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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Picture This

This is actually my third attempt at writing a blog today… I've shut the other two down because I found myself either too preachy or too revealing… and both, for various reasons are not something I feel comfortable in being today.

Heck... not including this blog, those other two encompassed 2,928 words. I guess I'll rework it some other day. Who knows... I have 98 Rife articles in draft form that I began and abandoned.

I'm going to start again...

Let's take a look at something that is Japanese that will make you go - WTF?!

Hmmm… usually when I start writing stuff like that an idea hits me… not this time. I guess I'm just stressed out from all sides.

Lucky me. Long-time fantasy reader Alice just sent me an e-mail showing some spectacular photography. Unfortunately not of her, but rather a web link to images by a photographer in Japan.

I'd rather not swipe the images, so instead, here's a link to see some pretty awesome shots. CLICK

It makes me feel like showing off some of my photography - limited ability and all.

As always… Alice, thank-you for the inspiration.

I still don't know what photo I'm going to use as I write this, but like my time in Japan, discovering things is the best part.

Okay... it's now 10PM... I'm home and just finished watching the Blue Jays beat the NY Yankees in baseball.

Growing up, along with playing the accordion, piano and clarinet, I also taught myself all brass, woodwinds and keyboards, but still managed to find time to play Dungeons and Dragons, live in my parent's basement, and know everything one needs to know about Star Trek without learning Klingon.

I also played sports. I played and coached soccer. I did judo and baseball, but generally speaking, if it was a team sport, I played it. I could catch a football and could kick one, but being a small kid growing up, football wasn't my bag. Neither was basketball or any track and field event except perhaps long jump and long distance running, owing to my soccer skills. I do, however, know damn near everything there is to know about hockey.

In Japan, because I misunderstood a question that very first day of school during a self-introduction: I was asked what sports do I play... I told the Japanese class that I played everything... which was correct.

Not in a league, but you know, in a field with your buds... hacking around... 

In Japan, however, one plays one sport and pretty damn near only one sport.

My answer had the Japanese dub me "Sportsman", even though I did admit to never having played golf, couldn't swim and only did cross-country skiing not downhill.

I thought my answer to be truthful, but clearly I had misunderstood the scope of the question, and even before I had arrived at the second of the seven junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, everyone knew I was some superior man's man who did lots of sports, had musical skills, was a newspaper reporter, had dated three women at once back in Toronto (technically true: a blonde, brunette and redhead, but none would sleep with me) and had photographs of these women as proof (we were told to bring in photos of family and friends to show the kids) - and holy crap a legend was born.

The golden statue of myself atop a solid platinum globe began construction almost immediately.

Statue aside, living in a small city of 50,000 people, everyone soon heard about this foreign specimen of hunkiness, and pretty soon I had the young women of the city going out of their way to meet me. If I had brains enough to learn how to speak Japanese, I would have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to me a whole lot earlier.

It sounds like bragging even to me... and I don't mean it to be (sorry), but the scenario (less the statue) was correct. Add in the fact that I was always joking around and smiling and thus approachable, life in Japan was not only fun, but easy for me.

I'm also a touchy guy... by that I mean I have no problem in placing a hand on someone in a non-sexual or threatening way to convey friendship... even though if you were a woman I probably wanted to make a move on you. Still... I could easily place people at ease - probably easier than I could place myself.

I was also blessed (in a non-religious way) with a great board of education, fellow Japanese teachers, and excellent foreign support mostly from Matthew, but of course also from my girlfriend Ashley.Thank Buddha.

Truly, sometimes you make your own luck. And apparently I did.

Okay, okay... I didn't even take the photograph... still this photo was taken my Mrs. Kanemaru on the 10th day of the 14th month... and it's 1990... back when I was 12. As you can see, even the horse is surprised at how mature I am for a pre-teen.

Okay, ya got me. The white Japanese horse is actually looking surprised that there's a foreigner atop him. I think all forms of Japanese transportation are painted white.

The photo was taken at some local festival that had horse races and horseback kyudo (Japanese archery), and it was where, I believe Mr. Kanemaru-san (my boss) asked both Ashley and myself if we wanted to take up kyudo. It was a sport that Kanemaru-san was particularly good at.

Apparently Ashley said 'yes' and apparently that meant I was doing it to.

For archery, one needs good eyes... and I have astigmatism so my vision sharpness isn't always there, if ever. In three years of practice every Wednesday, I only ever hit a target once, which prompted Kanemaru-san to immediately sign me into a Tochigi-ken (province of Tochigi) kyudo tournament.

I will tell you that at the tournament where I am in full traditional kyudo garb, I hit the target with my first arrow... it just wasn't MY target.

When it was finally time for me to leave Japan, the Ohtawara Board of Education (I only ever thought of calling them the OBOE a few years ago), they presented me with a kyudo bow and arrow set, as well as a target.

While it still sits in its box in my basement, I use it as a reminder that even though I pretty much hated every moment of kyudo over three years, that I still appreciate the overwhelming and unforgettable kindness of the Kanemaru family.

Andrew "Do I make you shutter" Joseph


  1. Note to self: If I ever go to Japan and get asked what sport I play, the correct response is: "Competitive eating, gyoza division." ;)

    1. Ha-ha! Tell me about it!
      As soon as you mention you can do all these things, the Japanese take you at your word and want to share their sport or whatever with you. It's great in that regard... but man... I had to do judo against 12-year-old blackbelts... knowing I had only done the sport for a year - 14 years previous.
      Also, apparently 8 years of not playing soccer will erode your skills tremendously, especially when playing against teenaged boys with unlimited energy to slide tackle a gaijin.
      Competitive eating... brilliant.