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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pointie-Talkie: How Gaijin Have Survived The Japanese For Decades

Okay… so you’re a WWII Allied country soldier who happens to find himself stuck behind enemy lines because your plane was shot down, tank was blown up or your boat was torpedoed and you decided what the heck, five miles isn’t that far to swim in shark-infested waters of Oceania.

No friendlies in sight… and where are you? Those people over there look like they are Japanese… and whatever they are saying sure sounds like gobbledy-gook to you…

What do you do now?

You could pull out your handy-dandy book, expertly prepared for you by the good ol’ U.S. Army Air Force, find the English phrase you think is best suited for the situation, rethink that, and choose again… and then pointing and showing the dialogue to what you hope are friendlies, they can find the language in the book that they understand, and at least get the gist of what the heck is going on and why you are standing in their septic system.

"I am an American soldier needing your help in our struggle against the Japanese, but I cannot speak your language..."

Yes… your book, Pointie Talkie, just saved your butt.

From 1941 thru 1945, the above book was a real phrasebook for those unlucky American airmen who may have been downed... stuck in a place where no one speaks your language...

But, your Pointie Talkie book (images found over at, a place you can purchase old and cool books that will never be found in your local virtual public library) has 190 pages and seven drawings (only seven?!) that depict friendliness between Americans and whomever, as it encourages those poor illiterate country foreign bumpkins to protect and hide the Americans from the Japanese.

The books contains phrases in Chinese, Burmese, French, Thai, Ammanese, Shan, Lolo (Yei) and Lao, with an admonitory statement from Chiang Kai-Shek (Director of the National Military Council) advising natives to assist the American flyer or be subjected to punishment.

That’s nice.

I have no idea what most of those languages are or who speaks them.

And... if these poor people who might help a downed serviceman are truly illiterate... how the hell are they supposed to be able to read the messages in the book?!

Assume that the service man isn't sure where he is... so he has no idea what language the friendlies might speak... even showing the illiterate friendlies all the various language translations might not do him a world of good.

I think... if one is using a book... that one has to hope like hell that all people involved are at least semi-literate.

If I was creating a book similar in scope, I would create something akin to Ikea instruction manuals that can be viewed and resolved in a relatively short time... ergo, having a book with fewer pages of words—regardless of the language—and having more illustrations involving pointie-talkie.

Above is an example of an illustration from Pointie Talkie - and you can see that the American has received help.

In my humble opinion, if the locals haven't already tried to kill you, odds are pretty good they are going to help a lost soldier et al fighting against the Japanese who have helped destroy their way of life.

Still... what might work better is handing over a pack of cigarettes or a chocolate bar along with a promise not to try and sleep with the women of the house.

Kidding aside... does anyone know why this book is Number 5?

Assuming this is the last of the series, what the hell was in the first four books?

Andrew Joseph

Monday, May 30, 2016

John Masters Organics In Japan

Global private-equity firm Permira has agreed to acquire a majority of the shares of John Masters Organics Inc. (JMO), owner of the premium organic personal care brand "John Masters Organics", as well as Styla Inc., the exclusive distributor of John Masters Organics in Japan and East Asia at an enterprise value of ¥37 billion (~US$ 336 million).

JMO founder John Masters and Stlya founders Noda Maiko (Ms) and Noda Yoshimune (Mr) (surname first) will all continue to be involved in the combined businesses under the new partnership.

JMO was established in 1991 by John Masters, a well-known celebrity stylist in SOHO New York. The brand is committed to urban wellness, providing luxury, organic beauty that treats both its customers and the earth with respect. JMO currently distributes its premium, organic personal care products in more than 40 countries.

Styla, founded by Mr. and Ms. Noda, is the exclusive distributor of the brand in Japan and East Asia in 2007.

Permira has a long and established track record of successfully partnering with premium and lifestyle brands to create global leaders, including brands such as Hugo Boss, Valentino and Dr Martens. With expertise in global expansion and a depth of understanding of premium and lifestyle brands, as well as its wide global network, Permira is well positioned to support further global expansion of john masters organics in partnership with the founders.

Says John Masters, “I am delighted at this new partnership and thrilled by the prospect that working with Permira can help bring my vision of super natural beauty and organic, urban wellness to more people around the world who deserve to look and feel their best, knowing that the products they are using are composed of the best, most organic ingredients."

Mr. Noda states: "With our expertise in distribution and product development together with the Permira funds' brand experience, investment support and outstanding global network, I believe we can not only continue to deliver the highest quality organic products to our discerning customers, but expand our offering to even better serve their needs."

Head of Permira in Japan Fujii Ryo (surname first) notes: "We are very excited to announce this partnership with Mr. John Masters and Mr. and Ms. Noda with a view to further develop John Masters Organics globally. Our goal is for the brand to continue its leadership in premium organic personal care and to provide access to John Masters Organics products and vision to an even wider audience."

About PermiraPermira is a global investment firm. Founded in 1985, the firm advises funds with a total committed capital of approximately US$25 billion (¥3 trillion) and makes long-term investments in companies with the objective of transforming their performance and driving sustainable growth. The Permira funds have made over 200 private equity investments in five key sectors: Consumer, Technology, Industrials, Healthcare and Financial Services. Permira employs over 200 people in 14 offices across Europe, North America, and Asia.

For more information visit:

Loud Women In Japanese

For all the images (and everywhere in this everyday blog), click on an image to enlarge it.

Let's take a look at the kanji for woman - look up... 
Yeah, it's a slanty 4 with a line through.

So... I decided to look up the word noisy in Japanese, because I had heard an ugly rumor about something - IE, this blog's weak topic.

Using Google Translate, I was given this:

I had always thought that urusai meant "shut-up!", but here it means "noisy".

Anyhow, looking at the definitions under 'translations of noisy' over on the right of the image above, one caught my eye... so I clicked on it... taking me to this:

What was particularly interesting, was the kanji at the very left inside the box (a close-up is on the right below).

Now compare it to the kanji for women (left below):

Granted that FFF threesome kanji is used by Google Translate to define the English phrase 'Knockabout" and not noisy, but I find it interesting.

Now... I've knocked around a bit - I'm a writer in my day job, and a blogger et al outside, and I've even been known to read a bit...

But I'm pretty sure I've never had a chance to use the word knockabout... which apparently means:

adjective: knockabout; adjective: knock-about
  1. 1.
    denoting a rough, slapstick comic performance.
  2. 2.
    (of clothes) suitable for rough use.
noun: knockabout; plural noun: knockabouts; noun: knock-about; plural noun: knock-abouts
  1. 1.
    a rough, slapstick comic performance.
  2. 2.
    a tramp or vagrant.
It just sounds like a Brit or Aussie or Kiwi-type of slang. 

What does it all mean?

I'm just going to say that I have no idea. That's the safest recourse.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hello Kitty Ain’t No Pussycat

You could have knocked me over with a leaf.

According to my friend Barb, Hello Kitty is not a cat, and is instead referred to by brand owner Sanrio, as a cartoon character.

Uh yeah… I taught I taw a puddy tat…

(says Sylvester J. Pussycat)

But no… Hello Kitty, whose real name is Kitty White (I knew that), is apparently a little girl.

Fug me running. A little girl? A girl cat… an anthropomorphic girl cat. That’s what they say when an animal takes on human features or characteristics… such as Donald Duck… my personal hero because he doesn’t wear pants… typical sailor look in Japan, by the way.

Sanrio also says that Hello Kitty is a friend. D’uh. Although she never writes back, despite all of my attempts to initiate a conversation. Yeah, yeah… she has no mouth… but that’s why i sent e-mails…

So… she’s not a cat… which is why she is never shown on all fours… because I’, sure I’ve seen a lot of white kitties on all fours… but not Kitty White, come to think of it.

Yes… she walks on two legs… sits like a two legged human, and has never thrown her neck out trying to lick her own a$$. No, seriously… you will hurt yourself if you try.

Did you know she even has a pet cat of her own called Charmmy Kitty (on the right in image at top), who is also a white kitty, but in her case, she could probably lick herself… but Sanrio probably wouldn’t like it if she did.

For the record, Kitty White (aka Hello Kitty) also has a white hamster named Sugar, who was given to her by her boyfriend, Dear Daniel… aka Daniel Starr.

Now… if you were to Google Dear Daniel, you might see at the top of the heap a website from, which says that Daniel is also a girl.

He’s not. The website purports to present “50% real news”… okay… so fair warning. It almost got me, but fortunately, I like confirmation from multiple sources - especially if I am going to present them to you, dear Daniel, er, reader.

So… Kitty White is not a cat… she’s a girl.

Sanrio missed the point.

Hello Kitty is NOT a girl… she is a cat-person (not a cat person), who looks like a cat, but behaves like a human being.

The fact that she has a pet cat herself is not proof of her humanness, but rather of her humanity.

I am a HUUUUUUUGE Donald Duck universe fan. Huuuge! I just bought some Uncle Scrooge (Donald’s uncle) books via E-bay… which will give me close to 2,000 duck-related comics.
Ta-freakin' da!
Anyhow… I can recall Donald (and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie) shuddering while in an old temple, spying a row of stuffed ducks… now those ducks looked just like a real duck… size and everything, including the low-squatting stature.
The boy's prefer their turkey store bought.
I can also recall on multiple occasions the boys (ducks) eating a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that was a turkey… including one great story involving a dressed bird cooked on the nose cone of a 1950s jet fighter.

They are ducks… even have the last name of “Duck”, but are merely anthropomorphic representations of ducks, with their all too human antics, adventures and parenting. For example, Donald’s sister Dumbella (initially, but later just Ella) is the mother of nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie… so where the heck is she? Why is Donald looking after the boys? He just is… in an all too human way… doing the best he can with limited resources and an explosive temper.
Friends of Donald Duck are confused with his apparel.
Anyhow… while there are the odd references in the comic books where the Ducks refer to themselves as human, as opposed to the waterfowl… the point is… oh crap… I think I just made Sanrio’s point.

The point is… is that despite looking like a duck or a cat… they are indeed human.

Okay, Sanrio… ya got me.

I was all set to prove you wrong, and I accidentally proved myself wrong and you, correct.

Ya just can’t win against a big corporation.   

So yeah… Hello Kitty… is a female girl.
And... gijinka is a Japanese word for anthropomorphism... 

She’s a Scorpio, in case you care, just like me.  

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Hosono Masabumi: A Japanese Coward?

If you have ever watched a kid’s cartoon or comedy skit involving some sort of a ship on the verge of sinking, one will invariably see some male creature dressing himself up as a woman in an effort to contravene the standard ‘women and children first’ rule, that I can only assume was created before women started demanding and for a partial part, receiving equal rights.

Would a man ever dress up as a woman in order to sneak aboard a lifeboat to save his own skin?

Japan seemed to believe that even without the dress, Hosono Masabumi (surname first, 細野 正文) was just such a man… a coward… a person who deserved to suffer mura hachibu (ostracism).

But did he deserve it?

Born October 15, 1870 and dying March 14, 1939, Hosono was a Japanese civil servant with the Ministry of Transport, who is known to be the only Japanese passenger and survivor of the RMS Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912.
Hosono Masabumi (surname first) RMS Titanic survivor from Japan.
Despite being a survivor, Hosono was afforded survivor’s guilt, that is to say as a Japanese person who survived when others did not, he must be a coward for not dying alongside the other passengers.

In Russia in 1910 to research their railway system, Hosono then traveled to London, stayed a bit then went to Southampton and boarded the RMS Titanic on April 10, 1912—his ticked listed him as a second-class passenger—this is an important point. The ticket at the very top is an a real second-class Titanic ticket, but as far as I know, it did not belong to Hosono. 

During the night of April 14/15, the Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland (now a part of Canada).

Hosonso was roused from his sleep by a steward, but as he tried to go up to the deck where lifeboats were being launched Hosono was stopped by a Titanic crewman who assumed the Japanese fellow must be a third-class passenger.

Hey… when one’s ship is sinking, who thinks they should go and find their ticket?

Eventually getting onto the boat deck (that’s what they called the area where the lifeboats were being dispatched), Hosono saw the panic going on: "All the while flares signalling emergency were being shot into the air ceaselessly, and hideous blue flashes and noises were simply terrifying. Somehow I could in no way dispel the feeling of utter dread and desolation."

Seeing that four lifeboats had been launched, Hosono figured he was going to die, that he would never see his wife or kids again.

"I tried to prepare myself for the last moment with no agitation, making up my mind not to leave anything disgraceful as a Japanese. But still I found myself looking for and waiting for any possible chance for survival."

Seeing Lifeboat 10 loaded, an officer heard an officer yell: "Room for two more”.

Seeing one man jump on, Hosono figured this was his chance for rescue, and got aboard.

Hosono himself seems to think that his presence (as well as of that other man) was something he should not have done.
RMS Titanic's Lifeboat No. 14 with a collapsible in tow, April 15, 1912.
He said: "Fortunately the men in charge were taken up with something else and did not pay much attention. Besides, it was dark, and so they would not have seen who was a man and who a woman."

Hmmm… so Hosono DID realize that the lifeboats were for women and children FIRST… but it seems that at no point were there any more women and children NEAR Lifeboat 10 - or else they would have gained access.

I should say there were probably no women or children of First or Second Class around…

So… coward or smart?

Finally rescued and aboard the RMS Carpathia, Hosono used some Titanic stationary he had in his coat pocket (with the Titanic letterhead) a letter that he had begun to write to his wife in English.
Such as it is, here's a close-up of all the English Hosono had begun to write to his wife on April 10, 1912. Considering thetragedy occurred on the night of April 14/15, it doesn't seem like Hosonso was ever going to finish that letter to his wife in English. Yes, that's what I took out of it.... It's a valid point...

He continued to write (now in Japanese) on the stationary his version of what had happened and what was going on the aboard the Carpathia's voyage to New York.

It is the only such document known to exist on Titanic stationery.

Hosonso Titanic diary/letter Pages 1 and 2 in Japanese.

Hosonso Titanic diary/letter Pages 3 and 4 in Japanese.
Rescued, Hosono eventually made his way to New York, to see if some friends there could help him get back to Japan.

Interesting... did White Star Line - owners of the RMS Titanic - not provide assistance to surviving passengers? I understand it was a bust time... but come on...

Hosono was able to get money enough to go to San Francisco and then to book passage back on a ship going to Japan.

In San Francisco, a local newspaper heard of Hosonso's near-death experience on the Titanic, and called him the "Lucky Japanese Boy".

Back in Japan (Tokyo), Hosono was a celebrity, getting his 15-minutes of fame as he was interviewed by many magazines and newspapers, including the daily Yomiuri Shimbun, which ran a photograph of him with his family.

All seems pretty normal, right?

But... it as back in the U.S.,  when Titanic survivor Archibald Gracie IV wrote a best-selling book—The Truth about the Titanic—detailing the disaster.

Now... while Gracie was a first-class passenger and could have got aboard one of the lifeboats sooner, he and friend Clinch Smith (died and body never found) helped Second Officer Charles Lightoller fill the remaining lifeboats with women and children. 

Once the last regular lifeboat had been launched at 1:55AM on April 15, Gracie and Smith helped Lightoller and others get the four Engelhardt collapsible boats that were stored atop the crew quarters and attached to the roof by heavy cords and canvas lashings.

Gracie had to lend Lightoller his penknife so the boats could be freed, launching Collapsible "C" and Collapsible "D", and only managing to free Collapsible "A" from its lashings—and while attempting to free Collapsible "B", the bridge was awash with cold, Atlantic Ocean water.

Anyhow... look him up or read his book, if you want to know more...

To be fair, Gracie appears to have been an elitist, as well as a racist... or perhaps he was just as most people of that era were.

Apparently, in his book (actually published after Gracie had died), he called every stowaway or man who jumped or sneaked aboard a lifeboat an "Italian", "Japanese", or "Latin", and only gave the names of the men who put their wives aboard lifeboats and remained on the ship if they had been in first class. At least he didn't say "wop', "chink" or "spic".

To be fair to Gracie... did he really write the story that way, or did the editors do so with their own agenda?

The book, however, calls Hosono a "stowaway".

Titanic Able Seaman Edward Buley told a U.S. Senate inquiry that Hosono and the other man must have disguised themselves as women in order to sneak aboard.

There's no proof of that, and appears to be was Buley's attempt to explain how he let two men aboard a lifeboat.

But, when that news made its way to Japan—probably dressing up as a woman to save his own hide at the expense of women and children—well, Hosonso was called out as a coward in the Japanese press, with him even losing his job.

The thing is, Hosono was really, really good at his job, so Japan's Ministry of Transport soon hired him back, working for them until his death by natural causes. 

For Hosono, it wasn't the fact that he survived the sinking of the Titanic, it was Japan's belief that he had only done so through subterfuge.

People would have you believe that Japan branded Hosono a coward because he was willing to sacrifice women and children... something that goes against the samurai code of Bushido or against some ingrain Japanese morality.

The truth is, regardless of where a person is from, if ANYONE had dressed themselves up as a woman or child to try and sneak aboard a lifeboat, if found out they would have been vilified.

It's actually quite ignorant to assume there's some great Japanese morality play in affect here.

It's a human morality play, and at no time is there any evidence that Hosono dressed up as a woman.

Did he think his getting aboard the lifeboat was morally wrong? Yes... he thought so himself, even at that time, which was why he tried to keep a low profile while on the lifeboat.

Does it really matter that someone aboard the lifeboat said there was room for two more people?

No... it was probably understood that there was room for two more women or children. Hosono did understand that, but he chose to go anyway.

Now... were there any women and children remaining on that deck? Did any woman or child perish because Hosono and the other man took a spot in the lifeboat?

No one living can honestly give an answer now.

Being able to answer that question is the only way to assuage guilt or innocence for Hosono in his surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Seriously... if there's no one else around, and there's a spot open, why shouldn't a man take it? If that's what Hosono did, cool.

But, if it was first come, first served, and Hosono jumped into the boat before a woman or child - then shame on him.

Hosonso had survivor's guilt, but he never said he sacrificed others to save his own skin.

Then again... who would?

Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 27, 2016

When Urban Development Screws Up — A Compromise

When one looks the photograph above, you have to wonder just what the fug Osaka’s land developers were smoking.

Is this a highway that goes through a building, or is this a building that has a highway going through it?

Man… I feel like Alice after talking to that Hookah-smoking caterpillar.

If you are wondering if this is some sort of optical illusion, let me assure you that it is not.

The roadway shows (from right to left) the Umeda Exit of the Ikeda Route from the Hanshin Expressway in Osaka.
Hmm... is that a helipad atop the building with a roadway through it? Yes it is!  
The cylindrical building is the Gate Tower Building (ゲートタワービル gēto tawā biru, about as boring a name as one could deliver for this 16-story office building.

Despite appearances, the area is considered to be a mostly-residential area—of course it is… there’s train tracks, a feeder highway, some apartment buildings, and an office building with a frickin’ overpass going through it.

I love the greenspace.

So… the highway ramp does indeed curve through the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the Gate Tower Building.

The highway itself is NOT, at any time, physically connected to the Gate Tower Building.

If you look at the photo above, the highway is perched on a column, as it curls through the hexagonal office building that the locals call The Beehive.

On either side of the roadway, are a pair of elevators that quite naturally will provide service to any floor, except 4, 5 and 6.

Apparently a long-time wood and charcoal business was on the spot of the Gate Tower Building as far back as the 1860s.

While that business had pretty much fallen by the wayside in the late 20th century, the owners figured they could tear down the old buildings and erect a new office building where they could charge the occupants some hefty rent in this residential (?) hub of Osaka.

Sounds like a pretty good plan, right?

The thing is, is that at around the very same time as plans were being made for the new office building, plans were being finalized for the Hanshin Expressway.

I would imagine the government offered the landowners some decent amount of money, but the landowners refused…

In a game of cat and mouse, the government could easily have allowed the landowners to construct a building on the proposed site, but could have limited its height, constructing the exit ramp right over their heads.

Who was going to stop them? Old landowners? Progress? Gravity? How about an earthquake?

Fortunately, the two sides compromised.

Consider… the office building is 16-stories tall, with three of those stories uninhabitable, as the highway runs through them. Ergo, the office space contains 13-stories of usable space.

Thirteen stories? Would you design a 13-story office building?

Even though the Number 4 (shi) is the bad luck number in Japanese (and Chinese) culture owing to the fact that the word is pronounced the same as the word for death, who would have originally designed (not including the as yet-unknown overpass thru… roadway?) a 13-story building?

No… it is my contention that the building was perhaps only a 12-story offering, but if the landowners allowed the highway to pass through its building, perhaps the government or highway builders would chip in and allow the landowners to construct an additional floor of office space that they could rent out and make more money.

Or… perhaps it needed to be 16-stories tall to better support the building thanks to highway vibrations, or perhaps because of necessary architectural supports to earthquake-proof the building.

I like my original idea best.

It provides compromise with greed. Everybody wins. Even the urban planner who has now helped create a Japanese landmark.

To be perfectly frank, despite what looks like urban sprawls (and believe me, as a citizen of Toronto, I certainly know urban sprawl), I quite like the overall brilliance of the solution.

I’m not sure what the hell the helipad is for atop the Gate Tower Building, though.

The Specs:
  • Address: 5-4-21 Fukushima, Fukushima-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-ken
  • Completed: 1992
  • Site area: 2,353 m2
  • Construction area: 760 m2
  • Total floor area: 7,956 m2
  • Structure: Reinforced concrete and partly steel frame
  • Height: 71.9 m
  • Floors: 16 floors above ground, 2 floors underground and 1 top semi-tower floor used for elevator support machinery
  • Purpose: Office building
  • Client: Suezawa Sangyo Co. Ltd.
  • Designer: Azusa Sekkei and Yamamoto-Nishihara Kenchiku Sekkei Jimushō
  • Builder: Satō Kōgyō Co. Ltd.
Andrew Joseph
PS: Images from

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Japan's Best Teacher

Takahashi Kazuya (surname first) is cool.

There is perhaps no better way to describe the 36-year-old English teacher at the Junior High School of Kogakuin University were stacking LEGO blocks — during an English class.

Waitaminute... "Junior High School of Kogakuin University"? Is it a junior high school or is it a university.

As near as I can tell, it is a junior high school that is under the Kogakuin University moniker.

Anyhow, Takahashi-sensei uses LEGO in his teachings, a fact that helped him get recognized globally as one of the world's best teachers.

Ya'll know I likes my LEGO. My kid has reached that point in time where he isn't interested in it as much, but I am. It's just difficult to buy LEGO now knowing it isn't for him (and me), and just for me.

Anyhow... Takahashi, during an English class for first-year students at the school (located in Hachioji - the western part of Tokyo) back in March of 2015, asked his student to create a story in English... and then come up with a way to show that story via LEGO.

Says Takahashi: “(the) Students’ hesitation to speak English will gradually vanish as they try to communicate with each other while building things.”

As Bill Cosby used to say back in the days when he was just a comedian and hosting the Fat Albert Show: "... and if you aren't careful, you just might learn something."

So... Japanese kids had FUN learning English WITHOUT an assistant English teacher AET)?

Who would ever have thought that possible?

You only think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not.

Japanese teaching—even though it was 25 years ago—was pretty rigid.

I do know that some teachers with a sense of humor made the lessons more fun (and my role as an AET on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme was also to make learning English more fun or more cool)... but seeing someone be original like Takahashi, well... I bow deeply in his direction.

I have no idea how such things get out there, but out there they got, and Takahashi, who calls himself a "producer who provides opportunities to students to enjoy studying while playing" became recognized for his unusual teaching method(s).

In February of 2016, Takahashi became the first ever Japanese person to be nominated as one of the Top 10 finalists for the prestigious Global Teacher Prize, which pundits call the "Nobel Prize" for teaching.

There were over 8,000 applications sent in by students, from over 148 countries for this, now in its second year of awarding.

Well... despite Takahashi's Japanese origins and Lego's Danish roots, Takahashi appears to have been inspired in the U.S.

Born in Akita-ken, Takahashi graduated from Keio University before doing some studying in the U.S., where he learned of an education theory: "activities that involve making things enhance childrens’ ability and knowledge.”

Making.... making.... that's cool. Takahashi actually began to use LEGO in his classes four years ago.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Catbus For Adults At Ghibli Museum

One of my fondest memories of Japan involves me sitting at the Hutchison home in Nikko-shi, Tochigi-ken (home of the three wise monkeys), with their three adorable kids around me as we watched the classic Japanese animated film My Neighbor Totoro.

Released in 1988, the fantasy animated film was written and directed by Miyazaki Hayao, and produced by Studio Ghibli.

I saw it first at the Hutchison house in 1992, I believe, as the kids watched it over and over again on the VCR during my weekend homestay… Homestay is the English phrase the Japanese use when a guest visits your home and stays the night.

Then as now, kids (and home domesticated animals) are drawn to me for no reason that I can fathom, and the precocious six-year-old Tamala made me sit beside her to watch the movie.

I love kids, and I love cartoons, plus I was allowed to have a beer while we watched My Neighbor Totoro.

I haven’t watched it since then… some 24 years later… I’m almost afraid to… in case my current old man-ness has become faded and jaded, and I might think it to be dumb… but how could it… it was magical.

I can still sing a few lines of the movie’s theme song… back in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, I would amuse and amaze my junior high school students by singing a few of those lines or humming the music… as they either thought I was cool enough to know such an amazing Japanese thing or a dweeb because I liked a young child’s movie.

However… I know it was the former… the kids would have all sorts of questions for me about Totoro…  so many and so complex that Japanese teachers of English would step in to help answer or to break up the scrum so we could get to class.

Totoro et al really was an effective way to break any barriers down with the kids.

Anyhow, my friend Alice recently sent me a news article via, which notes that the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo will, as of July 2016, have a Catbus for adults.

Not sure what Catbus is? It’s a cat… bus. D’uh.

The museum does have a Catbus that the kids can go in to play… but really… why?

The movie came out in 1988. Assuming a mean age of six (and I know a few six-year-olds that are pretty mean) in 1988, the original movie-goer would now be 34 years old.

An adult.

Nowadays, kids still watch the classics like My Neighbor Totoro… probably because their nostalgic parents force them too, but I’m sure there are far more modern animated films that are grabbing children by the nose…

So… the Ghibli Museum, finally keying in on the fact that its greatest fan base are the kids who are now grown up adults who are in turn getting their kids to watch the movie—have finally done something to reward those adults:

A Catbus they can board - next stop: adventure. Or probably the gift store.

No… I’m pretty sure that Catbus doesn’t travel anywhere (except in your imagination).

The Ghibli Museum will be closed between July 15-17, 2016 “for renovation” which means they are putting in the Catbus for adults.

When it does open, look for the “Ride the Catbus to the Ghibli Woods” exhibit… like you need a prompt.

Anyhow… all of the photos are taken from ignition, who also provide a very nice description of the museum and its attractions.

Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
Shimorenjaku 1-1-83, Mikata City, Tokyo
Open:10:00-18:00 Advanced booking only

To Alice and the Hutchison family… thanks.

By the way… every couple of years or so, Michael Hutchison and I contact each other and share a laugh. Michael is the patriarch of the family and one of the nicest people I have ever met.

Andrew Joseph

Japan's Birth Rate Is Going Up... Slowly

Fugging A!

Apparently there is still hope for the Japanese race not to die out via extinction as its populace has decided to fight back by screwing each other's brains out in an effort to have more kids.

While I can think of a few other reasons to screw one's brains out, in this case the Japanese appear to have their priorities straight.

According to recently released data, Japan's fertility rate is at a 20-year high, with an average now of 1.46 births per woman (per 2015 numbers).

Apparently 2,000 more Japanese babies were born in 2015... and while an up-tick, it still means that 2015 was the second-lowest number of recorded births in Japan since the post WWII-era.

Obviously, the 2014 birthrate was the lowest.

Now... it's still not a high enough number to stave off extinction of the Japanese race... holy crap... it's like I'm talking about the California Condor back in the 1970s... anyhow... 1.46 births per woman is not enough... as you need numbers over 2.0 (two babies to at least take the place of the male and female birthing them) to ensure a rising population.

One can't expect immigration to Japan to affect those numbers, as few people actually move to Japan to become a citizen... and there are many reasons for that.

Still... 2,000 more babies.

Hmmm... it really is a small amount... but ya gotta start somewhere.

Apparently, by 2100 AD, Japan's aging population will drop down to 80 million people from its current number of 127 million as of 2016.

While Abe, without having more kids himself, is doing his best to provide incentives to families having more kids: with a goal to increase its fertility rate to 1.8 kids per woman... which is apparently the same as the U.K. and the U.S.

The thing is... the U.S. and the U.K. actually have upward-moving immigration to help with that 1.8 fertility thing.

Having 1.8 kids per woman still means a negative population growth rate for Japan.

Still... let's take a victory lap dance Japan... at least the numbers didn't trend downward this time.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Japaneseness - A Book Review

Japaneseness is a book a wish I had available to me before I went to Japan.

It is a book that anyone who is going to go to Japan or even is in Japan right now, should read.

Japaneseness is, quite simply, a book that will enable the reader to get a better understanding of the Japanese people themselves, and thus, a better understanding of the culture and society of Japan.

For example: In Japan, I used to wonder aloud in my head, just WHY the Japanese did certain things.

I would, on occasion ask my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education, or my Japanese English Teachers, or friends at the Ohtawara International Society, or my Japanese girlfriends, or my Japanese fiance just "WHY" the hell the Japanese did such-and-such, when to my brain there was a different and simpler way of doing things.

After much sucking of air through the teeth, and cocking of head to the side like a cute widdle puppy dog, I would invariably get a slow response that involved the phrase: "I don't really know why."

They might even acknowledge that my alternative suggestion was a better idea and wonder aloud why no one ever thought about it before...

... and I did, too. I mean... I'm no genius - close, but no, I'm not... but I'm sure smarter people than myself have come up with the same thoughts... so, WHY, Japan, don't you do things other than the way you do things?

Here's the most important thing I learned from Japaneseness: The Japanese do not ask why. There is learning the way to do things, and the why is answered in the learning.

Right there, in a frickin' nutshell, is the answer.

For three years of me racking my brain while in Japan, to the subsequent seven years I have been writing this blog... there's my freaking answer.

It's not "why ask why"... it's just do as we all do, and essentially there's no reason to ask why.

That's why foreigners have an incredibly difficult time in truly assimilating into Japanese society.

We can learn the language. We can learn how to bow. We can stomach all the food and drinks thrown our way. We can go see all the sights. We can learn all their sports. We can even dress ourselves up to look just like them...

... but unless one is raised in the society and culture of Japan, one can never truly be Japanese.

Japaneseness is a book written by Yamakuse Yoji (surname first), and is published by Stone Bridge Press.

There are no photographs or comic images in this book, because none are necessary.

Japaneseness is a guide through the 76 core life concepts that make the Japanese Japanese.

If you are a student of anything Japanese - whether you are someone who wants to do business with the Japanese, live amongst them or live with them... you need to read Japaneseness.

You need to have an open mind, yes, but it truly gives you a peek at the fundamental differences between the Japanese culture and everyone else.

Of course, if you are really smart, you will hopefully also see many similarities. But in these similarities, while you and I learned these rules of life, we wondered why we needed to learn them, while the Japanese just learned them.

For the Japanese, this is 'kata'... the form.

Now... having said all of that wonderful stuff about the book, after reading it and being fascinated by it, I did find some of the things the author Yamakuse described as being a Japaneseness to be... well...

... I had to say BS. Now, I realize this is just me the gaijin simply not getting what it means to be Japanese... but it's not... it's me questioning an aspect of the logic used to try and prove a point.

For example... on Pages 19 & 20 of the book's total 139-page count, I took umbrage at a Japaneseness called "kikubari"... which is, if I may borrow from the book 'thoughtfulness', where "Hospitality and thoughtfulness are one and the same. By anticipating someone else's needs before your own and making them your priority, you create a bond of warmth and respect."

I wonder if I picked on this subconsciously... as my fiance's father put HIS needs before the needs/desires/love of his daughter (and myself). Because of his will, we could not be together.

Anyways... he obviously didn't think this particular kata (form) was as important when a gaijin like me was involved.

But that's not my criticism of Yamasuke's description (which is presented in greater detail in the book) of kikubari/thoughtfulness.

Yamasuke asserts that because Japan has lived in relative isolation for so long, that they have developed an innate thoughtfulness for one another.

To me, that is an opinion that simplifies Japanese society and fails to take into account that until the 1860s, Japan was rigidly separated by class: farmer/peasant; merchant, samurai warriors; and the aristocracy.

The Japanese of pre-1860s Japan did not have a true understanding of one another, except perhaps for those within their own class.

I would bet the same exists nowadays, as try as one would like, there are still different classes, and each has its own unique needs.

The book correctly states that in the 1980s (and 1990s, in my opinion), that Japan was less modest, as its economy has a global juggernaut, noting that it liked to 'brag' a bit about how great its country was.

It was subtle, but it was , to even the dumbest gaijin like me, rather overt.
  • "Japanese rice is delicious";
  • "These are Japanese chopsticks";
  • "This is a Japanese kimono".
The Japaneseness of things was a given and pretty unnecessary to point out.

But anyhow... my point is that Japanese classes only ever understand the class they are a part of. It's been that way in every single country for as long as there has been differing classes... and don't you believe for an instant that all comrade communists were ever equal. Some were/are more equal than others.

The point is, kikubari... thoughtfulness... whether it is shown 100 percent of the time or not, IS one of those kata that the Japanese are taught.

For most of us who are not Japanese, we learn the concept of thoughtfulness/kikubari, too.

We might also utilize most of the kata found in the Japaneseness book, too. But I bet we never sit down and think about it.

In the Japaneseness book, you get an easy to understand book that I believe will give the reader a better understanding of the Japanese... and once acknowledged by yourself, it might actually make your stay in Japan a whole lot easier.

Japaneseness by Yamakuse Yoji, published by Stone Bridge Press, and available for US$12.95 at

Andrew Joseph

Monday, May 23, 2016

Did You Know #10: All The Fanta Flavors With Photos - UPDATED

(UPDATED as of January 22, 2017)
Fanta is a brand of fruit-flavored soft drink, a brand owned by the Coca-Cola Company.

In Canada, I have spied a grand total of three flavors: Orange, Grape and Cream Soda (the pink variety), and all three are occasionally enjoyed by my son as a treat.

Three flavors - and sometimes that is too many options for a 10-year-old.

In Japan, there are 90 different flavors.

Why does Japan get so many varieties? Can’t the Japanese simply adapt to whatever flavor a soft drink manufacturer offers?

Does a soft drink manufacturer HAVE to offer a flavor catering to every single Japanese taste craving?

In Japan, the number one selling flavor is Grape... which is interesting only because around the rest of the world, the best-selling flavor is Orange. 

Hey, Suzuki-san! Do you want a drink?
Sure, Suzuki-san! What have you got available?
I have Fanta, Suzuki-san! What flavor would you like?
What do you have Suzuki-san?
I have Acerola.
What the heck is that?
I donto know. But I could have it on my lips all day.

Well... for all you Suzuki-san's out there, Japan has produced the following: 

All 90 Fanta Flavors Available In Japan (and since when)  

    •    Lemon + C (Since January 2017)

    •    Super Plus 180ml (Since 2016 - only available in vending machines)

    •    White Peach 430 ml (Since 2016 - only available in vending machines)

    •    Cassis (カシス) (Since 2009)

    •    Melon Soda (メロン) (Since 1988)

    •    Funmix (ファンミックス) (Since 2010) - cola and orange blend similar to the Black Orange flavor available outside Japan in the 80's

    •    Club Soda (クラブ) (Since 1958)

    •    Lemon (レモン) (Since 1974)

    •    Honey Lemon (ハニーレモン) (Since 2006)

    •    Yuzu (ゆず) (Since 2005)

    •    Melon Cream (メロンクリーム) (Since 2006)
    •    Grape (グレープ) (Since 1958)
    •    Golden Grape (ゴールデングレープ) (Since 1975)

    •    Grapefruit (グレープフルーツ) (Since 1993)

    •    Pineapple (パイナップル) (Since 1988)

    •    Orange (オレンジ) (Since 1958)
    •    Pine Fruit (パインフルーツ)   (Since 1987)

    •    Peach (ピーチ) (Since 1989)

    •    Fruit Punch (フルーツパンチ) (Since 1984)

    •    Sweetie (スウィーティー) (Since 2004)

    •    Strawberry Cream (ストロベリークリーム) (Since 2012)

    •    Green Apple (青りんご) (Since 1991)

    •    Apple (アップル) (Since 1974)

    •    Zero Cider (ZERO サイダー) (Since 2009)

    •    Hip Hop Fruit Punch (ヒップホップ) (Since 2010)

    •    Apple Mix (アップルミックス) (Since 1988)

    •    Strawberry (ストロベリー) (Since 1988)

    •    Tropical Punch (トロピカルパンチ) (Since 1990)

    •    Muscat (マスカット) (Since 1992)

    •    Squash Punch (スカッシュパンチ) (Since 1994)

    •    Clear Pineapple (クリアーパイン) (Since 1996)

    •    Golden Pineapple (ゴールデンパイナップル) (Since 1998)

    •    Green Muscat (グリーンマスカット) (Since 1998)

    •    Clear Peach (クリアピーチ) (Since 1999)

    •    Lychee (ライチ) (Since 2000)

    •    Funky Lemon (ファンキーレモン) (Since 2001)

    •    Fruity Grapefruit (フルーティーグレープフルーツ) (Since 2002)

    •    White Peach (ホワイトピーチ) (Since 2002)

    •    Golden Apple (ゴールデンアップル) (Since 2002)

    •    Tropical Fruit (トロピカルフルーツ) (Since 2003)

    •    Tangerine (みかん) (Since 2005)

    •    La France (ラ・フランス) (Since 2001)

    •    White Peach (ホワイトピーチ) (Since 2002)

    •    Sumomo (すもも) (Since 2003)

    •    White Strawberry (ホワイトストロベリー) (Since 2004)

    •    Winter Apple (ウィンターアップル) (Since 2004)

    •    Amino Cider (アミノサイダー) (Since 2004)

    •    Fruity Melon (フルーティーメロン) (Since 2005)

    •    Sweet Grapefruit (スウィートグレープフルーツ) (Since 2005)

    •    Vitamin-C Smash (ビタミンCスカッシュ) (Since 2005)

    •    Anzu (あんず) (Since 2005)

    •    Kiwi (キウィ) (Since 2005)

    •    Ultra Lemon (ウルトラレモン) (Since 2005)

    •    Clear Apple (クリアアップル) (Since 2006)

    •    R18 (Since 2006)

    •    White Banana (ホワイトバナーナ) (Since 2006)

    •    Party-Mix Muscat and Apple (パーティーミックス マスカット&アップル) (Since 2006)

    •    Ichigo Cream (いちごクリームソーダ) (Since 2007)

    •    Showato Peach (シュワッとピーチ) (Since 2007)

    •    Fantastic Five (ファンタスティックファイブ) (Since 2007)

    •    Chilly Tangerine (冷え冷えみかん) (Since 2007)

    •    Tropical Mango (トロピカルマンゴー) (Since 2007)

    •    The Mystery Fruit (謎のフルーツ) (Since 2007)

    •    Genius Energy (天才エネルギー) (Since 2010)

    •    Snow Squash (スノースカッシュ) (Since 2010)

    •    Momo (もも, Peach) (Since 2011)

    •    Ume (うめ) (Since 2013)

    •    Nashi (なし) Tottori Apple (Since 2013)

    •    Moo Moo White (もぉ~もぉ~ ホワイト) (Since 2010)

    •    Mellow Muscat (芳醇マスカット) (Since 2014)

    •    Mellow La France (豊潤ラ・フランス) (Since 2014)

    •    Mellow Pineapple (豊潤パイナップル) (Since 2014)

    •    Mellow Lychee (豊潤ライチ) (Since 2014)

    •    Mellow Acerola (芳醇アセロラ) (Since 2014)

    •    Mellow Mango (豊潤マンゴー) (Since 2014)

    •    Mellow Apple (芳醇アップル) (Since 2014)

Retired editions
    •    Raspberry (2006) - could not find a Japanese image

On April 21, 2008 CocaCola put a new product on the market called Fanta FuruFuru Shaker (ファンタ ふるふるシェイカー?).
 It is provided in smaller cans (190ml and 235ml) and consists of two elements: "carbon acid" and a "jelly" substance. You have to shake the can, before drinking it.This product was aimed at teenagers and Fanta lovers, but the drink has become popular with salarymen. After a short run this product was discontinued and brought back for another short run in 2011. This product is once again out of production.

This list, found on Wikipedia, does not take into account a few other Fanta flavors I found:

Fanta Italian Lime:

Fanta Lemon Squash:

Fanta Melon Soda (different from the Cream Soda flavor - see image above):

Fanta Lemon+C

Fanta Apricot

Fanta Pearl

Fanta Pear

Fanta Watermelon

Fanta White Grape
Image from Napa Japan.
Fanta Shikuwasa Okinawa Citrus
Image from Napa Japan.
 Fanta Lemon Squash Cordial
Another image from Napa Japan... seriously... how come I can't find hide nor hair of these flavors anywhere else? Conspiracy theory... starting... now.
Fanta Apple (2011)

Fanta Halloween Orange and Grape

I have no idea what some of those flavors are. Acerola? Isn’t that the big circular that on a woman’s breast?

Kidding aside, I really don’t know what some of the flavors are (every aereola tastes the same - but different, by the way).

R18? Okay, maybe I haven’t had that in a lot of years. Okay, never… but what the heck is Hip Hop flavor. Sweaty with a hint of violence and gold chain? What about Muscat or green muscat… and what the hell is funky lemon.

No one in Japan can pronounce the word “lemon” correctly, and why is it funky. Funky means something smells bad. Just like funk music… they know what it’s worth, and revel in its odor! I love funk music, but I don’t want to eat anything funky.

Anyhow… I notice there’s no Cream Soda flavor in Japan, which is, of course, my favorite.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Coming soon to a convenience store near you (there’s always one near you): Fanta Cream Soda and Fanta Areola. Apparently you just have to ask, and Coca-Col Japan will deliver.