993, I would have been extremely worried.

As it stands, 1993-Andrew is so full of confidence that love is all that matters, he didn't understand that the Japanese have two types of love.

Hell… in Canada we have those two types of love, but the majority of people in love understand that family should get out of the damn way when love comes to town.

Confident in Kai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, April 27, 2015

Japan PM Trying To Muzzle Media

Hey! Koga-san… what do you think about Japanese Prime Minister Abe?


Welcome to the world of Japanese politics, where it is alleged that top dogs for Japanese Prime Minister Abe are muzzling the media in their attempts to criticize deer Führer.

I'm an ex-journalist, but currently a full-time writer in my day job, and for this and other blogs (Pioneers of Aviation, You Know What I Hate, and more) - and so I realize that there are times when one has to affectively self-center one's views to avoid getting in trouble.

But pity poor Japan, where journalists in multiple media (TV, newspaper and radio - and perhaps even social media and blogs and websites) are being 'coerced' into the news they provide the viewer.

All the news that's fit to print?

That hasn't been true for decades… I know that… in the past, just because it's news, it doesn't mean it's news-worthy.

In Japan, however, media outlets are being told they must toe the company line… told what they can report and even how to put a spin on it.

While every media outlet has these self-imposed guidelines (I won't officially swear or show porn here), in Japan the media is being bullied or coerced by politicians to report news or create op-ed pieces that place certain politicians in a better light.

Case in point - one Koga Shigeaki (surname first), a television commentator of some renown in Japan who has provided fierce criticism of the political establishment - regardless of who is in charge - whenever he sees fit to discuss it.

That's what political commentary is all about… as is the right to express one's own opinion.

We have that in Canada, often with a disclaimer that the views of the speaker are not necessarily the views of the station (that broadcasts it).

Anyhow… during a live television news program last month - a scripted news program - he ran away from the carefully scripted words he was to speak and instead noted that this would be his last day on the show because television network executives had given in to political pressure and agreed to have him banned from the airwaves.

Koga says that his removal rom the show was due to edged comments he had made (on many an occasion) about PM Abe.

Later in his last show, he poignantly held up a placard reading "I am not Abe" - a paraphrasing of the slogan journalists killed this past January at a French satirical newspaper.

While commiting workplace suicide, Koga did at least bring to light the way the hawk-like government of Abe is trying to recreate the gold old days of Japan's Imperial might… when it controlled exactly what the people heard and thought about the way the government went about its business.

Other journalists and politicos say that Abe and his right-wing government (Right-wing politics are political positions or activities that view some forms of social stratification or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically justifying this position on the basis of natural law or tradition.) are using tactics to stifle the voice of the news media… or to soft-soap them with expensive private sushi lunches for noted journalist and top media execs.

Hell… who doesn't want to sit with someone viewed as important?

According to media outlets, Abe's political crew have openly mentioned they should revoke the broadcasting licenses of networks that have been overly critical of the current government… saying there is a law already in place that says TV news reports should not intentionally twist facts.

Right now… Abe is pushing to deconstruct Japan's current Constitution (created after WWII by the U.S.)… wanting to restart its nuclear industry (currently on hold because of the sheer lack of proper safety measures in place)… and change the pacifist view of the country while spinning the Japan's WWII actions in a more positive light.

Abe's government doesn't believe in the whole Nanjing massacre (it's just a flesh wound) or the  rampant use of comfort women (we just dated for a while)… it doesn't believe Japan needs or needed to apologize for anything it did during WWII and earlier.

How do you do that? Get the media under your control.

Once the media in under your boot, the general public will lap up whatever it sees and hears… just as it did in those heady days of the 1030s and 40s when Japan thought it was god's gift to Asia and the world… when it possessed an arrogance second (perhaps) only to Nazi Germany.

The unfortunate thing, is that unlike the tough as nails and now unemployed Kage, many of Japan's media outlets are kowtowing to the whims of the Abe government and its henchmen.

Abe is attempting to sell its own brand of propaganda to the people… there's nothing to see here except wonderful, happy people in a land where the Japanese people are proud and safe and secure, and maybe we should all go and show those Red Chinese the what for since we're all on the same page.


For your amusement on such a hay topic, let me present to you a wonderful bit of American propaganda from WWII - against Nazi Germany, but whatever… Japan isn't quite at the Imperialist Japan days yet… but unless people take up the battle cry and get Abe out of office, pretty soon they'll have their kids come home in a box. 

This is Spike Jones' Der Fuehrer's Face:

When der fuehrer says we is de master race
We heil heil right in der fueher's face
Not to love der fuehrer is a great disgrace
So we heil heil right in der fuehrer's face

When Herr Goebbels says we own the world and space
We heil heil right in Herr Goebbels' face
When Herr Goring says they'll never bomb this place
We heil heil right in Herr Goring's face
Are we not he supermen Aryan pure supermen
Ja we is the supermen (super duper supermen)
Is this Nazi land so good
Would you leave it if you could
Ja this Nazi land is good
We would leave it if we could
We bring the world to order
Heil Hitler's world to order
Everyone of foreign race
Will love der fuehrer's face
When we bring to the world this order

If you would prefer to hear the song, check out the video link below in the classic 1943 Donald Duck cartoon - an all-time favorite of mine.

My favorite lie of the whole song is the last one: "When we bring to the world this order"… you can actually hear how it sounds like 'dis-order'. That's pure comic genius, boys und girls.

Now I'm not likening PM Abe to Hitler, despite Japan having once been full-blown partners during WWII.

But… I'm not saying it can't get that way.

En Guarde, Japan,
Andrew Joseph


American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 16

While sitting on the john, I was going through my comic book price guide earlier this afternoon when I came across this nugget.

Meet Don Winslow of the Navy... probably a book most of us have never got our hands on before, but one that was popular enough in the 1930s to have its own radio show, and even a movie serial made of it in 1942 - Don Winslow of the Navy, and 1943's Don Winslow of the Coast Guard. Anyone have a link to these?

Don Winslow of the Navy was initially a comic strip - that means it appeared in newspapers, starting in 1934, running until 1955.

Created by U.S. Lieutenant Commander Frank V. Martinek, a gentleman who had actually worked for U.S. naval intelligence during WWI. Write what you know, eh?

Although the character had already been used by Martinek as a character in a few novels he had written, his newspaper comic strip distributed by Bell Syndicate was very popular.

Conceptually, Martinet wanted to use the Don Winslow character as a way to help recruitment in to the Navy in the midwest of the U.S.

Martinek had heard Admiral Wat T. Cluverius complain about the difficulties of recruiting in the Midwest.

I can see why... stuck in the middle of the U.S.... no one would ever think about the Navy and water...
He said, "Since 'Don Winslow of the Navy' is approved by the Navy Department, I cannot allow him to do anything that is contrary to the ideals, traditions or motives of the Navy."

He sought authenticity, and brought in Naval Lieutenant Leon Beroth as art director and Carl Hammond to handle layouts and research.

In comic book form, reprints by Merwil occurred in 1937, with Dell taking over in 1938 - reprints from the newspaper strip.

Prior to the U.S. involvement in WWII - beginning in December of 1941 - Don Winslow was a spy chaser.

But, it was that day that will live in infamy (Pearl Harbor), that really rocketed the popularity of the Don Winslow character and comics!

The creators had Don Winslow heed the call to patriotic arms actually leaving his fiance in December of 1941 to go and fight the evil Japanese.

Popular beyond belief, in February of 1943 (dated on the issue - so it might actually have been December of 1942 when released to newstands, Fawcett Publications (they guys who published the world's mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel - you know - SHAZAM!) decided to publish new adventures of Don Winslow of the Navy - with Martinek's permission, of course, but still following the tradition of authenticity he laid out.

 As you can see from the cover above - Fawcett's Don Winslow of the Navy #15 published on May 1, 1944, this guy is a one-man Japanese killing machine, with some 24 kills applied to the right side of his plane - the Japanese rising sun flags... but who knows how many he has actually killed! We can only partially see the plane!

Authenticity or not, I do question Don Winslow hanging out the side of the cockpit to fire a machine gun at the Japanese Zero's flying by.

If Winslow is the pilot, wouldn't he be better served using the plane's built in machine guns?

And, if it happened to be that those machine guns had jammed or were out of ammunition... where the hell did he get the machine gun from?

No pilot is carrying a machine gun with them in a plane that needs to be as light weight as possible to try and take out the much lighter and faster (and less armored) Zero's!

And don't tell me he took the machine gun from the plane itself. Those guns would be built into the wings...

Okay... it's a comic book... it's fantasy.

It just doesn't seem 'realistic' to me... for a character that screamed authenticity by its creator.

Maybe the plane is a two-seater? In which case, Winslow as passenger isn't the Jap-killer he's made out to be. 

Don Winslow of the Navy was published by Fawcett from 1943 to 1948... revived in 1951 lasting until issue #69. Keep in mind that even Captain America was first cancelled in 1949... when the youth of the world figured they didn't need superheroes - I mean... after WWII, who the heck were these costumes supposed to fight?

In 1955, Charlton Comics published reprints of the Fawcett stories... but that was it for the character...

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Letter From Noboko

Let's step back a week or two... in 1993... back to a letter written by my girlfriend Noboko to myself on August 28th and received by me in Toronto sometime after I arrived back from Japan three weeks later...

Well, yeah... I had to come back to Toronto after... it was only a three-week vacation after all... further plans regarding our relationship would be made depending on the success of that mission.

I love her, and she me. Her mother and father want her to get married, sure, but her mother wants her to be happy as well. Her father is not keen on her being involved with a foreigner, as that 'stink' could wipe out his plans for world-domination and future job promotion within the Japanese education fraternity. Noboko is unsure if she should marry me and hurt her father, or hurt myself and herself and agree to the maniacal  whims of Japanese society. After three years in Japan, my contract with the JET Programme was up... I had to leave my home in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken and return to Toronto, Canada. Before I received this letter, I was already winging my way back to Noboko in Japan.

There... we're all up to date with the recap, so... 

Here's what Noboko wrote:

Dear Andrew

O.K. Let me try to explain the poem I told you on the phone. It's written on the postcard with a sketch of weeds (Andrew here: I have no idea what that means, but there was no postcard in this letter).

I = Weeds

"Because I'm small (little?), I'm trod.
Because I'm frail, I can't be broken in two.
Even if someone treads upon me, then if I have time I can rise slowly looking up at the sky."

I don't know if you understand it all and I don't know if I understand all of it myself. I guess this poem is quite Japanese.

As my way of thinking - I think - it says that ... when times get rough, don't complain to anyone else. Don't be disappointed in yourself. Take time and raise yourself slowly...

I think it's a good idea to be aggressive for taking a chance. And, it's also important to have patience.

I know many friends who are aggressive, but few friends who have real patience.

For myself, I'm easy to grumble.

That's why I love this poem.

What do you think of it?

My mother and I, by chance, talked about senility.

She said, "I want your father to live long."

To be honest, I didn't believe in love of husband and wife... especially the love between my parents, because I know of their life. (I'll tell you about it later - maybe).

Do you know? In Japanese, we have two words that express love. These are Koi and Ai - look up these words in your dictionary.

Maybe they have the same meaning in English.

I've been thinking about the difference between them... wow... it's really difficult.

My brain seems to be 'natto'. This expression is used in confusing situations.

Good expression, eh?

I should turn in now.

Oh! Do you miss natto? You can eat as much as you want soon.

I miss, Andrew!

Love Noboko.

I love finding things like this letter... hidden away for decades... and poof... just when I need it... proof positive that someone loved me like this.

It's nice to know... to be reminded of.

Patience versus aggression? 

I have patience... but how much patience must one have before aggressively going after what they want? I'm not Japanese, but Noboko is... so for her... I am patient.

Me heading right back to Japan one month later after three years there? That's not very patient... but it's me showing her that I'm not going to let our love fade away - at least not without a fight. 

Considering English isn't her first language, and aside from myself and the students she taught... how would she develop such a fine sense of humor in another language?


She knows I used to eat natto - just to prove that a gaijin (outsider/foreigner) could eat a food that even most Japanese find repulsive, owing to its consistency, smell and looks. Natto, if you will recall, is rotting/fermented soy beans.

So... her joke... it has multiple meanings... a warning to me not to eat natto... or simply that she misses Andrew, and not the confusion I bring to her.

Just a brilliant turn of phrase that I only fully 'get' now in 2015.

I only wish I had received this letter BEFORE I went back to Japan in early September!

Now (2015) as then (1993), (I assume), I pulled out my Japanese to English dictionary to check the definitions of Koi (恋) & Ai ((愛).

It's the same wonderful book! However, both definitions merely state the translation to be 'love'.

I can't recall if I went a little further to see if there's a subtle difference, but 2015 me did.

The word 'ai' is used to refer to love of friends or family.

The word 'koi' is used for your true love.

The 2015 me NOW and only NOW understands that Noboko was trying to determine which love was more important to her.

Ai or Koi.
Ai-yi-yi! Don't be coy, love... which love do you mean for me? Ha! It's koi, of course.

But which way will it turn out for her?

Stay tuned.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Tie Game - Nobody Wins

What's a guy to do?

The woman I am in love with has just challenged me to a game of badminton.

She loves me too, just so everyone is aware, and so the initial thought would be, with all things equal in love, go ahead and beat the heck out of her.

There are multiple birds in the bush here, however.
  1. This is 1993 Japan, and my Japanese girlfriend is 27 years old and since she is unmarried, has brought shame to her parents who cling to such old-fashioned traditions just as most Japanese seem to do - that is, when it is convenient. Not married by 25? you're an old maid. Family earns scorn for your thoughtlessness.
  2. Noboko (the girlfriend) was once engaged to a guy—a Japanese guy—and broke it off… she never talks about it, so I have no idea just how close to the actual wedding date it was. By ending a marriage proposal—and here I am also unsure if it was arranged by the parents or real love—Noboko brought shame to her parents and blah-blah-blah.
  3. I will marry Noboko right now. I love her. This is not a problem for me.
  4. Noboko marrying me, however, despite her love for me, would bring shame to her father, as even the fact she is dating me has done.
  5. When a Japanese woman dates a gaijin (foreigner or really… an 'outsider'), public Japanese perception is that they are having sex. Well, yeah… probably. We were. We just did before she sprung the whole badminton idea on me at 10AM.  But the problem is that Japanese society dictates that premarital sex is a no-no. For the man - not really - but definitely for that slut-of-a-woman (which, of course, brings loads of shame onto the whole family).
  6. To protect gaijin/nihonjin (foreigner/Japanese) internationalization, and even Japanese-on-Japanese full-on contact, the past 30 years has seen the love hotel industry spring up, where consenting couples can rent a hotel room for the night or for a couple of hours, depending on how much eel you eat (later). Enterprising love hotels offer theme rooms such as the Hello Kitty chalet, Star Wars boudoir replete with slavegirl Leia bikini outfit for her to put on... or you, god help you; or basically a themed room containing whatever one's pervy-little heart or other organ desires. I wanted something special, but a decided lack of availability one evening scuttled me, matey. Ashley and I had to settle for a regular round bed that I fell off of three times through the night.
  7. Oh yeah… in my case, my girlfriend's father was a high-level mucky-muck in the province's educational system. Noboko was a new English teacher, and I was a third-year pro (and now recently retired from the JET Programme) assistant English teacher. That's a lot of education… and my relationship… or rather Noboko's involvement with me put her father in a bad light with his co-workers… especially were possible job promotions might be concerned.
  8. Everyone does a good job at their work in Japan, so any blot caused by family members can be taken into account in who gets promoted or more poignantly, who doesn't get promoted. Or so I'm told. In this case… it's probably true.
  9. I was the typical guy growing up in Canada who played whatever sport we felt like playing with my friends. Football, basketball, road hockey, tree climbing - sure! It doesn't mean I was any good - I wasn't at basketball or football… and yet, because when I was asked in Japan what sports I liked, I pretty much ran the gamut of every sport out there not involving water (can't ski or swim - I can cross-country… ski, that is). I've played league soccer and baseball, intramural school basketball, football, ping-pong and even volleyball (though I was also in the chess club back in grade 9). I learned in school how to play lacrosse, already knew how and sorta enjoyed tennis and squash (this one I played very well)… and so… having said stuff like that, the Japanese immediately branded me a 'sportsman'. The Japanese tend to pick one sport and focus on playing it. Play multiple sports - unheard of in Japan. Truth is, I'm not going to embarrass myself doing a sport. Heck, I even did kyudo (Japanese archery), judo (knew it from back in Canada) and kendo (hit me with your rhythm stick), so sportsman I was aptly described as.
  10. I guess I misunderstood… I could have just said soccer… or even baseball.
  11. I've never played badminton before.
  12. I don't want Noboko to be angry if I beat her (I am a sportsman, after all). I'm trying to convince her to screw her father's wishes and to marry me so we can live happily ever after in Toronto (preferred) or here in Japan (still preferred, just not as much - such is my love for the woman!).
  13. I don't want her to laugh at me in case she is waaaay better than me at badminton - proving I'm not man enough to be her husband.
So… what the hell do I do?

To be honest, I'm going to see how good I am and how good she is, and we'll go from there.

If it's obvious that I suck, I'll blame it on the tatami mat burns I have on my knees and elbows from our most recent snog-a-thon. I really do have burns on my legs where the hair has gone 'poof!' in a blaze of flame.

So... to paraphrase the classic Clash song Rock The Casbah: Should I play or should I blow? Or will natural talent win out over ego?

We drive about 20 minutes farther up a mountain, where there is a plateau and grass and a badminton net all set up. It's a public park. These places really do exist in Japan!

We're up pretty high on the mountain, so fresh air might be plenty... plenty thin... I wonder if this is part of her plan? Ace.

She has all the badminton equipment in the back of her car, two rackets and three her asking me if I wanted to play badminton was part of her plan all along. Ace.

Plus she's all dressed in white. Ace.

I'm wearing some horrible shorts that might have been in style once in Toronto, but sure look out of place with this beautiful women in her battle gear. Unforced error by me.

So we play... no one has the sun in their face - except me, of course, but I have been wearing sunglasses since I first got contact lenses almost 11 years earlier when I was 17... and had photo-grey lenses that changed with the light before that - so I like the shades... still do in 2015.

We play... and I'm good at badminton... which I think surprises Noboko a bit, because she remarked as much.

"Hmph... you surprise me - you're pretty good. Did you play before?"

"Yes... a little," I lie.

We're pretty even. She moves around the grassy court like a gazelle, and I use quick wrists and a long reach to confound my laziness at having to move my legs.

Unsurprisingly, although I am sweating under the morning sun, she is soon gasping for breath and needs a break. Just like earlier this morning.

She waters up - I have a Coke... and we begin again. Also just like... never mind, I'm sure you get it. She got it.

I can see she is struggling with my lack of athleticism in badminton and continued to confound her with me pretty much standing ion place - only having to take a step here or there.

I let her take the first game.

I whoop her in the second. Man, I'm good.

The third... she's sweating and cursing up a storm in muttered Japanese... so although I keep it close, to go to a tie-breaker, I figure it's time to stop screwing around and to take her down. Just like...

Only I can't. I start moving around, and I start screwing up... and she takes the game... and promptly decides we have had enough and should go and get some lunch at a restaurant a 10-minute drive away. 

I guess I may have been all knackered out from the mornings extra-curricular activities. Definitely no sex before sports! Or maybe have the sex, and forget about the sports! 

I pay because I lost and because I'm the man - and despite me acknowledging the whole equality thing and respecting it, I'm a bit old-fashioned and enjoy paying our way.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do... sure, but I'm not in Rome. I don't know what Japanese guys do, but I'm not Japanese. I just do as Andrew does... what I was raised to do.

Besides... Noboko isn't working and while I'm not either, it is a way to show her that I will look after her.

I have no idea if such subtleties are taken in by her, but she's often not as Japanese as she might think...

At the restaurant, it is obvious I am over-dressed... for something... definitely not dressed well enough to be seen in public... okay, that's my 2015 opinion. 

We have an enjoyable lunch - I love that unagi-don (barbecued eel on rice), to which she makes the typical Japanese comment about how it's supposed to be good for male 'strength' while making the bent elbow flex with fist implying power in virility… you know… a hard-on.

"I've heard that," I retort.

"I don't think you need it," she notes.

"It can't hurt."

"Not you, anyways."

Laugh-laugh... people around us glance at us in wonderment. Women and men alike are trying to figure out why this beautiful woman is with a hairy gaijin like me. Because the stereotypes are sometimes true? Yes, but it's because I know how to treat her... you'll see.

I just love the sexual banter we can toss at each other in a busy restaurant knowing that no one knows enough English to understand we're talking about sex.

She knows it, too, and doesn't even bother to blush as she speaks. Or maybe she's just comfortable around me and that topic.

So… I guess I have to do it…

"Noboko… you do understand why I came back to Japan, right?"

She goes quiet and looks down at her food. "I know."

"You understand that there are many options in my head… including I stay here in Japan and marry you or we get married and one day move to Toronto or wherever…" I begin.

"The key thing for you to understand is, that I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you."

I deftly tear a strip of eel with my chopsticks and pop it into my mouth while looking at the top of Noboko's head, still bent in examination of whatever it is she's not really looking at.

Up comes the head - and she's smiling - and crying!

"I know you love me as much as I love you," tears plop down upon her pork kontatsu cutlet… crap I hate it when women cry, whether it's happiness or sadness.   

"I want to spend my life with you, too," she sighs.

"So… what's the real problem?" I ask, not expecting an answer.

"You're not Japanese… you wouldn't understand," she snaps.

Oh, that old frickin' chestnut?

The old, 'you wouldn't understand' bullcrap line. Regardless of the language, language barrier or whatever, people trot that line out as a way to avoid answering questions.

It pisses me off, to be honest. I have an IQ larger than some small countries. I also do my best to play Devil's advocate, and see both sides of a situation.

I know what the problem is… I just want to know if the woman who loves me and the woman I love is capable of breaking away from centuries of ingrown Japanese self-sacrificing idiocy to make us both happy.

I want Noboko to be with me.

Noboko wants to be with me.

Her mother wants Noboko to be with me.

There's just her father… the be-all and end-all of the typical Japanese family, whose only real function is to procreate where necessary, deliver a sizable paycheck on-time and untouched, and scare the crap out anyone who doesn't think he's the man.

If there's one thing that anyone should know about Japan, is that it's completely fugged up with archaic rules and nonsense.A system of heirachy... a system where age commands respect regardless of whether it is earned or not.

I'll tell an old person to f-off if they're being an ass, the same way I will follow someone younger than me who has a better concept of how do so something in particular.  

It's these same Japanese rules and lack of progress into the present that have effectively stymied it as a country on the rise.

Hell, even the Japanese don't want to procreate because - well, what's the point, really?  

Look… I understand… Japan's rules means Japan's rules… but my friend Matthew could marry his true-love. Jeff could as well!

Why can't I?

Why… why… why?!?!?!

Sometimes I wonder if I love Japan… or if I just love Noboko!

No… it's not just Noboko… I loved Japan first… it's why I stuck around long enough to meet Noboko…

"I wouldn't understand?" I sigh. "Really? I wouldn't understand?

"Then make me understand," I say with my voice rising louder and dropping deeper.

"Make me understand," I growl. "And then make yourself understand that by doing what some old man wants—an old man who doesn't understand YOU—you give up everything for yourself.

"You lose. I lose. We lose. Everybody loses," I say with lots of sitting-down gesticulating.

I'm not angry… I'm upset… frustrated… a little ticked off… but I'm not angry. I don't want to storm off and leave her… I don't want her to do the same.

We're in love… that's not at issue.

It's just: what the hell do we do about it?

How can love be so screwed up? Two people are in love… everyone wants them to be in love… except one person… and that is driving a wedge between us. It's not a rival boyfriend. It's her father who's my rival for daddy's little girl.

"I know, I know, I know!" she yells and storms off…

This is Japan… I bow and apologize to the people around me… and then try and figure out which way she went. There was something confused in my facial appearance that had one woman point in the direction of the back of the restaurant… okay… the washroom… good… besides not knowing where I am, I'm pretty sure I'm a long way from home…

This is Japan… so… do I get up and go after her… or do I sit here and eat my eel. I get the feeling I'm not going to need any of its effects later this afternoon.

I'm not Japanese, so I get up and walk towards where that woman had pointed… but am stopped as Noboko comes marching out.

"I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at me. Let's talk about this some more… just not here," she says, and reaches up to kiss me on the lips. She's short, so I bend my head forward to help us out.

She is Japanese. Just not now.

Kissing in public? With a gaijin?

So… which Noboko is this? The one I'm going to marry? Or, the daughter of a man I'm going to murder?

Oh yeah… I thought about hiring someone to do it… not really, though… just idle fantasy… but man… obstacle removed.

I can finally move forward again.

Somewhere eating my unagi... it can't hurt... me, anyways,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, April 24, 2015

Douglas James McIntosh Is Dead

I am deeply saddened.

My friend ... one Douglas James McIntosh has died.

I found out today at around 8:30PM... that he had actually passed away some two weeks earlier... and that no one knew until earlier this week.

We have had these past 25 years a mentor-protege relationship, though admittedly he seemed to think the roles had been reversed these past few years as I encouraged him to look after his health more than needing to work himself, to well, death.

His letters for the past year talked of his struggles with diabetes... but I wanted him to stop driving cab, look after himself so that I could come and visit... but he loved to drive more than anything.

I first met Doug pretty much 25 years ago today, while I was with the Toronto Star as an intern reporter on their Summer Internship Programme.

I was to make pick-ups that day... that is I was to pick-up photos of people who had just passed, to accompany either obituaries or news stories.

His cab was stopped in front of the newspaper that day, and rather than get in the back like most rides, I got in and sat in the passenger side front.

I don't know why I did it, but I did.

Doug drove me around that day for about six hours or more... we stopped at a Harveys and I bought him lunch and charged it all to the newspaper, because he deserved to be fed and looked after. Basic human kindness and all... but apparently no one had ever done that for him.

While on one pick-up, I had actually beat the police to the victim's house and thus informed the parents of their daughter's passing... it sickened me to have been the one to do that... but they understood, and even though they were in shock, they treated me as well as can be expected. Still, the experience soured me forever on being a newspaper reporter.

Doug saw my face... and when I explained what happened, my new friend put me at ease and did his best to help me recover my sunny disposition.

At the end of our journey hours later back at the Star, Doug, knowing I was soon to go to Japan on the Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme, begged me to write to him from there.

So I did.

I wrote a form letter and sent it out to about 20 people (family and friends got a real letter)... but Doug was the first person to write me back in Japan. His was the first letter I received.. or maybe it was actually a tie from my friend Rob.

What the hell... I wrote back to Doug... and after three years and 67 letters from him (tied with the amazing Rob), I had survived Japan.

Doug and I initially hit it off because I knew a fair bit about Jim Morrison and The Doors, his favorite band.

I told him that I had once been an extra in a movie, a Bette Middler/John Goodman flick called Stella... and that I was actually wearing a Jim Morrison blue tee-shirt in the couple of scenes I am in... somewhere around the 40-minute mark dancing and later drinking in a bar (The Silver Dollar here in Toronto).

Doug and I are friends... he taught me many a valuable lesson... about how to be a good writer... he was much better than I was or am now... but he just wouldn't take the time to write that damn book about driving can in Toronto... it would have been beautiful... though I'm afraid all the juicy stuff I know about various people and their activities would have caused us both trouble should it ever have leaked out.

Ah me...

Let me leave you with the very last line I read in the letter I opened from him today...

"no eternal reward will forgive us, now, for wasting the dawn"


It has a photograph printed on it by his printer showing Mt, Fuji I think...

But he ended this conversation with me just as he began it 25 years ago, with a quote from The Doors.

And... in atypical fashion... he decided NOT to sign off at the end.

Kanpai Doug... and thank you for letting me be your friend.

Yer droog,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The True Meaning Of Sushi

I guess we could file this under 'believe it or not', because that's where I found this information - at Ripley's.

Do you know the true English translation for the Japanese word 'sushi'?

It's funny. I never wondered if there was one. Sushi is sushi. To me, it's like asking 'what does chicken mean?'...

Except, like the many styles and ingredients utilized in the creation of sushi, things are more than what we assume.

First off, sushi as a food does not imply raw fish. Forget that schoolyard crap.

Slices of raw fish are called sashimi, and are delicious. However, sushi can (and does) utilize raw thinly sliced raw fish as an ingredient.

Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨) is a Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice (鮨飯 sushi-meshi) combined with other ingredients (ネタ neta), such as seafood, egg, vegetables and sometimes tropical fruits. I assume this is the avocado in a non-traditional California sushi roll.

While the ingredients and form of sushi vary greatly, the common denominator is sticky rice (color isn't set in stone either, but white is more usual).

But what does 'sushi' mean?

Sushi, according to Ripley's, translates to "sour-tasting".

I guess it's from the vinegar rice (pickled rice)!

Perhaps in the old days of Japan, it was truly sour tasting, or maybe it still is and I'm just used to it… 

Sour-tasting? Who knew?

Ripley's did, believe it or not.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above is an ukiyo-e showing a plate of sushi (actually known as "Bowl Of Sushi" print), drawn early in his career by master artist Hiroshige (1797-1858) in the 1800s... yes, I'm too lazy to look up the date. Okay - screw that... I just spent an hour searching on-line, and found a book describing a scene that sounds like this ukiyo-e... it gives the creation date as 1843.
That book says: "containing both nigirizushi (gizzard shad, kohada, on the left, shrimp, ebi, on the top) and makizushi (rolls wrapped in tamago and nori)".
For your edification, tamago (Auto Correct keeps changing it to 'tamale') is egg (the yellow banding on the front open faced roll of sushi) and nori (dried, flattened sheet of seaweed) - this is on the open faced sushi roll in the far right… with the dark circles in it…  I missed it twice while staring at this drawing.
That date and description was taken from Google Books: Japan's Dietary Transition and Its Impacts, by Vaclav Smil, Kazuhiko Kobayashi.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Japan's Better Mousetrap

This is the Cat Mew Machine, built in 1963 in Japan, apparently.

Plug it in, and the 2-watt motor it will make it meow like a cat 10 times a minute, with the eyes on the plastic cat head lighting up with each meow.

The meowing is supposed to scare away rats and mice.

I'm pretty sure I would have to shoot this contraption after two minutes to make it shut-up.

But did it work?

I'm no expert on rodents, but those little buggers get by pretty well with their sense of smell... so unless this smells like a cat, aside from the initial surprise of hearing something dangerous (not just a meow, but a noise, for example), the mouse or rat is hardly going to be afraid.

You will find mouse poop in your butter dish.

I'm guessing it wasn't a big seller at the time... but might be valuable now as an odd curiosity piece.

Speaking of curiosity—which killed the cat—I wonder if the Cat Mew machine's meow sounded like a Japanese cat or a North American cat?

By that, I mean... if you were to ask a North American person (I don't wish to speak out of turn for others) to imitate a cat (and I can do a pretty good one, myself - though my big rottweiler dog bark is far superior), we utilize the whole "meow" sound, whereas the Japanese sound it out quite differently.

To start with, the Japanese word for cat is pronounced 'neko' (ねこ - in hiragana and 猫 as expressed in Japanese kanji - just in case it's different in Chinese lettering).

The whole concept of animal noises or sounds is called 'dōbutsu no koe'(どうぶつのこえ or 動物の声) and means 'animal voices'.

While North Americans might do a double sound for some animal calls, we do NOT do so for cats, opting for a singular 'meow'.

The Japanese—regardless of the critter—they double up on the word to echo the animal voice.

So, in Japanese, a person would imitate a cat by performing a "nyā nyā (ニャーニャー)" sound. (For a dog, it's "wan-wan", which sounds so ridiculous to MY ears... you should have seen the junior high school class when I did my dog bark!! LOL! And I am laughing out loud for real!)

I actually spent a whole class performing on key differences between Canadian culture and Japanese, including the mimicking of animal sounds and how we write and say them... it was actually the best class I ever taught, and the most fun. I guess I like to show off, and I had a captive audience that kept throwing out animals for me to mimic. Back in those days, I could mimic a few hundred voices. I'm out of practice these days—and there's no point doing Jimmy Durante if no one nose who that is anymore. 

Back to the "nyā nyā", which sounds a lot like Edward G. Robinson... see? That's why I don't do the voices anymore. See? Nyah. Maybe I should have learned to do some voices from the 21st century. 

Now, the first conclusion some people might have is that it's a Japanese cat, so why couldn't it sound different? Because it's a cat. Independent of its breed, cats sound similar regardless of country of origin.

Trust me, you don't have to speak German to control your German Shepard. And your Siamese cat is going to ignore you regardless of your ability to speak Thai.

Just as North Americans can have multiple ways to bark like a dog (woof, growf, ruff, roof, DiMaggio, etc.), and can mimic a cat with multiple types of sounds depending on what cat sound you want to perform (there's more than one!), the Japanese have multiple ways of mimicking a cat.

Along with "nyā", there is also "ニャン (nyan)", "ニャーン (nyān)", "ニャーオ (nyāo)". Except you have to say each word twice, of course.

If it's just me, the last one—"ニャーオ (nyāo)" sounds the most accurate, except one does not need to repeat the word to actually make it sound like a cat!

By the way... in English, the term 'onomatopoeia' describes words phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the source of the sound that it describes.

So... I ask again... just what the heck did this Japanese rodent frightener sound like? Or, did it really just softly mew as it's name purports? Mewing won't scare anything!

Somewhere in a maze, Andrew Joseph
Andrew Joseph
When I wrote this two days ago, I only had two lines describing the product -but getting curioser and curioser, I decided to turn it into a teaching environ.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fujizuka - The Fake Mt. Fuji(s)

Regular readers will be aware that I never saw Mt. Fuji—the tallest mountain/still-active volcano in Japan—during my three+ years living in Japan.

People say it was just a combination of bad luck and crappy weather.

I mean… just because the stupid mountain should be visible from about one kilometer away doesn't mean I should be able to see it. After all, it's only 3,776.24 meters (12,389.2-feet) high.That's sarcasm, by the way.

It's why I think the whole Mt. Fuji thing is one of those (CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT!!!) fake things created by the Japan Tourist Association, creating a fake Mt. Fuji that tourists and would-be seekers of wisdom or stupidity (if you climb it more than once, apparently) could ascend.

My theory involves mass hallucination, the Japan Tourist Association, complete with VR (virtual reality) 3D imaging, drugs and a con job that makes the moon landings (all six of them) seem like a walk in the park. You can read that HERE.

I'm nuts, right? Well… did you know that IS such a thing as a FAKE Mt. Fuji?

In fact, there were around 300 fake Mt. Fuji's constructed around the Tokyo area.

I'm not sh!tting ya.

These fake piles of rock are called fujizuka (富士塚)… and were supposed to be miniature replicas of Mt. Fuji were tourists could climb easily enough (they were essentially plain old hills or hillocks), and could gaze in wide wonder at the real Mt. Fuji.

I'm thinking the real Mt. Fuji was destroyed by the Allies at some point during WWII, but perhaps that's a thorazine-induced story for another day.

(I don't require any such medication or narcotic drug. I know, I don't believe it either. Let's just say my reality is far more fantastic than most people's fantasy.)

These fujizuka were were constructed from rocks and plants taken from the mountain itself—even soil from the summit of the purported real Mt. Fuji was placed upon the top of the fujizuka.

Why create fake Mt. Fuji(s) for people to climb?

Well… regardless of the era, Mt. Fuji is supposed to be a difficult and daunting trek, what with buffeting winds, cold at the top, a lack of oxygen… so much so, that people dropped dead all the time trying to seek wisdom by climbing it.

There's your wisdom.

New Fuji at Meguro, Tokyo - by Hiroshige, April 1857.
As well, if you were a woman, you weren't allowed to climb the sacred Mt. Fuji… something about that whole bleeding thing they do every few weeks…

It's the same reason that women aren't supposed to be allowed to be sumo wrestlers. Yes, that's the reason… although I do know that girls can do sumo (nowadays), it's just that once puberty and menstruation set in—you are not allowed to ever continue. But I bet that will change.

Anyhow, until a gaijin woman climbed Mt. Fuji (see HERE), no woman had ever climbed it before. Nowadays… hey, menstruate all you like and enjoy the view.

How sacred is Mt. Fuji? Well, if you were going to climb it back in the old days - say before us dumb gaijin started to infest Japan - one had to wear white clothing, seeing as how the color white represents the sacred. How profane.

If you are doing any menstruating, however, reflect on the wisdom of wearing white clothing.

I'm kidding, of course.
In the early days of the Japanese empire, Mt. Fuji was revered as part of the Shinto belief system, and when Buddhism came, this Shinto mountain simply transformed itself into a Buddhist mountain.

Transformation within Japanese religion is easy.

The whole idea behind the sacredness of Mt. Fuji is the fact that it was once thought (and perhaps still is by some people) to be the incarnation of a spiritual god.

Anyhow… as you can see - lots of negatives to those people who wanted to climb Mt. Fuji in the old days.

It wasn't until the Edo jidai (Edo era) of 1603-1867, however, that the folks who lived in the Mt. Fuji area - the fujiko, or rather Mt. Fuji pilgrims and Mt. Fuji pilgrimage associations - thought to themselves - 'hey, how can we make the Fuji experience more enjoyable for all?'

So, if you build it, they will come.

The fujiko built the temples in and around Mt. Fuji and build the fujizukas well.

At its peak (no pun intended), there were over 200 fake Mt. Fuji hills.

Not a single Mt. Fuji has been built since 1930. Maybe.

Along with the never visible "real" (finger quotes) Mt. Fuji, 56 (I also read 58 in another source) fujizuka still exist as of 2015.

Open Garden at the Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa, Tokyo. By Hiroshige, August 1857. Fake Fuji has the path going up it.
Some of the fake fuji can be found at:
  • Teppozu Inari Shrine in the Hatchobori district;
  • Hatomori Shrine in Sendagaya;
  • Shitaya-sakamoto Fuji within the grounds of the Onoterusaki shrine;
  • Nagasaki Fuji beside the main shrine building of the Fuji Sengen shrine;
  • Ekoda Fuji within the grounds of the Ekoda Sengen shrine;
  • and at Shinagawa Shrine near Shinbanba station in Tokyo.
Now… if you were to buzz around Tokyo, you might note that there are quite a few hilly areas with the term 'fujizuka' in it. That's cool, because fujizuka doesn't mean 'fake Fuji' or 'little Fuji', rather it means 'hill to see Mt. Fuji'.

Now, everyone knows of the famous Japanese artist Hokusai, who created his famous, but incredibly inaccurately named "Thirty-Six Views Of Mt. Fuji" set of ukiyo-e art. There's 46. With the 'real Fuji' as his focus, he created images that even the casual viewer of art would recognize. See HERE for all the images -there's a link there to my Picasso photo album where I have scanned in all the images.

But, it was his contemporary, ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige, that did a few drawings of the fujizuka… which I have presented within this blog. It's from his collection known as One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Edo is the old name for Tokyo.

The image in the middle is New Fuji at Meguro, Tokyo. It was built in 1829, and was one of the few Fuji replicas to actually be covered in grass and having a smooth look to it.

The usual representation of a fujizaka was to be made from those real blocks of lava from the real Fuji, piled up into a mass.

The image at the very top is known as Original Fuji in Meguro, Tokyo as it was constructed in 1812 - hence 'original' Fuji, despite it also being a copy of the real volcano.

The bottom image shows what looks like a fantastic scene of great beauty - but the entire thing is an image of a man-made garden - including the fujizuka in the back where you can see a dark green path. in fact, the land here is reclaimed from the waters.

All of these fake Fuji's - these fujizuka, there were constructed to be anywhere from one to 10 meters high. I would imagine the low-end fujizuka wouldn't tax the legs of too many people.

Kiyose Nakazato no Fujizuka. Image from Wikipedia. There are 10 steps or way stations, if you will just like there are on the real Mt. Fuji - if it exists.
So… the next time you feel the urge to climb Mt. Fuji to see the spectacular whatever it is you can see form the summit, perhaps a better view might be to climb one of the remaining fujizuka, and instead glimpse the majesty of the sacred deity that is Fuji.

I'd do it, but I probably wouldn't see anything.

Happy trails,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, April 20, 2015

Japanese Mag-Lev Train Hits 589-KPH

Within the next 24 to 36 hours, this blog should break the 2-million hit mark.

It seems like the wrong time for me to be lazy, but truthfully, I'm a bit burned out from all the domestic crap life throws at one - plus I actually pulled something in my arm this past Sunday morning while gardening... though truthfully it doesn't stop me from writing, obviously.

It's just that... well.. I found this cool story from the Los Angeles Times written by Jonathan Kaiman and published on April 18, 2015. I saw it in the Toronto Star, however.

The story incorporates a few of my favorite things (one of, I repeat) - levitation... er, trains, actually. A magnetic levitation train, built in Japan, that set a new speed record.

Here's the article:

A Japanese company said its magnetic levitation train set a speed record this week, reaching 589 km/h on a test track.

The Central Japan Railway Co., often called JR Central, said the test run involved a seven-car magnetic-levitation train on a 42.8-km track in Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture. The company said it hopes to break the speed record again on Tuesday.

Magnetic-levitation, or maglev, train systems use magnets to lift and propel the train, promising a ride that’s smoother, quieter and nearly twice as fast as traditional high-speed rail.

JR Central set the previous maglev train speed record of 581 km/h on the same track in December 2003, according to the company.

Japanese officials plan to open a maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, cutting the 90-minute travel time between the two cities on a traditional high-speed rail line by more than half.

Because maglev trains require straight, even and predictable terrain to run smoothly, most of the route will be through tunnels.

“It’s good news, obviously, that the technology keeps advancing, and that countries are focusing on this,” said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. “We consider high-speed rail the future, no question — from energy use, to being able to move large numbers of people quickly, to climate solutions.”

Yet Kunz said maglev trains are expensive, power-intensive and potentially unsafe.

“The problem is, if you have one tiny little settling of the earth — which happens all the time because of plate tectonics — that can create little movements in the maglev system, which can send trains crashing into stuff,” he said. “It’s a very difficult system to make operational.

Germany discontinued a high-profile maglev program after a fatal collision on a test course killed 23 people in 2006.

“We support advances in rail and technology,” Kunz said. “But what we really support is technology that’s proven. We can talk about maglev and the Hyperloop, all these things that aren’t proven, then spend 20 years hoping they’ll get built.

“But meanwhile, we need good, fast rail today."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the U.S. for a week beginning April 26 and high-speed rail-related talks probably will be on his schedule.

JR Central is promoting maglev technology in the U.S. for a line between Washington and Baltimore, which could reduce travel time between the two cities to 15 minutes.

Early last year, Abe suggested to President Barack Obama that Japan would foot half of the $10 billion cost of the project.

Meanwhile, California’s $68-billion, high-speed rail project, which is to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco by 2029, broke ground in January.

Nice article... and congratulations to Japan on the new speed record... now we'll have to see how China or France or Germany responds...

What was VERY interesting to me, was the fact that a Japanese magnetic levitation train broke a record that was set back in 2003... like, what the heck took it so long to break the record by a mere eight kph?

Couldn't they get the other one that much faster?

Anyhow, while everyone bitches about the high cost of developing and building maglev trains and track, speaking as someone who lives now in Toronto - start now.

In Toronto, whomever has been an urban planner in this city... or the politicians who over see it... they have let down this city. The urban gridlock is staggering. I live 30 kilometers from work, and it takes me anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes to travel that distance leaving at times that are just ahead of the actual busiest traffic times. Public transit? What a joke. I'd have to take a bus, train, change trains, and then a bus again and maybe get there in 90 minutes.

Just 15 years ago, I could do the trip in 30 minutes. And yeah, I am aware that accidents can snarl up any drive, it's just that Toronto has too many cars on the road, and too many people who don't drive as well as they should.

What's even more disheartening, is that even if the city wasn't sprucing itself up for the upcoming PanAm athletic games, it would still be construction season.

While Toronto doesn't NEED a maglev train... Canada doesn't either... Japan does, as it has a lot of people who travel between Nagoya or Osaka and Tokyo on a regular basis. If it is also a technology that saves on fuel - then voila, best solution ever.

Rant over. Enjoy the day.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Kodansha - Biggest Manga Publisher In The World

I took this from Scoop, a weekly newsletter that has plenty of interesting things on collectibles such as comic books, manga, anime, movies, posters... whatever. It's the best of the best, and I recommend that if you are interested in any of the above you need to read it. 

One of the biggest manga publishers in the world also happens to be one of the oldest: Kodansha.

The company, founded in 1909, also happens to be the largest Japanese publisher. Though known today as primarily a manga distributor, Kodansha got started as a literary magazine.

The company was founded by Seiji Noma as a spinoff of the Greater Japan Oratorical Society, and its first publication was Yuben, a literary magazine.

The company didn’t actually receive the name “Kodansha” until two years after its founding, when it merged with another company, Dai-Nippon Yubenkai.

Since then, Kodansha has been primarily been known as a publisher of a variety of magazines, though in reality, it’s much more than that; the Kodansha group has become a media conglomerate in Japan.

One of the major companies owned by Kodansha is King Records, which was founded in 1931.

Sub-labels within King Records include Starchild, specializing in anime music, and You! Be Cool, which contains the immensely popular idol supergroup AKB48.

Interestingly enough, while Kodansha got started as the publisher of literary magazines, most of those style of books have been relegated to the subsidiary of Kobunsha, which was established in 1945 under Kodansha.

Kobunsha is the publisher of the popular women’s magazine JJ, established in the 1970s as the first of its kind in Japan.

But where Kodansha shines brightest is in its manga serializations, particularly Weekly Shounen Magazine.

Weekly Shounen was established in 1959 and has published some of the most beloved manga ever, such as Cyborg 009, Kamen Rider, Great Teacher Onizuka, and Love Hina.

Currently Weekly Shounen Magazine runs the popular series Ace of Diamond and Fairy Tail, among others.

A spinoff of Weekly Shounen, called Bessatsu Shounen Magazine, began in 2009; this magazine serializes Attack on Titan, which has become a mega-hit worldwide.

While “shounen” means “boys,” the company also has published manga aimed at young girls (or “shoujo”) since the establishment of Nakayoshi magazine in 1954.

Among the dozens of successful series that Nakayoshi has put out, such as Cardcaptor Sakura, HeartCatch PreCure!, and Magic Knight Rayearth, to name a few – the magazine hit gold when it published Sailor Moon.

Among the biggest contributions that Kodansha has had within the manga industry is the annual Kodansha Manga Award, which began in 1977.

There are just three award categories – Shonen, Shoujo, and General – though there used to be a Children’s category that was folded after the 2014 awards.

Past winners of the award include Akira, Sailor Moon, Peach Girl, Inazuma Eleven, and Yo-Kai Watch.

 With a Kodansha sampler featuring some of the company’s most popular current series appearing in the 2015 Free Comic Book Day lineup (in North America), it’s become obvious that Kodansha is as big as it’s ever been.

Though publishers often come and go, Kodansha’s been strong for a hundred years or so thus far, so here’s hoping for another century or so of great manga.

Thanks Scoop (and JC Vaughn!), for helping me out today... my fingers are all fat and stiff from cutting down about 20 trees in my backyard this afternoon helping me recapture some 15 extra feet of space near the south fence.

The tulips in the foreground grow where, back in 1973, when I first moved here, a crab apple tree stood. I used to sit under it and read comic books.... until I realized the male cocker spaniel liked to pee on it.
Now all I have to do is cut it all into little pieces, saw the stumps down or dig up the roots, take out some more brush near the vegetable garden, mend a few fences (not with people), maybe get a roller and flatten the ... whatever the hell is down instead of grass, and then I can tackle the front yard. Sounds like a busy Sunday.

I hope your weekend has been grand.

Andrew Joseph