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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Japan Hit With 8.5 Magnitude Earthquake With Explantion Of Destructive Power

An 8.5 Magnitude earthquake (at 6:30PM local time) was felt throughout most of Japan on Saturday, May 30, 2015, though there was no immediate reports of damages or a tsunami warning.

Centered off the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo at a deep depth of 590 kilometers, there were minor injuries of people falling, but other than that - nothing, thanks to the very deep origin of the quake.

Hirata Naoki (surname first), an earthquake 'expert' at the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Centre, told Japanese broadcaster NHK that: "Since it was magnitude 8.5 this was a very big quake, but fortunately it was very deep at 590 km.

"But the shaking was felt over a broad area... Fortunately, because it was deep, there is little danger of a tsunami."

While a shinkansen bullet train line did stop between Tokyo and Osaka thanks to a power outage, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said there were no abnormalities at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant it owns and operates.

On March 11, 2011, a massive 9.0 Magnitude quake caused a massive tsunami (and other very high waves) that crashed onto various parts of the east coast of Japan that washed away tens of thousands of people, and caused a power outage at the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating facility in Fukushima-ken causing near meltdowns, but still expelling radioactive clouds into the atmosphere, as well as radioactive materials into the ground and surrounding waters causing an evacuation of the area that is still going on four-plus years later.

If you want to know what the big difference is between that 8.5M and the 9.0M earthquake from four years ago, it's actually quite a large difference.

You should know that while most people call it a 9.0 on the Richter Scale, that is actually incorrect. The Richter Scale was actually replaced by the MMS - Moment Magnitude Scale. 

The Richter and MMS scales measure the energy released by an earthquake; another scale, the Mercalli intensity scale, classifies earthquakes by their effects, from detectable by instruments but not noticeable to catastrophic. The energy and effects are not necessarily strongly correlated; a shallow earthquake in a populated area with soil of certain types can be far more intense than a much more energetic deep earthquake in an isolated area.

In this case, although a very strong 8.5M earthquake on the MMS scale, because of its deep location, it didn't have as great a catastrophic effect as smaller earthquakes might have - regardless of the earthquake-proof buildings in any given area.

But what I wanted to share with you, is the POWER of the earthquake.

For example, back in 2010, there was a 5.0 MMS magnitude of 5.0 in Quebec... that I felt in Toronto... at first wondering if a truck was rumbling by outside. This occurred on June 23, 2010 at 1:41:41PM, lasting 30 seconds. It had a 2.0 terrajoule equivalent of energy that equaled 480 metric tonnes of TNT exploding.

The 9.0 MMS magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 2.0 exajoules that equals 480 megatons of TNT. A megaton = 1 million tonnes of TNT.

By contrast, the 8.5 MMS Magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on May 30, 2015 was 360 petajoules that feels like a TNT blast of 85 megatons.

What does that mean? Well... consider that the Tsara Bomb  - the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated - created by the USSR only had a payload of 50 megatons.

For reference sake, the Little Boy atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was an MKI uranium bomb with only 15-16 kilotonnes of TNT power.

The Fat Man MKIII plutonium bomb contained a 21 kilotonnes of TNT power payload. 

Keep in mind that a nuclear weapon explodes above ground and so there is more concussion than an earthquake which has the energy diffused under ground.

Of course, each has its own cause and effect range of damages.

This time, Japan... No one badly hurt (I hope), and no tsunami or nuclear fallout. Whew.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 30, 2015

YUKI’S JOURNEY: A Fundraiser for the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund

The following is request for… I don't know… awareness... helping kids read?

It's a fundraiser for the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, a beautiful young woman who tragically lost her life back on March 11, 2011. She was a fellow JET (Japan Exchange & teaching) Programme assistant English teacher whose life was cut short that fateful day when Japan suffered a devastating 9.0 Magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami waves.

It is a request for money, yes, but contributions will help support Taylor Anderson Reading Corners in the Tohoku disaster area.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 6:00 – 7:30 P.M.
$75 donation

Each donation includes entry to the reception for one adult and one child at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, DC, and a copy of Yuki’s Journey.

Program includes book reading, buffet reception and cultural workshop. (This book is appropriate for ages 7-10 years old.)

Yuki's Journey tells the tale of a puppy who is separated from his five-year old master, during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. It follows his journey through the devastation and aftermath to find his master. In the process, he finds himself.
The author, Joseph J. Krakora, has spent 55 years of his career in the performing and visual arts. He served for 28 years as an Executive Officer of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, retiring this past year. He is devoting his retirement to help in increasing cross-cultural understanding between the people of Japan and the United States.

His granddaughter, Abigayle James, who illustrated the book, has had an ongoing affinity for Japan. After graduating this year from high school, she will attend the Art Institute of Virginia Beach, to pursue a career in animation.

Mrs. Nobuko Sasae, wife of Kenichiro Sasae Ambassador of Japan to the United States and event’s hostess, invites you to attend, and support the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund.

Attendance is a $75 donation of which 100% will go to the memorial fund, and includes a reception at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence for one (1) adult and one (1) child, and a copy of Yuki’s Journey by Joseph J. Krakora and Abigayle James.

100% of the funds raised by the book will be donated to the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund.

Taylor Anderson was the first confirmed American victim of the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
I hope my assumption is correct that this is a photo of Taylor Anderson. 
Her family established the fund to help Japanese students; schools and families in the Ishinomaki area recover from the earthquake and tsunami. Taylor’s family wants to keep her dream of being a bridge between the U.S. and Japan alive. For more information about the fund, please visit the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund at

Please register online at or call the Japan-America Society of Washington DC at (202) 833-2210 for more information.

This seems like a great event, and if you are able to attend and can afford the donation, it's for something that I know is greatly appreciated by all the kids who now get a chance to read books again after the disaster(s).

Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 29, 2015

Bang A Gong

From the December 1958 edition of The American Club News (Volume 1, No. 11), published by Shadan Hojin Tokyo American Club, I have the following treat.

As part of a gift that will keep on giving for several weeks, if not months, from loyal reader V.G., allow me to present The Lure of Japan column written by Verna Van Zandt… a brilliant bit of lost history.

I've seen other newspaper articles from the 1940s on this subject (I Googled it earlier today), but this is a quaint piece in a newsletter I now own.

Time Gong

Some 40 years ago, a young sculptor in Kasama Village, Ibaraki Prefecture, having urgent business in a distant city, hurried to a local railway station to board a train, but alas, he was late by a few minutes and the train had already departed.

He knew he would be in serious trouble due to his inaccurate timing and in that moment one determination formed in his mind:
"I'll sound a gong and tell people the correct time!"

In those days, the country men in the village had little sense of time and because of this lack many tragedies as well as comedies resulted among them.

Toyomi Miura (surname last), the sculptor, secured a gong and began to sound it every hour regardless of day or night and he has continued the practice for 40 years without interruption!

He cannot tolerate being one second too fast or too slow so in order to be absolutely correct, he goes to the local post office, watch in hand, every hour. Due to this zealousness he is unable to sleep more than 30 minutes at one time.

Twon folks at first considered him crazy but as the years passed the people in the town came to be impressed by the correct time he gave them as well as the beauty of the sound of the gong.

Someone proposed a small salary to be paid him each month and others supported this. Miura received the monthly pay with thanks, but when the payment was forgotten, often months at a time, he never asked for it.

When World War II came, the militarists wanted all the bells and gongs in the country to use for making warships, guns, cannons, etc.

One day Miura received a visit from the military but he spurned their demands for his gong. These haughty visitors came for the second and third time, but upon each occasion Miura opposed their demands, declaring, "Kill me first before taking away this gong."

The force of the saber failed to move this old man and the gong was saved.

Today Miura is well past 70 and the sound of the gong echoes through the town of Kasama every hour throughout day and night.

The old man has never married but lives alone with his gong.

He is adverse to visitors and when one does meet him, his only conversation is, "I'll sound the gong so long as I am alive. The gong is a living thing."

I know that as of 1948, he was 67-years-old… and Ms. Van Zandt says Miura was still banging that gong every hour as of 1958… so we can assume he was 78 at the time of the original newsletter column. 

A couple of times in the article Van Zandt spells Miura's name as Mimura, but I've corrected that here, as well as added some needed commas.

The following is taken from Wikipedia regarding Miura's hometown:

Kasama (笠間市 Kasama-shi) is a city located in central Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.
Kasama was once a castle town and post-station town during the Edo Period (1600–1868), and a shrine town of Kasama Inari Shrine in the Meiji Period (1868–1912). Stone quarrying is its main activity. Utensils for tea ceremony, flower vases, and sake containers called Kasama ware are produced here.[1]
As of 2003, the city had an estimated population of 29,776 and the total area was 131.61km². Kasama officially achieved city status on August 1, 1958, after the towns of Kasama and Inada were merged.
On March 19, 2006, Kasama absorbed the towns of Tomobe and Iwama (both from Nishiibaraki District), and the new city hall is located at the former Tomobe Town Hall. Tomobe has become the new city's administrative center because it is more populous than the former Kasama.

There's more, but at no point is old Miura even mentioned… not even a footnote. I'm a bit surprised.

I know the old boy did indeed seem a bit looney - and probably even more so from the lack of sleep, but that gong is a part of the town's history. What happened to it? Miura-san called it a 'living thing.'

There should be a statue erected of him - complete with working gong.

If anyone has any more information on Miura-san, please pass it along to me,

Somewhere listening to T-Rex,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Beware of Strangers In This Van

I found this over at - a site you should all check out for a few laughs, as it features photos submitted by normal folk, with social commentary provided by weird folk who only seem normal in their day-to-day lives.

If you are looking at that photo above, there really is nothing to say… but since this is my blog, I better try. 

You know I like Japan and had a rocking good time teaching junior high school English in s small city…

You know I screwed more women than a guy like me has any right to screw…

You know I have some amazing adventures, some sober, some not…

You know I have visited some interesting places and shard those adventures with you…

You know all this, but let's not forget… that sometimes Japan is frisking' weird.

I'm unsure what allows some people to assume that poor taste is okay, but… that's Japan.

Americans can shut up about this photo, because I believe you guys have some sort of document that entitles freedom of expression et al

All I can say, is that the photo of this van reinforces the adage to always beware of strangers in vans calling out to you kiddies.

Despite the female looking all happy and… well… horny… we can assume that inside the van dubious goings-on are being plotted…

Even I… a guy who has probably slept with your older sister and your mother would not want to meet the woman that would enter this vehicle… I might shout out a warning to her that we'll like never see her again, but surely no woman would willingly enter such a shaggin' wagon.

I guess the point is, that if you are driving around with this image on your van - you ain't expecting to meet any woman not involved in the special victims crime unit.

If the van is a rocking', don't come a knocking'… unless you brought extra duct tape, a flare gun, cake mix and LEGO Ninjago set - you know which one.

On the plus side, the young anime character is wearing panties… though they do appear to be see-through (or wet)… but the artist has at least had a modicum of decency and applied the license plate in an appropriate location.

I can only imagine what the license plate 'number' reads… something personalized to sound like… man co… or certainly spelled that way.

It's also interesting that only the BACK door of the van is done up in graphics…

Now… I've made fun of the fact that this is a 'rape' van… but you'll notice that there are windows all over the sides! So… unless he wants people to watch, then I can only assume this is just someone expressing themselves.

The question one needs to ask, however, is: what the hell are the expressing?

The point isn't really if the image is in good taste or not… but what point are you trying to make?

Look at me?

We are… but it wouldn't be with curiosity… it might be with disgust or hate… is that what you want?

If so, I think we have a candidate for some psychobabble therapy.

Of note also, is that it's a White van… white is still the most popular color for vehicles in Japan.

When I asked why that was - some 25 years ago - I was told that white is considered a pure or sacred color, and that everyone wants to be 'pure'.

So… again… wanting to be pure, afraid the Lolita complex might actually rear its ugly head, so he paints a graphic image call for help.

That's my take on it all.

Every picture tells a story… only writer's do it better. Do what? Exactly.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fukushima Residents Go Home in 2017?

Japan is aglow with news residents can go home to Fukushima, hopefully by 2017.

It's actually just a proposition, but Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) says he wants to lift the evacuation order that, back in March of 2011 was imposed on the people of Fukushima after a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake triggered a massive series of tsunami that essentially took out the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating facility in the province causing radiation spillages and leaks.

The  main problem with Abe's proposal is that this lifting of the evacuation order may not be for two more years.

Claiming that lifting the order will help speed up the reconstruction in the area, it's still at least two more years - 2017… some six years after it all began.

That's six years with no place to call your home…

Six years of uncertainty…

Six years of everyone's life thrown into chaos.

Look… I'm not saying it's not something that needed to be done. It did. People needed to be forced out of their homes away from possible radiation contamination or poisoning.

And no one is saying there are any quick fixes to resolving the radiation concerns in the area and rebuilding the homes…

But I question WHY? As in WHY anyone wants to go back?

What business opportunities exist there?

Let's suppose you are a farmer… what about the animals or vegetables or fruits or grains you might have once farmed?

What if you were a businessman? Will that be awaiting you upon return?

What about the small business people… the restaurants, shops… grocery stores… what's the incentive to go back?

Have people been holding their collective breath for four years now - six eventually - to go back and essentially start again?

Surely people have already tried to move on with their life… especially their work life?

Okay, the kids will have schools… and perhaps they can find teachers… there's always graduates ready to start teaching…

And this is assuming that there is no safety issue.

What about the quality of life?

Yes, it will be better than living in so-called temporary accommodations… but is it?

Forget about the bodies of the people… what about the emotional well-being of them… of their soul, if you believe in such things?

There are , and are going to be, a lot of fugged up people unable to cope with what life has thrown at them.

I can barely cope with what life has thrown up on me, and it's NOTHING compared to what anyone has had to go through in this or other disaster situation. NOTHING.

Does everyone have to keep up the stoic Japanese myth that "everything is fine"?

Although thousands of residents from within that evacuation zone are still struggling, various governments are still bitching about who (whom?) should take on the responsibilities.

Although federally, the country itself is very much responsible for helping out financially during a disaster and rebuild, the Abe government is pressing those local governments within the disaster zone to spend more of its own money to help out.

Sure… why wouldn't they?

Except… for the past four years, it's not like ant of those local Fukushima governments were taking any money from its citizens… Are those people STILL in a position of being elected officials?

I can only assume that Prefecturally, money has been passed along…

There's no easy solution to any sort of disaster relief.

I still wonder that even if you build it, will they come?

Andrew Joseph

Japan Joins U.S. Wargames

Yes, Japan will join a major US-Australian military exercise for the first time in a sign of growing security links between the three countries.

I'm unsure if there will be tea and cookies served.

Allowing Japan to participate is a means of giving China a little something to think about as tensions continue to flow unabated between the two Asian powers, particularly over China's island building in the South China Sea.

Call it saber rattling.

I'm a firm believer that although it's true everyone wants to destroy their enemies, there is that little voice inside each leader's head that doesn't want to be known as the idiot that started WWIII.

It's the Cold War all over again.

In anticipation, 40 Japanese soldiers will joint the 30,000 U.S. and Australian troops in early July of 2015 in war-game drills. New Zealand is  also sending 500 flightless birds/kiwi troops. 

Now, don't fret… it's not JUST everyone getting together to rattle their sabers, this Talisman Sabre biennial exercise held around Australia IS meant to show China that Japan isn't alone in defending itself.

That's it.

What are 40 Japanese men going to do? It's not like they know how to serve green tea!

Basically, the U.S. wants to get its allies more involved. If there is going to be a conflict (non-nuclear), why should it just be American boys and girls coming home in a box?

I mentioned China's island building earlier… yup, China is creating seven artificial islands in what is known as the Spratly archipelago - which just so happens to be a key shipping corridor… so if anything is traveling through it, China will know.

If these islands placed out there belong to China (it's in international waters, but by constructing an island and laying claim to it, does it become the property of China?) then it has just increased it's property line… it's sea property line.

It's brilliant in concept, actually. Just brilliant.

Here's the South China Sea problem…

After continually arguing with Japan over some island ownership (Japan says it owns it, but China says it was taken illegally from it due to Japanese aggression 150 years ago), while continuing with that argument with flybys… China is now constructing islands to increase it's ownership of the sea… which means it's now closer to the borders of other countries.

While China may (or may not) impose sea and air restrictions in the Spratlys (you can't travel on or above the area) which will include at least ONE military airstrip, China isn't doing so at the moment… it just claims the right to do so (an Air Defence Identification Zone).

Japan will hang out with the U.S. (slut), while the Aussies and Kiwis will play well together probably because each has the greatest chance of understanding one another. I said 'chance'.

The Australians and Japanese are already all palsie-walsie, as the land of Oz cites Japan as the front-runner to supply it with its next-generation submarines - a move the U.S. wholeheartedly supports.

U.S. assistant secretary of defense David Shear notes that one of the goals of this Talisman Sabre war-games is to work with its allies "to strengthen maritime security in Southeast Asia, and to explore technology cooperation."

Hopefully there won't be anything further to report on this.

Wait... this just in... China has just held a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a pair of lighthouses in the South China Sea.

Broadcast on state television, the ceremony was glorious, of course. What else could it have been? Nothing, you Imperial dog!

China, of course, continued to thumb its nose at countries such as the Philippines and U.S., who have asked China to stop fanning the flames.

All confused-like, China smartly doesn't understand what all the hubbub is about saying that building the lighthouses will help any maritime search and rescue event (after China sinks trespassers in their waters), provide quicker disaster relief (we have Kool-Aid for you to drink), not to mention  environmental protection (we will protect this land!) and navigational security (despite all of our ships having the highest tech available, there is still a chance they could run into these islands  if we don't have a lighthouse warning them... plus, if we shut off the light  - snicker-snicker - maybe one of those foreign dogs might run their ship aground - and then we can rescue their booty.)

Personally, I think China's island building idea is brilliant... but there is nothing stopping anyone else from doing the same. North Korea now has a plan it just came up with all by itself that was stolen by China. 

Banzai (or perhaps better yet - NO 'banzai'),
Andrew Joseph
PS: The image above is from the CLASSIC movie War Games… while the technology involved is very dated (the manner of computer hacking), conceptually this could be easily revised for the 21st century. Maybe create a different ending? Interested writing partners - shall we play a game?


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

1936 Art Deco Travel Poster

Here's an interesting poster I found on-line… a travel poster from 1936, created on behalf of the Oriental Tourist Conference.

Obviously promoting different Asian countries to visit, it's an interesting mishmash of images… though I'm kind of confused by them.

Obviously we have a kimono-clad Japanese women in red, with crosshatched obi belt… a Chinese woman with her wicked blue outfit done up under her chin, a very small man in black wearing a typical far east hat worn by manual laborers to keep the sun off, an elephant which one could assume is an Indian one, but could easily be representative of Thailand (it stopped being Siam in 1932).

And then there's the brown woman on the far left carrying a jug showing off her jugs - which we can assume is Indonesia… the white man in the pith helmet is probably Australian or a New Zealander… and then... then the other one...

The amorphous brown pillar with the red turban that looks like an infected penis. I assume that's representative of the sub-continent of India.

Being of Indian decent, I resemble that piece of genitalia - minus the infection, of course. I've certainly been called one - a dick, not an infection. Yeesh.

Sitting atop a white line drawing showing the scope of the global map that is 'the Orient', behind the people we see a cruise ship, a steam locomotive and a two prop airplane.

This is 1936, so all I can picture for the airplane is something like the one in Indian Jones And The Temple of Doom, when the gang was forced to jump out of the plane, inflate a rubber dinghy and hold on for dear life. You know that would never work, right?

The airplane and the train appear to be real black and white photographs applied to the poster as a collage.

Over in the top left corner, we can see, written in an arc, SATOMI, with an M centered below it.

That's the artist: Satomi Munetsugu (surname first), was born in Osaka, Japan in 1900 (dying in 1995). He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and was one of the masters in the field of Japanese poster design. 

While in Paris, Satomi-san was influenced by the popular Art Deco artistic movement - especially A.N. Cassandre, and the streamlined Machine Age art style.

The very first Oriental Tourist Conference was held in Tokyo in 1935.

In 1936, Satomi designed this poster to promote the event, using a photomontage of images featuring the best means of transportation to the oriental countries, the map and stylized figures from across the Orient. 

This lithograph travel poster was printed by The Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., in 1936 and measures 25 x 39.5 inches (64 x 100cm).

According to Swann Auction Galleries, a beautiful copy of this poster was estimated at US $3,000 - $4,000, but was eventually sold on November 8, 2012 for $4,560. That was my birthday three years ago.

And that's why I can't have nice things.

Somewhere being a poster boy for something or another,
Andrew Joseph
When I Googled 'Airplane', 'Ship' and 'Train' posters of Japan (I just did so, don't ask why) some eight months ago, I had no idea they were considered collectible enough to achieve such a high price, or that anyone knew who the artists were.
Since I have so many other posters stockpiled, I'll do my best to find out more about each.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Commercialism Of Memorial Day

Do you know what I hate?

It's the commercialism of Memorial Day as celebrated by the U.S.

Despite being a Canadian, I like and respect the United States of America.

While there are many things to like about my cousins to the south of the true North America (Canada, aka USA Jr.), I have always truly admired their patriotism.

It doesn't border on fanaticism, but it is something that all its citizens are keenly aware of and respect (for the most part).

Which brings me to Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday designed to honor those people who have died while serving its military.

Canada, like much of Europe and other Commonwealth countries, honors its fallen via Remembrance Day on November 11. It's a very solemn occasion. Although businesses are open, we make time during the day to stop whatever we are doing and salute the dead with a moment of silent respect. There no Remembrance Day sales. And that's fine by us.

So WTF is up with Memorial Day in the U.S.?

Memorial Day is the last Monday of May, so its actual date floats around the calendar a bit, but what it stands for shouldn't.

While I am sure the various military branches and towns and cities throughout the U.S. are very respectful of the day and what it stands for, how come retailers are not?

What's up with all the effing sales?

Yes, I'm sure I would like to save a few dollars on my car purchase, sofa, and even on my freedom fries... but to use Memorial Day as the springboard for such crass commercialism?

For shame! Shame!

Shame on everyone offering sales and deals on anything on such a solemn day.

Shame on those who try and save a buck on such a solemn day.

The fighting men and women who died fighting for global freedom - for all these life liberty and pursuit of happiness ideals you yearn for and have - to celebrate their sacrifice in such a crass manner is disrespectful beyond contempt. You might as well go and spit on the flag, ol Glory, herself.

This is MEMORIAL day… a day to REMEMBER and pay one's respects.

You don't have to have actually lost anyone during any particular conflict - you just need to show respect for those that did.

Have a picnic, be with your family. Be with friends. Watch some fireworks, if you will. And pay your respects.

But… paying respects by offering deals to sell your products or services? That's just crass!

Maybe retailers COULD provide special deals to actual serving military personnel and their immediate families… to thank them for their sacrifice in protecting your borders. But these folks are Veterans (Veterans Day honors the living who have previously served), and this isn't their day. It's a day to honor the dead who died wearing a military uniform.

The dead.

The dead shouldn't shouldn't have their memory desecrated by mega retailers seeking greater profits. What… do you think they are doing this to honor the fallen? No… they are doing this to grease their own pockets.

And anytime you have made a purchase thanks to a 'Memorial Day sale', you have fallen into their trap.

I'm not picking on any one retailer in particular, but I like how Walmart's tag line (in the FIRST page of my internet search engine, image above) states one should "Live better."

Yeah… all you dead people who gave your life for America and the concept of freedom… Walmart wants you to 'live better'.

It's not just Walmart, it's damn near EVERY American retailer.

As in any war, there are always profiteers. This, in my opinion, is no different.

Stop trying to capitalize on people's greed and your own! If you didn't need a twin bed two weeks ago, you don't need to get one on this date.

While this may be what America has become, it's not what it was founded on.

Even I, a stupid Canadian, know that.

Wake up, America! Stop celebrating Memorial Day with commercialism. Honor it.

And yeah, I know you enjoy all of those Rights given to you in the Constitution, and all those other ones via Amendments, but the right to dishonor the military fallen? I'm know that's not in there.

Hey look... U.S. retailers have every right to hawk their wares, and they have every right to offer you all fantastic Memorial Day savings. You also have the right to tell them that's not patriotic by not purchasing products listed as such.

I used wish Canadians were half as patriotic as Americans... now, I'm not so sure.

Do you know what I hate?

It's the commercialism of Memorial Day.

Tsk. Tsk.

Andrew Joseph
I know this has nothing to do with Japan, but I get a larger market share here than I do with my You Know What I Hate? blog - where this is also published.

Basho And Unganji Temple

Situated south of my hometown of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, is a very rural village known as Kurobane. That's the hometown of one of my bosses, Kanemaru-san.

It was he that first took myself and fellow AET Ashley (the not-so-secret girlfriend of myself) out to visit Unganji, a small temple retreat.

It's one of my most favorite places in all of Japan. And most people have never heard of it.

Images here are all mine, but feel free to use as long as you note where you got it from (Andrew Joseph or The black and white shots were taken in the early Spring, the color in early Summer between 1991-1993.

Now Kurbane itself had been famous once because haiku poet Basho had once traveled out there to visit students (with his student Sora)... on what he thought would be his final trek around Japan. At Kurobane, he wrote quite a few haiku - and there are seven stone markers containing those haiku (put up later)... composed by Basho and Sora.

Here's one, translated to English:

Amid mountains of high summer,
I bowed respectfully before the tall clogs of a statue, 
asking a blessing of my journey.
(situated at Komyoji temple) 

Basho had long wanted to visit Unganji, and did so on his second day in Kurobane. He stayed at this hermitage and wrote a few more haiku - many of which are now engraved on stone markers throughout the facility. I, of course, failed to take photos of them - because at the time, no one told me that they were haiku by Basho - just that they were famous haiku... and so I ignored them, not being able to read them.

Yeah - there's no English translation anywhere, mostly because this is NOT a tourist trap.

From Kurobane, it's a 15-minute drive through the winding roads, passing farmland and light forested area until you reach Unganji... though there is supposed to be a 30 minute bus ride... not sure from where, though - probably Kurobane... but getting there might be tricky seeing as how you would have to come from Ohtawara - also by bus.

The road will eventually start an incline up past the Yamizo mountains through a pass called Karamatsu-Toge (the Larch pass).

Once you cross the pass, you start coming down... opening up into a valley below known as Susaki.

Unganji is at the easternmost part of Susaki.

Mossy banks... it's still early summer...
In Basho's time, it is written by him that "The temple was situated on the side of a mountain, completely covered with dark cedars and pines. A narrow road trailed up the valley, between banks of dripping moss... the air was still cold, though it was April."

When you come up to Unganji, it's impressive.

That ain't no river! I always enjoy wandering off the beaten path. The bridge is behind me. I took a shot from her of the bridge, but there's a large cement drainage thingy jutting out of the water - Not zen.
There's a beautiful vermillion arched bridge that crosses over the Mumi-gawa... a river by name only, as it is a small stream.

There's a major difference between Chinese and Japanese-style bridges... at least those old-fashioned typical ones... yes, I know there are many style of bridges for each culture, but let's suppose you are watching something on TV, and you see an arched bridge... look at the railings or sides of the bridge... the Japanese have an open railing... you can peer through the sides, whereas the Chinese are solid... I don't know if that's true or not, but it's an observation of mine based on semi-experience. I've not been to China, but I've observed Chinese bridges.

Crossing the arched bridge, you arrive at the temple's main gate: San-mon.
My buddy Ken, the only Japanese guy I met who was a bigger perv than myself - seen here trudging up the steps towards the San-mon gate. IF you are on the left side entering, I learned you are supposed to enter with your left foot first so as to not show your butt to the middle of the temple as you step over the big timber threshold. Opposite is true if you enter from the right side.
Gates to temples are always quite impressive, and San-mon here is no exception... perhaps because it has nature closed around it to make it seem even more idyllic.

Now, since Basho made the visit back in the mid 1600s, we might expect that some of the buildings had been destroyed, but happily, this gate is still in its original state.

Step through the gate and you see a simple building, Zazen Hall, on the other side of the neatly raked gravel. Woodpeckers knocking on trees looking for bugs, birds chirping in a serene manner... it's all quite relaxing.

It's suspected that Basho wrote this haiku right there:

iwo-wa yaburazu
natsu- kodachi

Even the woodpeckers have left it untouched,
this tiny hermitage
in a summer grove.

On either side of the grounds are stone stairways (left and right), that lead up to Hondo, a main worship hall located behind the Zazen Hall.

There is still a hermitage - a lonely area - still on the grounds, but up high and away from the temple, but the stone stairs leading up to it are a bit perilous, and so it's been blocked off.

I climbed up a bit - again... I go where I'm not supposed to - and took the following shot:
This faces out to the entrance... the entrance gate is at the back and to the right.
I like roofs... it's an architecture point I enjoy - perhaps because it was so different from anything I ever saw back in Canada...
But, if we could climb up there, we'd find another Basho haiku (I think it's more like a tanka!!) which describes this little piece of zen accurately:

go-syaku-ni taranu
kusa-no iwo
musubumo kuyashi
ame nakariseba

This grassy hermitage,
hardly any more
than five feet square,
I would gladly quit
but for the rain.

For the visitor, note that this is not a sight-seeing place... this is a working temple. There are no restaurants or snack shops and certainly no vending machines.

There is, of course, a souvenir shop... which I suppose is still zen...
The shop was closed today, Sunday, in the early Spring... and yes, it was at an angle... that's snow piled up in front of the door.
I visited the Unganji temple about five times  - various people wanting to surprise me with visits to a REAL Japanese temple that feels zen - and not those ego-inflated ones in Nikko or Tokyo... plus a bike trip with one of my schools (Sakuyama Chu Gakkko)... I rode in a car, because you don't want me showboating with the students... and I would have.... we wouldn't have paid as close attention to the rules of the road if we were all trying to talk with one another... besides, as a teacher, I was ensuring that the kids weren't getting lost... weren't in any distress... didn't get taken out by any of the car-driving locos, I mean locales.

The place - Unganji - it was what I imagine it would feel like if I really could slip back in time. Not with the students... but when it was just myself and three other visitors... quite... serene... calming...

I'm not sure why I went all black and white with the photos (I did use black and white film), but I like the crispness it brings to photos... and in this case, a nice bit of shadow-play.
As you can see, I visited Unganji in the early Spring and Summer, amongst other seasons....

I'm a city boy... or rather I live and grew up in the suburbs of a huge city (Toronto), but I prefer being able to escape to the quiet locales like Unganji.

It's not spectacular with awesome architecture or carvings or the largest bell or rope or anything... but for me, Unganji has captured the soul of Japan... one long since lost everywhere else in the towns and the cities...

Andrew Joseph
PS: Special thanks to Matthew who, over one year ago, sent me a brochure on the place effectively telling me what the heck the temple was called! Thanks, buddy!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

First Japanese Immigrant In Canada

Being a curious sort, I often ask myself questions when trying to come up with what I perceive to be original content for this blog.

Sometimes I can find original content, and then other times, when it's obvious someone else has done some foot work already, I like to do my own take on it with my own questions and answers.

So, I asked myself... just who might the very first Japanese immigrant to Canada be? And, as luck would have, someone already figured that out for me/us.

That would be the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre (, a website I have no doubt got its data right.

The article is in the link above, but I'm going to write a version here anyway... maybe not adding to the color of the original (like I said  - well done), but just because this blog writer likes to pretend he is creating his own Encyclopedia Japonica. 

The very first immigrant to Canada  would have to have been by today's standards an illegal alien.

Nagano Manzo (surname first), touched down on Canadian soil in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada in May of 1877 as a 22-year-old.

I'm unsure how he would even have heard of Canada, considering the visitors to Japan in the days before were not generally part of the Canadian navy.

Born in 1855 in Nagasaki, as a 17-year-old, Nagano worked as an apprentice carpenter in Japan - a popular profession for him as an adult, as by the 1860s Japan had only recently opened up its borders after a self-imposed global exile for 250 years - as Japan realized that it's cities looked pretty damn old-fashioned relative to the rest of the world.

Urban renewal was huge in 1870s Japan.

Along with urban renewal, Japan sought to build larger sea vessels for it's own navy.... and while it is unclear if Nagano was involved in any sort of ship building, he did perform carpentry work repairing and retrofitting boats...I would assume he was involved in performing work on larger craft - even those belonging to the foreign visitors to Japan.

Why? Because he somehow got it in his head that one day he would travel to Canada, and so stowed away on a British vessel leaving Yokohama. He must have known that the British ship was making a port of call in BC.

Again... why the hell would he want to go to Canada? There is nothing wrong with Canada, of course. It's my home and native land... but what sold him on stowing away to come to Canada? That's what I would like to know.

It is always possible that after meeting some of the sailors on a British vessel, he might have learned about Canada that way, seeing as how Canada was still a part of the British Commonwealth then (and now).

Aside from stowing away, I also read that Nagano paid for his passage by stoking that ship's furnace to produce steam.

My guess is that he did stow away, but was caught and paid for his safe passage by stoking the ship's furnace. But that's a leap on my account.

Once in Canada, rather than wield a hammer, he instead opted for a rod (sort of), and became a fisherman - or at least a guy working on a fishing vessel, fishing for salmon along the Fraser River.

After three years of that, Nagano shifted gears and moved to Vancouver, loading timber onto outbound sea vessels.

Perhaps filled with wanderlust, or perhaps being homesick, Nagano left Canada and returned to Japan in 1884 - where he got married - it was probably all arranged... but then left to work in Shanghai, China before heading back to North America again where he eventually ended up in Seattle with his own tobacco and restaurant business.

You have to love Nagano's ability to try different things... I don't know if he was good at these things... I mean... he was an apprentice carpenter in Japan... and being an apprentice anything in Japan can sometimes mean you spend 10 years without actually touching the tools of your would-be trade... implying he might not have even actually hammered a nail in Japan... even though I'm sure he could...

By 1892, Nagano was once again back in Canada, this time in the city of Victoria, B.C., where he ran a small hotel (probably a bed and breakfast style) and a store - probably located at the foot of the hotel.
December 1910 in the Nagano home in Victoria, BC. (Front L-R): Seki Nagano (daughter), Manzo Nagano; Tayoko Nagano (wife); (Standing L-R) sons George Tatsuo Nagano, and Frank Teruma Nagano. You'll notice I didn't place the surname first - because these folks are Canadian now! (Image from Japanese Canadian National Museum).
Either because he was unable to focus, or because all the previous business ventures failed, Nagano eventually performed other odd jobs, including exporting salted salmon to Japan, and eventually a landowner in BC.

Being a man of many talents, and perhaps because he was such an old hand at being Canadian, Nagano was well-respected within the burgeoning Japanese community in BC.

By 1922 and still living in Victoria—though weak from tuberculosis, Nagano lost damn near everything after a fire ripped throough his property.

Sad, and realizing that this sort of thing would never happen in Japan, Nagano left Canada and returned to the land of the rising sun to reunite with his family.

I would assume his parents might have been dead, but he might have had some siblings or cousins... I mean this guy hadn't really been to Japan since what... 1892? That's 30 years!

After being away for three years while I was in Japan, I didn't see most of my friends ever again... which is fine, actually. Sometimes people change (me), and sometimes people don't (them).

Nagano eventually did in Japan at the age of 68.

You might be wondering what the hell that image of a mountain is doing up above... well, that is Mount Manzo Nagano situated about 400 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, near where Japanese Canadians helped pioneer the commercial fishing industry along the Pacific coast. 

Nagano still has descendents living in Canada today.

Andrew Joseph


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Can Using Chopsticks Prevent Diabetes?

Here's my examination of a story I saw first at OZY, written by Melissa Pandika and published on May 16, 2015... Original article HERE.

First off... if you look at the headline, No it can not. Secondly, if you look at the photo, it's not that type of chopsticks, though if you play it fast enough and often enough you might be able to expend a few calories. (Image from

For those of you too lazy to read the other article and then come back to read my review, I'll provide an overview within. 

Researches think that using chopsticks could affect your chances of developing diabetes... and seeing as how, after decades of sugary abuse I am now diabetic enough to require daily pills (not insulin needles), I tend to pay a bit more attention to such stuff (even weird stuff like this) ... not for myself, but to pass the warnings on to others. But is it weird?

As we age, our bodies ability to produce insulin can weaken. Ergo (I think I am using that word correctly), the more stress you put your body through to create insulin in your body throughout your life can have an outcome whereby your body no longer produces enough insulin to keep you healthy.

The signs were there for me for a while... I had elevated blood sugar levels five years ago, and switched from Coca-Cola to Coke Zero and saw decent results...

But, like I said, I was also getting older... and now I could no longer eat a 2-lb bag of peanut M&Ms as I used to like to pick up on the weekends at a bulk shop, without getting sleepy. That should have been clue enough, but it wasn't... not until I felt dizzy and tired all the time... and then holy crap, along with other signs my body was breaking down, I finally got tested again, and whoo, were those blood sugar levels high.

Being a sweet guy wasn't all it's cracked up to be. So... Metformin for me, twice a day... and a knowledge that I shouldn't overdo it with anything sweet.

So... my wake-up call involves meds - yours need not. Let it be a blog.

Ugh... don't make me run! I'm full of chocolate! Just watch the first 15 seconds...

But... it's not just candy and cola... there's the regular fruits and veggies we eat... things that turn sugary in our system as we digest them...

Anyhow, the article talks about how people who use chopsticks to eat their food, because of the way the implements are utilized, that only small chunks of food can make it into our mouth, which means that after chewing, will is easier to digest.

Results garnered by scientists at the National University of Singapore and the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (Singapore, too) compared eaters who used chopsticks, hands and spoons when eating the same foods.

The results?

Chopstick users had a lower glycemic response. That means their blood sugar levels rose at a slower rate than the hand or spoon users.

The basic idea behind that is that those smaller bits of food capable of being picked up by chopsticks (and yes... I have actually picked up a steak with a pair and then gnawed off a large chunk of healthy red meat)... is that smaller foods are easier for the body to digest.

The end hypothesis is that since chopsticks users have slower glycemic rates, it actually means could have a reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Crap... all I had to do was drink my Coca-Cola and at my M&Ms with chopsticks.

Like I said... it doesn't mean you can't develop diabetes, but it can help reduce the risk of you getting it... that's something worth noting... especially if there is a risk of developing diabetes thanks to a family history.

It is also a reduced risk for obesity and heart disease.

Granted this study was based on a very small sample size of a mere 11 eaters.

Over a three day period, a baseline glycemic level was taken from each via a blood sample.

Next, each was randomly chosen to eat a bowl of rice with a stated eating method (chopsticks, hands, spoon).

Thanks to electrodes hooked up to their cheeks (on their face), the researchers were able to measure the number of mouthfuls required to finish each bowl of rice, as well as how many chews they performed before swallowing each mouthful, and even how long it took each to complete a mouthful.

If you are like me, you probably do not chew (masticate) your food enough before swallowing.

I don't recall the exact number (I'm sure it varies), but it was something like 30 times of chewing per mouthful before swallowing.

I'm probably at around four... unless it's the wife's cooking, in which case I have to soften it up a bit more before choking it down. Kidding... she's a decent cook - and I'm gluttonous... which is why I am no longer as svelte as I appear in the photographs scattered throughout the entirety of this blog.

Anyhow, those researchers would then take blood samples again after the meal - over the next two hours  - all done via an annoying pin prick - to test each of the subject's glycemic levels.

According to the published results in the December Journal of Physiology & Behavior, chopsticks had a lower glycemic rate by about 13%.

You should note that there was no great difference between the glycemnic rates of chopsticks and fingers, or between fingers and spoons.

Wait... what? chopsticks and fingers - equal?
Fingers and spoons - equal?

If that's the case, ergo (and I think I am using that word incorrectly here) spoons should equal chopsticks... and all things should be equal.

So... I'm confused...

Maybe that's an error in the original article...

If anyone wants to read the original article (link above) and tell me what it is I am not seeing regarding the results above... I'm a political scientist (well.... on university paper anyway), not a physiology researcher. Okay... I'm just a curious guy with a blog asking questions and offering clarity... or in this case regretting ever starting this particular blog considering I'm not finding clarity.

Man... the number of times I read an article on-line and walk away with more questions than answers boggles the mind... it's an on-line article... so it's not like anyone needs to be worried about article length restrictions! That rowing across the Pacific article from a few days ago... not one article elsewhere on the 'Net mentioned when she was scheduled to depart Japan! Not one! I found it on the rower's personal website! Plus there were multiple versions of the rowboat's weight. It shouldn't need to be exact, but differences of 50 kilograms is a bit much.

And this one... presenting so-called facts but not questioning the results? I guess that's my job. The pay sucks at my job. I do this for free... though I'd rather do it for freebies.

Okay... rant over...

Now... chopsticks users' mouthfuls were about half (nearly 50%) of those eating with fingers or spoons.

They also took 30% fewer chews per mouthful than spoons and finger users.

To me that implies the chopstick users aren't chewing as much as they should: 50% less in the mouth, but only 30% less chewing. Shouldn't it be 50% less chewing?

In my mind it should, but the chopsticks users simply aren't chewing as much... I think it's all in the head... not much food in the mouth, therefore you think you need not chew a long time... and in this case, they aren't chewing as much as they should in direct proportion to what they put in their mouth via chopsticks.

The implication is that if they did, perhaps the body would not have to work as hard to digest the food.

So... in that case... it's not just how you eat your food, it's how you chew it that affects how your body digests the food. That is something to consider the next time you (I'm talking to you, Rob) grab a burger and take one big bite followed immediately by two little bites.

I've watched my friend Rob eat a burger many a time over the years. Always one big big two little bites.

I'm no proper biter either, but I mix up my bite routine.

I call the big one bitey. You Simpsons monorail fans know what I mean.

Anyhow... 11 people tested over three days. Not a large enough sample size.

Does it matter HOW fast one eats with their chopsticks, spoon or fingers - relative to digestion rates of turning foods into sugars? How much should one chew a mouthful of food before swallowing? Does the number of chews differ depending on the consistency of the food density—do you need to perform 28 chews on a banana bite and the same for a steak?

Did the size of the test consumer's hand matter? IE, larger hands could pinch together a larger finger full of rice to  shove into their gaping maw.  It should, shouldn't it?

Do different varieties of rice have differing glycemic levels - what about how it is cooked?

 Did the testees (testes) do anything but eat a bowl of rice three times a day? Did they sit and watch TV, or walk around, or perform business activities?

Does the time if day affect the way the body processes foods?

How big was the bowl of rice the test subjects had to eat? What if you took large mouthfuls of rice, but the bowl consisted of a mere three mouthfuls... would that affect the results against a bowl consisting of four large mouthfuls?

What is a mouthful? I have a bigger mouth than my friend Alice, and perhaps I have more dexterity in using chopsticks than her, but perhaps I chew my food longer (I don't. I have my own toilet bowl of evidence).

Men versus women? Does the sex matter? Yes it does to me, but I meant as far as test results?

Who knows? All I know is that apparently using chopsticks might have something to do with lowering your risk of developing diabetes... even if the evidence provided to support this concept seemed flawed in the OZY magazine article.

I like OZY and the brainy articles they provide. Like I said... maybe I missed something in the original OZY article... maybe the data does make sense... but maybe I also wanted more information, rather than just a teaser.

I hate half-assed answers. If you can't satisfy my curiosity, why bother piquing it at all?

So... can chopstick use prevent diabetes? Maybe. Maybe not. Eleven effing people tested? How is that a study?

Somewhere a study in scarlet - and who doesn't enjoy shopping for Holmes?
Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 22, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: And Colin Makes Three

After what I perceived to be a successful night of fun and revelry over at Noboko's parent's house bonding with my prospective father-in-law over rice wine, beer, whiskey and singing… not me, man, I don't know the words… I have the spins back at Colin's apartment in Kuroiso.

It's fine… I'm drunk, but I'm never out of control.

I'm beaver out of control. Well, almost never, to be fair, as there was a couple of times here in Japan that I've been so drunk I've puked my lungs out and acted like an ass.

Twice from imbedding Flaming Blue Lamborghini's procured at the 4C bar in my hometown of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, and the other during some drunken revelry with other AETs (assistant English teachers) in Kobe, I think, where I awoke in a taxidermy diorama of a forest scene complete with a deer standing atop me… somehow I broke in… I recall trying to get in, but not actually getting in or what I was doing while I was in there… I hope I didn't defile Bambi. No, there was no female AET named Bambi. Unfortunately.

This past evening with Noboko and her parents was really just an evening with her dad.

The plan was to imprint myself upon his psyche... to let him know I would be a good husband for his beautiful daughter.

Usually in Japanese parties, things that are said or promised, are taken care of. Conversely, things that are insulting or stupid are ignored, chalked up to poor drunken revelry.

It's because I am not sick from foreign karma and am not passed out under a forest dweller, that I am sure I didn't say or do anything stupid.

I simply drank a lot of booze.

The Japanese always referred to me as a 'hebi durinka (heavy drinker)' because I could drink more than anyone else at any given party and not fall over with red booze-soaked skin, and always seem peppy and smiley the next morning with nary a hangover.

Never had a hangover…  for people who saw me in the morning… smiling… it certainly helped spread in Japan the legend that is me. Ha! Of all the things to be famous for, eh? Although… since I didn't do anything stupid while drunk, the legend fades quickly.

I'm up the next morning at 8AM, because I hear Colin quietly moving around… he's hardly a lithe cat… so I grab a shower, drinking most of the water coming out of the showerhead, and have a bowl of Corn Flakes with him.

"You were snoring pretty loudly last night," he says.


"How the hell do you ever have any woman spend a night with you when you snore like that?"

"What, like a jet plane with asthma? The key is to not go to sleep. Ba-dum-bum."

Yes, I have sleep apnea, and do now wear a C-Pap machine… if you stop breathing at night, get a sleep test and please do not be afraid to get this machine. I get six hours or less of sleep a night and I do not feel tired and I don't even yawn.

"So," begins Colin, "everything seems to have gone well last night…"

"Yeah…  I was sitting beside him - we had our arms around each other while we… oh god… I think we sang Love Me Tender (Elvis) together."

I don't know the words, except for the first two lines…. so what the hell was I singing along to… 

"What time is it… let's see… 9-ish… is it too early to call Noboko?" I ask not wanting to hear any answer except 'go ahead'.

"It's Japan… it's never too early or too late to call anyone on the phone."

I call up Noboko… I let it ring the requisite 27 times per Japanese custom before assuming they can't hear it, and let it ring an additional 20 times - counting in my head) before hanging up…

As I am about to replace the receiver on the handset…



"Moshi-moshi, yourself, beautiful. Kyo-wa, o-genki desu-ka? (How are you today?)"

"Genki… How are you?"

"Genki-desu. "

"Really? You drank a lot."

"I've had more," I say, not quite bragging. "How's things with you dad? Is he still alive?"


When she laughs, lines around her eyes scrunch up. I can almost hear it over the phone wires…

"He really likes you, you know."

"I know. I mean… I know now. He said he liked me."

"No… he has always liked you," Noboko explains. "He has said you are a funny, handsome man."

"Not smart, huh?"

"No. (giggle)."

Despite picturing her giggling into a hand, I know she's not kidding.

Until people get to know me better, they assume the comedian in me isn't smart… and perhaps I'm not as book smart as some people, though I function better in any situation than most people. Pick a situation, I'll work well within it. I'll learn. I'll adapt. I'll do it quickly.

It's why my time in Japan was less problematic for me than for others.

You'll have noticed a theme for me in Japan (and outside)… I'm only ever screwed up over women. Everything else… it's a piece of key lime pie.

"Did he say anything about you and me?"

"No… and even if he did, I wouldn't pay any attention to it because he was very drunk."

The me of 2015 realizes that that sounds like he did say something. I have no idea if 1993 me knew that or if he chose to ignore it. Why ruin the moment? Why poke the bear? Why ask why?

Perhaps he didn't say anything and I'm misinterpreting her English translation.

Sometimes  I think that despite all of my bravado, it might merely be false… and that I am still that very same shy little boy… afraid to find out the truth.

"Shall I come over and we can go for a drive? Does Colin want to join us?"

I don't want Colin to join us, because I'm selfish (and honest), but I owe Colin big time for letting me crash at his place here in Kuroiso (Noboko's hometown).

"Hey Colin, Noboko wants to know if you want to join us on a car ride somewhere?"

He looks at me funny… like he knows that he would be a spare wheel…

"It's cool, buddy. Let's go for a drive… I'll buy us lunch… we can just chill…"

He shrugs his shoulders "Sure."

Bastard. But I'm glad he's joined us. No I'm not. Yes… I am.

So… it's another four or five hours of casual, lighthearted fun as Noboko and Colin team up to give me the gears (razz me), as he-wonders-why-she-is-with-me, and she-also-wonders-the-same type of stuff… 

A guy could get an inferiority complex if I didn't have a large ego.

Of course… Japan and ego's…  it has a way of taking you down.

We go to a nice restaurant - allowing me a chance to buy Colin a nice meal… it's actually near his place, and we notice a couple of nice bars nearby… so maybe Colin and I can go there one evening…

We hang out in a park, walking around the trees and hills… Colin and Noboko love it, but admittedly I'm a firm believer that man has advanced for a reason… to live in luxury with a bowl of pork rinds and a Coke while planted on a soft, comfy couch watching a baseball game on TV while reading a comic book. Nature can suck it. I have no desire to 'rough it' while 'getting back to nature'.

Oh yeah.. Noboko should be there too with the pork rinds… sans clothes, doing things unasked for but appreciated.

I like to multi-task.

By the time it's 3PM, Noboko announces it's time for her to head back home and she drives us back…

Nothing more was mentioned about us. Nothing bad, certainly, but also nothing good.

I might not show it, but the lack of progress stresses me out like you wouldn't believe.

I'm a patient guy… and was even asked to be patient by Noboko a few months ago to allow her to figure out what she was going to do about us.

So patient I think I need a doctor… no, a nurse,
Andrew Joseph 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Want To Slap A Stranger? Only In Japan. Pity

You have to see it to believe it.

Click HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Driving Japan's $60-billion Packaging Industry

JAPAN – Valued at US$59.4 billion annually, Japan’s packaging technology sector is being challenged by the demands of a new consumer demographic landscape and the need for increasingly competitive brand product differentiation, according to the latest market report by EP Resources Pte Ltd - Zen & The Technology of Japanese Package Design 2012-14.

I'm scattering pages from the report throughout the blog...

This report examines the motivation behind the drivers of Japanese packaging technology with an in-depth study into the influence of Japanese culture on consumer expectations, the impact of the changing retail sector and how the world's strictest environmental and Circular Economy regulations have driven the packaging industry to innovate.

Many of the solutions developed by Japanese industry in response are relevant in Western markets where packaging and brand owners are starting to encounter similar challenges of changing demographics, sustainability and increased regulatory regimens.

According to the report, Zen & The Technology of Japanese Package Design 2012-14, more than a quarter of the population is now aged over 65 and, coupled with Japan’s declining birth rate, packaging has used Universal Design (UD) solutions to solve the problems of accessibility and address the needs of the changing market dynamic: easy-to-read, easy-to-open, easy-to-use and easy-to-close packs address the problems of aging - failing eyesight, arthritis, etc – and the ultimate impact of having a corresponding increase in the number of single-person households that demand single portion ready-meal packs.

With Circular Economy legislation in force for more than 20 years, and with householders required to deconstruct packaging into separate materials, Japan’s industry has embraced the Zero Waste strategy. By developing easy-to-separate packaging while reducing exposure under Japan’s Extended Producer Responsibility regulations, packaging has been light-weighted below anything seen in other markets. As a result, Japan has achieved the highest recycling rates in the world:
  • Recycled paper utilization = 63.8%
  • Paper packaging recovery = 44.2%
  • Corrugated cardboard recovery = 98.4%
  • PET bottles = 85.0%
  • Mixed plastics = 80.0%
  • Steel can = 90.8%
  • Aluminum can= 94.7%
Zen & The Technology of Japanese Package Design 2012-14 explores, with charts and examples of packaging in the marketplace, the technical innovations prompted by the need for compliance that have resulted in significantly higher value packaging that less materials to deliver more value. Quite literally, Less is More.

Along with the rest of the country, the packaging industry suffered massive losses in the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that affected the east coast. During the emergency relief, some every day packaging actually impeded efforts, while other formats were found to have contributed significantly by having surprising secondary uses in emergency situations. This report analyses the role of packaging in disaster and emergency relief situations and offers solutions suggested by the Japanese experience.

This 202-page report examines all key packaging end-use markets - including food, beverage, spirits, confectionery, cosmetics, personal care, household, pharmaceutical, medical, electronics, industrial and logistics – and all packaging materials, types and formats.

Fully illustrated with more than 200 photographs of the latest packaging technologies and solutions introduced in the Japanese market between 2012 and 2014 by more than 110 Japanese packaging manufacturers, design agencies and brand owners, Zen & The Technology of Japanese Package Design 2012-14 provides real-life market examples and case studies of how the Japanese packaging industry has responded to the changing market dynamic.

The report's author is Stuart Hoggard, has had more than 20 years involvement with the Japanese packaging industry as journalist, publisher and consultant. He is chief executive officer and publisher of the daily news service Co-author Trina Tan Ker Wei is managing editor of the monthly packaging industry newsletter, Packaging Business Insight Asia

Priced at US$595 this report, Zen & The Technology of Japanese Package Design 2012-14 is available directly from the publisher:

Key Topics Covered:

- Japan packaging industry data:
  • Volumes for paper, plastic, metal and glass packaging from 2008 – 2013.
  • Values for paper, plastic, metal and glass packaging from 2008 – 2013.
- Japanese environmental packaging legislation:
  • Circular Economy;
  • Front-of-pipe and End-of-pipe compliance;
  • Extended Producer Responsibility.
- Demographic Trends:
  • Household sizes and compositions;
  • Aging population;
  • Youth market and young adults;
  • Mature consumers.
- Universal Design for packaging

- Retail market demands on packaging

- Influence of Culture, Religion and History on packaging design
  • Shinto and Zen Buddhism: the cultural roots;
  • Edo Period: The Golden Era;
  • Furoshiki: Japan’s 16th Century Packaging;
  • Wood-block prints: Japan’s first commercial art form.
- Calligraphy and Typography graphics in contemporary packaging design

- The Cult of Kawaii: being cute sells

- Packaging for Disasters: Great Eastern Japan Earthquake 2011

Orders for this beautiful-looking report can be placed via e-mail at

While I am unable to purchase a copy myself, I would gladly accept one gratis for review purposes, of course.

Packing it in,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Too Shy To Call A Waiter? There's An App For That!

People assume I'm loud and boorish, and perhaps I am - but I am actually shy… so you can't judge a blog writer by his blogs.

Knowing that there are many, many shy people out there - some who are too shy to call a waiter/server over… well, like the blog title says, there's an App for that.

What's a guy supposed to do? Do I click my fingers annoyingly? Gawd, no. Do I raise my hand like I want to tell my Grade 2 teacher that I want to use the washroom? Do I clear my throat like I'm choking on a chicken bone in my steak? Do I tray and talk to them with a "Hi" as they scamper in other directions helping everyone else? Do I simply stare at them with my deep brown eyes - penetrating their soul… screaming internally… until I make eye contact and then give the raised chin nod?

And what if you are in Japan?

All the guess work is now taken out of one's imagination and is handled by a new App called Suimasen Daiko, which translates to "Excuse Me Agent"… which sounds impolite, but what the heck, you aren't actually audibly saying anything… your phone is.

Tap a button on the App, and your phone will belt out: "すいませ~~~ん!” (Suimasen - excuse me).

Does it come in a man's voice or is it just that annoying fake high-pitched subservient Japanese female voice?

It comes in both.

In fact, there is also an ikemen voice… a more cool voice, and by that I mean young adult cool-voice mode, so you youths don't have to sound like an adult. Ikemen is a Japanese term used to ascribe 'cool, good-looking guys'.

Should that not be sufficient, you could also use a bell or a buzzer button on the App to draw attention to yourself and your desire for some ketchup to put on your rice.

As for volume controls… just to avoid things getting out of hand by annoying teenagers and drunken Japanese business men, the Suimasen Daiko App wisely comes with three scene settings, such as 'quiet cafe' or 'noisy izakaya'. An izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment that serves food with your drinks… different from the western bars that serve stale peanuts and pickled eggs with your beer in a dank establishment. The dank… the dank.
Which one is the cool ikemen one? Would a ikemen actually wear a bolo tie (I have one, but haven't worn it since the '80s back when I also purchased a pair of diamondback rattlesnake cowboy boots - don't ask), a cheesy mustache and that hat - what's up with that hat? Pure cheese, man. Would an ikemen wear a bow tie and a tux with white lapels - that's a three-piece suit on the right!? Aren't they out of style?
Suimasen Daikō is from Little Light, Inc., and is available on iTunes.

If you visit the iTunes site, you'll see where I lifted the graphics above… note how the 'human' image is a ventriloquist's dummy… speaking for you with your words in a different voice.

Creepy, but effective.

Andrew Joseph

Ichiro Ties The Babe

Sorry, not a sex-related blog, but a baseball one. I know, I know… I like both, but for those non-baseball fans out there, just close your eyes and think of all the dirty little things you can come with from the headline… who says this blog can't facilitate one-handed reading?

Okay, for the rest of, grab your bat and balls and get ready for news that Japanese MLB ballplayer Suzuki Ichiro (surname first) has tied the immortal Babe Ruth for most career hits at 2,873.

That total still only has Ichiro—it still pisses men off that everyone allows him to apply his FIRST name on the back of his jersey like he was Cher or Madonna or some other one-name pop diva, but whatever—tiptoed for 42nd overall for career base hits (a total that consists of singles, doubles, triples and home runs only).

Okay… if you glance at the photo above, you can see that Ichiro actually had his first name on his jersey even while back in Japan when he started with the Orix Blue Wave. How could he do that?

Still in Japan in 1997 (he came over to North America in 2001), he was considered a modern-day Japanese Babe Ruth, wining three batting titles (winning seven in total before going abroad) and lead his team to a number of Championships.

On the back of his jersey was the extremely common Japanese surname of Suzki (bell-tree) - it's like Smith or Jones or Lee… anyhow… his manager Ogi Akira (surname first) felt that Ichiro was unique… and should be treated and marketed differently from the rest of the ball players… and so… they put his first name on his jersey.

He was no longer just another Suzuki - he was Ichiro… he was an individual…

… if you know anything about Japan, this is way out in left field… it's not done… and while Ichiro was initially embarrassed by the attention it drew to him, he didn't let it disturb his on-field game.

Although Suzuki didn't come over to North America's MLB (Major League Baseball) until he was 27, and he wasn't the hitting machine in Japan early in his career (according to the two first year Japanese ball cards I have of Suzuki with the Blue Wave), he hit MLB baseball like it was a game HE invented. 

On May 18, 2015, Suzuki tiptoed Ruth in the 5th inning of a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks (he also had a hit in the 3rd inning)… on the second pitch of the at-bat, he hit an 89-mph fastball from Rubby De La Rosa and sent it into left field for a single.

Here's what Suzuki said to Steve Wilaj of
"Obviously, when you think of Babe Ruth, he's a home run hitter," he said. "I never seen him play, and don't know too much about him. For me, I'm just such a different type of player. I like to get hits and use my legs to get different types of hits and obviously he's hitting home runs.
"So you can't really compare. Obviously, we happen to be on the same number [of hits] right now, but it's tough to compare the two because we're such different types of players."

Ichiro is just three hits away from tying Mel Ott for 41st on the all-time list.

How the hell can you not know much about Babe Ruth? The guy was a dominant left-handed pitcher before becoming the de facto power hitter in the deadball era and modern era…

Granted Ruth didn't have to face any Black pitchers during his career and most pitchers did not throw in the mid-90s (with a few exceptions)… but it is safe to say that with so many teams nowadays, it is also possible that talent is watered down a bit.

But, in Ichiro's defense, Ruth didn't have to worry about relief pitching either… meaning in later innings Ichiro could be assured of having to face a pitcher who was fresh and capable of pounding the ball with high heat.

In Ruth's defense… he was able to handle pitchers who threw illegal spit balls and such.

Different eras - both fantastic talents. Ruth still gets the nod in my book for simply not looking like an athlete.

So… Ichiro has 2,873 hits… and 3,000 hits is considered a shoo-in for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame (MLB)… but Ichiro did have 1,278 hips in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) league.

That's 4,151 professional baseball hits… all-time MLB hits leader is the black-listed Pete Rose with 4,256.

But I understand… The NPB does have shorter fences, so knocking a ball over or onto a back wall is more difficult in the MLB.

Because Pete Rose is accused of gambling while managing a team - saying he never bet against his team - I think his banishment from baseball should be overturned - partially… MLB should recognize his accomplishments as a player, and should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as such, but should note that he was black listed for his gambling as a manager.

They should also stop the hate against Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Suzuki Ichiro - regardless if he plays another inning, should also be enshrined in the MLB baseball hall of fame. Anytime you can be mentioned in the same breath as George Herman Babe Ruth, you've earned it.

… provided it's not for most hot dogs consumed between innings…

Besides... we're talking about two parts of the world relating Ichiro to the Babe...

Andrew Joseph