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Monday, October 31, 2016

Best Sweater Ever

Because it's Halloween today, I figure its best we get on with things involving Christmas.

Above is what I consider to be the best sweater ever.

Seriously! Godzilla wearing a Santa hat 9with white fluffy ball at the end), using his radioactive breath to warm the good citizens of... hmmm... let's say Tokyo...delivering ever-lasting joy (no matter how short-lived that might be) to gaijin everwhere!

"That's for making me work on Christmas day! Kill'em all, God! I mean Gojira... er... Godzilla. Ugh... damn... radi... eh... shun..."

While I certainly don't wish ill on the people of Tokyo, or of any of you suffering from radiation sickness from too much Godzilla/Gojira, I do think this is a great sweater and would certainly be very appreciative if anyone were to buy me one (and even better, send me one). I'm a 48" chest... an XL, I suppose.

Happy ho-ho's everyone... and enjoy your Halloween. 

Andrew Joseph
PS: Thanks to Michael P. for the heads up!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

See 40 Years Of Tokyo Fashion In 5-Minute Video

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to fashions… women’s fashion in Japan… especially Tokyo… I have little to zero concept.

About all I knew back in the early 1990s, was that women in Tokyo tended to wear a lot of black, while women In Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka tended to wear more colors, owing to the port activity in the western area, and thus more European fashions hitting the scene, or at least hitting it first.

Tokyoites… they were doing the whole moody U.S. look of black is the new black style.

Me? I like color.

I was pretty clean-cut when I first arrived in Japan. I had grey, and black and navy blue suits that would have fit in completely with male Japanese businessman suit fashion.

I did have paisley ties, however, my holdover from the mid-80s fashion scene from Montreal that picked up on a visit there before it hit Toronto. Obviously paisley was a rebirth from the 1960s, which may have been a rebirth from some other era… Victorian, I want to say… 

I did also have a teal-colored men’s jacket I picked up in 1992 during a visit back to Toronto… just before it became a thing. It was more green than blue type of teal.

I also went to Thailand and designed the style, picked the bolts of silk and made two shirts, dark green with purple threads, and a metallic blue with red threads, a red silk jacket that seemed like a good idea, but ultimately made me look like a valet or waiter at a fancy restaurant, and a pair of black raw silk pants.

I would match my hairband with a main article of clothing - oh yeah, I pierced my left ear and grew my hair out really long, and then grew a French-cut beard.

I even took to wearing an eye-patch long after the two-week need to wear one had passed.

When I wasn't wearing an eyepatch, I wore expensive Rayban sunglasses, a retro 50's look I preferred.

I really had no interest in saving my money. I enjoyed my self and my time in Japan.

Pre-Japan, I was even a male model and graduate of the John Casablanca Modeling Agency. I’m still aces at the Christian Dior turn. I know I don't look the part now... and I wasn't pretty then, but I could walk the walk, and like Johnny Bravo, I fit the suit.

I also owned a pair of diamondback rattlesnake cowboy boots with a gold chain around one of them, and had up to four other gold chains, and a silver ring and a 18-k black star sapphire ring with diamonds that I wore in Japan as the mood struck me. Which, if I recall - was often.

This was the 1990s, okay?  

I was a metrosexual before the term existed. A clothes horse.

I knew what was hot in fashions - often before it hit the mainstream. 

Okay… the eyepatch thing was kindda sad. I also had lousy taste in men’s shoes… or so it seems when looking back with 2016-eyes. It was either a 20/0 vision thing thanks to the eyepatch, or it was simply realizing that my shoes were always just for traveling, and that inside a building I had to switch off to the less comfortable and incredibly gaudy indoor slippers.

As for women’s fashions… while it’s true I used to peruse the retail store catalogues, unfortunately it wasn’t me staring in wonder at women’s fashions, rather it was me ogling the Wonder Bra on various models.

I did know what I liked, and still do. Not a fan of bell bottoms, ripped jeans or even ripped cutoffs. Blue jeans are the best. Not faded. Not acid. Not volcanic stuff you buy… just regular old blue jeans that you wear and legitimately wear out. Those are the sexiest, because you aren’t trying too hard.

I don’t care for ponchos, sarongs and knee-length shorts. Small to medium bags, not oversized. Little to no make-up versus caked-on. Real over fake.

It doesn’t mean I’m right about fashions, merely about what I like.

Today it’s Friday at work, as I write this, and I’m wearing a thin-striped orange and white shirt that looks predominantly orange thanks to the strength of the orange.  Blue jeans - faded, torn at the heels… lived in. I’, wearing brown dress shoes that are soft, slip-ons, that look like they could be casual or dressy. Black belt (always, for me… pretty  much every day of my life, with the exception of the time I had a reddish brown belt I would wear with my khaki pants in Japan), grey sports socks, and boxer-briefs, because I’m sure someone might wonder, since I’m being so honest.

I really do like yoga pants… on women. I don’t like spandex, lamé, rhinestones (well… not too much on clothing), dislike flags on clothing (it seems disrespectful to sit on a flag, eh, or have it cradling your junk or cushioning your butt).

When it comes to music by the decade, I respect the leather jacket, white shirt blue jeans of the 1950s, the psychedelic clothing of the late 60s, and the thin leather ties of the early 1980s. The rest… .meh. It doesn’t mean I didn’t want a pair of killer platform shoes with a goldfish in them, or some thigh-high KISS army boots, or didn’t appreciate the bandanas of well… pick a person.

Incense And Peppermints... you can taste the colors... it tastes like time, man. Don't take the brown acid, mannnnnnn. It's okay if you did, though because no one died from it at Woodstock. Were we at Woodstock-ock-ock-ock? If you can remember, you weren't really there, man.
All I know is that I had a Beatles haircut for ages, loved paisley and wanted to decorate my room like the cover of a The Strawberry Alarm Clock album cover when I was 13 and my mother was going to let me. I even wore silk pajamas… which you should never wear when you also have silk sheets.

You slide right to the base of the bed.

Oh yeah… don’t tuck your sheets in at the base, or your muffled cries for help will go unnoticed for hours.

Anyhow, without much further ado—what sort of writer would I be if I didn’t write?—here’s a five-minute music video from apparel brand Beams featuring 40 years of Tokyo fashion and music culture.

Models are female model Komatsu Nana (surname first) and actor Ikematsu Sosuke (surname first).

Video soundtrack is a bunch of (27) Japanese musicians I do not know such as: Hatsune Miku, Maki Nomiya, tofubeats and Chisato Moritaka—in various musical stylings, performing the song “Scha Dara Parr” (“Tonight is Boogie Back (smooth rap)”.

How the fug the translation of the song title is in screwed up English, I don’t know… but it is.

Enjoy the video:

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Only In Japan: Amazon Selling E-Reader Just For Manga

I have to hand it to Amazon Japan.

With Japan being a huge comic book (manga)-reading market, it would figure that many would prefer to use its e-readers.

The largest drawback to using e-readers is that it can be difficult to read the font.

Well… nowadays, these e-readers offer backlighting, and the ability to increase the font or image size. 

But, ultimately, that means less image seen on the screen… a particularly sucky thing when you are reading mange, and seeing the entire page’s image—the splash page, for example—is a necessity.

Now along comes the Kindle Paperwhite for manga, available only from Amazon Japan (… and again only to the Japanese market - and by that I mean you have to reside in Japan. Amazon doesn’t care if you are Canadian, Australian of Chinese… you can only purchase it you reside in Japan.

Just for laughs, I tried to order this piece of reading equipment and was immediately rebuffed, telling me: “Sorry, it can not be delivered in this zip code”.

It was a nice try… Canada doesn’t have zip codes, and it immediately thought I was American. 

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite released in late October 2016 has 32GB, and was designed to best handle the image-heavy manga/comic book.

While this limited-time Kindle has the same 300 ppi (pixels per inch) visual capability of the standard 2016 Paperwhite, this new version has right times the storage space… because let’s face it… images take up a lot of room.

Want to upload the entire run of Naruto manga? Go ahead.

Want to upload the entire run of three or four of your favorite manga? Go ahead… you have 32GB. Hundreds and hundreds of comic book issues await your geekiness.

I’m not making fun. I own 35,000 comic books… which, while impressive, is more than many comic book stores have set out for customers. I would need maybe 100 of these Kindle Paperwhite's… which could be easily stored…

but… and here’s where I pity those who only use e-readers… while I appreciate the no pile-up of books around the house, the saving of trees, the ease of downloading a book from Amazon or the library…

… there’s something about the tactile feel of hand on paper.

Which would you rather have? An electronic copy of the Flintstones #45 from Gold Key in 1968 (I'm guessing at the year - I'm writing this at work during lunch‚ or a sterile version in electronic form?  

It’s true that once read, it may never be re-read… but holding that comic book… smelling a bit of the mustiness from the paper… that’s nostalgia.

That’s me holding and reading that comic book like every other kid did before me. It’s tradition… a carrying on of a tradition… it’s…

… I believe the Kindle Paperwhite manga version is being sold for ¥16,280 (US $155.48).

Like most e-readers, you can easily flip pages - speed flipping if you hold the button down… 33 percent faster than the standard version at a rate of seven pages per second. As well, you can pinch and zoom the screen to get close-ups of images or word balloons.

The best in one-handed reading… at least since few people are "reading" porno magazines anymore.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Man Behind The Saint

The cool aspect of the Internet as we know it, is the fun one can experience while tumbling down the proverbial rabbit hole.

 Just as I was recently inspired to compile a list of all the Japanese volcanoes (HERE) after starting write-up on Japan’s National Parks (and yet to complete), so too was I inspired to write about St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo after I received a wonderful present in the mail from my friend Vinnie—a man I haven’t yet met, but is a dedicated reader who helps edit my material after the fact to ensure it’s not as poor to read as it could be.

By the way… you other loyal readers - feel free to send me free gifts, too.

One of the items (plural) Vincent sent me was a six-in-one Occupation Map of Japan and the Far East published in 1945 that he purchased and thought I would enjoy writing about.

True… but not yet.

I decided to bring it into work (I have a real job—‘cause I choose not to make skadillions of dollars from this blog by not having ads on it) to show my friend Michael P. who lived in Tokyo for five years, beginning just after I left the country in 1993.

He glanced at the map, spotted St. Luke’s International Hospital and then located where is former residence would one day be located just across the Sumida River (which was, in the 1945 map, labeled as ‘warehouse’).

Occupation Map - 1945. St. Luke's is located just below the Kyobashi Ward label in the center of the photo.

Michael commented on how there seemed to be so many Christian churches scattered across the map—but I was only listening to the term St. Luke International Hospital.

I had come across it once or twice before over the past six years of writing this blog and always wondered just why there was an English name on a hospital in Japan. Maybe one day I'll wonder why there were so many English-named churches, too.

Google Map - 2016
So... here's how it begins:

In 1900, Dr. Rudolph B. Teusler and his wife Mary arrived in Japan.

He was born on February 25, 1876 and was a medical doctor and lay missionary who worked under the Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society of the American Episcopal Church.

A native of Rome. Georgia (the U.S. state, not the European country), and growing up in Richmond, Virginia, he went to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia, and interned at Bellevue Hospital in New York, as well as other hospitals in Baltimore, Montreal and Quebec City before returning to Richmond as an assistant professor of pathology and bacteriology at the Medical College of Virginia.

In Japan, Teusler established an almshouse in the Tsukudajima-area of Tokyo before founding St. Luke’s Hospital in 1902 in Tokyo’s Kyobashi ward.
The original St. Luke's Hospital in 1902.
Teusler was a cousin of Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second wife of U.S. president Woodrow Wilson (1915-1921 served). How'd you like to have middle names of "Bollling or Galt"?

By 1910, his newly-established nursing school studied with 10 students, with a pharmacy—St. Luke’s Pharmacy—established in the Ginza area in 1912. The nursing school was the first such institution in Japan.

In 1913, St. Luke’s board of sponsors—Okuma Shigenobu, Goto Shinpei, Sakai Tokutaro, Sakatani Yoshitaro, and Shibusawa Sakatani (all men, and all surname first)—approved the construction of a new hospital on the site of the original one, adding the word “International” to its moniker in 1917.

St. Luke's International Hospital 1917.
At this time, with WWI raging across Europe (Japan was on the side of the Allies against Germany et al), in 1918 Dr. Teusler was assigned to Vladivostok of the Russian Empire during Russia's Civil War (November 1917 - October 1922).  He became the Head Physician of the Japan-Siberia-USA Red Cross with 30 doctors and nurses under his command.

He remained in Russia until 1921, provided with a military rank of Lt. Colonel, offering medical supplies to Czech, Slovak, and White Russian forces as they fought against the Red Army. Yes comrade, Teusler backed the wrong side in this one.

Following his service in Russia, he went back to Japan, and after the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 completely devastated the Tokyo-area, he fund-raised with the U.S. to construct a new St. Luke Hospital on the same site.

Of course, while a temporary hospital was set up—including Japan’s first Central Laboratory—a 1925 fire took out the 50 or so beds, though all 140 inpatients were saved.

Other first include:
  • 1927: Public Health Nursing Department is established;
  • 1929: Medical Social Services Department is established;
  • 1933: American-style residency training system is introduced;
  • 1956: Medical Records Management Department is set up;
  • 1968: The Coronary Care Unit (CCU) is established, the first for a general hospital in Japan;
  • 1992: The new hospital (currently the Main Hospital Building) is completed, the first 100%-private room hospital in Japan;
  • 1995: Routine hospital-acquired infection surveillance (per United States CDC guidelines) is initiated, the first for Japan;

Obviously, there are plenty of other things that hospital has done, but the ones above are ‘firsts’ for Japan. Click HERE to see the whole list.

In 1933, the new St. Luke’s International Hospital is completed, with six floors above ground and one floor below it, which seems like you are just asking for trouble in an area rife with seismic activity. Anyhow, this new hospital is now called the “Old Building” within the modern-day hospital complex.

St. Luke's International Hospital 1933. Now that is how you fund-raise!
Aware that he would have to retire one day, soon enough, Teusler surrounded himself with western-trained Japanese staff, to ensure it had Japanese roots.

Teusler was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (旭日章, Kyokujitsu-shō), 5th Class, Gold and Silver Rays, by the Japanese Government for his contributions to public health and the development of modern medical practice in Japan. I am unable to determine when exactly he was awarded this medal - posthumously or anti-posthumously… uh, unposthumously… oh yeah - when he was alive. 

The Order of the Rising Sun is the third-highest honor bestowed by the Japanese government, and is given to those who have made distinguished achievement in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field or development in welfare or preservation of the environment.

Where’s mine?

Teusler was also awarded the Russian medal of St. Vladimir and the Czechoslovak war medal for his assistance in the evacuation of injured Czech prisoners of war from Vladivostok.

Teusler passed away in Tokyo on August 10, 1934 at the age of 58.  This is him below... at the age of 58 or younger.

Now, I know that man worked hard and all that, but holy crap, he’s about six years older than I am now, and I don’t look anyway near as haggard. I swear! Or... is this something I have to look forward to in the next six years? Damn.

A month after the war (WW2) ended, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur aka the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, said the the occupying forces had “acquired St. Luke’s Hospital for a period of 10 years, after which it would be returned to Japan for normal use.

In the mean time, it was to be used as an Allied headquarters, as well as a facility to treat Allied personnel. In fact, it used to treat soldiers hurt during the Korean Conflict (formerly the Korean War).

Thanks, Michael!

Dr. Andrew Joseph... who?
Bonus doctor story:
When I was a little bugger… around four-years-old and in Toronto, I recall wearing a t-shirt that looked like a white doctor’s uniform, complete with a stethoscope around my neck, and in the fake breast pocket, various pens, and a thermometer.

It proudly bore the phrase in Red letters over a second breast pocket, I believe, (that is I think it was over a second pocket - it might have been across the lower front of the shirt): “My son the doctor”.

Not quite, but close enough.
I kid you not. I’m sure my mother was never more disappointed when she realized I wasn’t that smart. It probably first occurred for her later that afternoon.

Flash forward to later that afternoon… we were in a Woolworth’s, I believe at Bloor and Royal York in Etobicoke… we were near or at the cash register. The shopping cart was full, and I was standing on the front end of it.

Anyhow, my mom had been pushing the cart and myself around the store. But… for whatever reason, she let go of cart, and to everyone’s surprise, the cart flipped over with my 40 pounds (no idea if that was accurate) of weight acting as a counterweight, and ended up on the floor with packed goods around me and the upside down shopping cart atop me.

I'm pretty sure the shock of it caused me to cry my eyes out, because I wasn't physically hurt.

Let present-me time trip for a second... oh yeah... I was crying... took a few seconds after it happened for the shock to kick in. Then, like now, I have a LOUD VOICE!

Obviously I recall all of this because it was pretty traumatic. And that was back in the 1960s… so apparently time does not heal all wounds.

I know, I know: Tell us another one, grandpa!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Battle Of Shanghai Gas Attack

This is a photo of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces wearing their gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack in 1937 during the Battle of Shanghai.

The Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces (海軍特別陸戦隊, Kaigun Tokubetsu Rikusentai) were the Marines of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Make no mistake, they are dressed thusly because Japan is the one launching the chemical attack against the defending Chinese.

What most people in the West fail to recall, is that while Germany was in the process of readying itself for a battle against Europe, Japan had been attacking its Asian neighbors for a full on five years before the official start of World War II in September of 1939.

A word of advice for any of you AETs (assistant English teachers) who are living in Japan right now and are thinking of doing some traveling in December to anywhere outside Japan, here's a tip.

When a local... say in Singapore... or Thailand or China asks you where you are from, don't mention that you are living in Japan having the time of your life teaching English.

This awesome looking Japanese flag was the ensign of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces, a group in existence from 1928-1945.
While Japan has done its best to try and move on from its humiliating defeat in the Pacific, the Pacific nations are still a tad touchy on the subject of the invaders.... yes, Japan was an invader. They hate Japan. Still do... even 71+ years later.

Even if they weren't born by the war's conclusion, there are generations out there who felt the aftereffects.

I love Japan... but Japan was a dick during WWII, and more importantly, before it. Actually, scratch that... it's political leaders were jerks, and many of its military personnel were... but not everyone.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I guess I'm still feeling a tad moody about people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Memories Of Hiroshima

Here's a disturbing image from the days just after the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August of 1945.

For those who were not vaporized instantly when the bomb exploded up in the air above the city, along with fire, building collapse and broken bones, the "lucky" survivors also had to contend with the unseen enemy - radiation.

Radiation came in various forms... the type that burned an scarred its victims like in the image above (you can see the skeletal remains of the domed building that remain as a reminder in 2016), or as a late-blooming killer that netted more victims days, weeks, months, years and even decades later with a myriad array of cancers.

For those in Japan who want their armed forces back as something other than a self-defense unit, I can only imagine that they have short memories.

War ain't fun. Though I suppose it's a lot easier to undertake (says Andrew, choosing his words wisely), when the government leaders are the older, more privileged buggers who don't have to physically fight it.

Although... when it comes to atomic/nuclear weapons, it doesn't care what your lot in life was.

Somewhere feeling uptight with the world,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Just Say No To Geisha

For one Canadian university, Geisha are out.

Interesting… I didn’t even know geisha were in at Canadian Universities.

Verboten for a Halloween costume, geisha gear is out, and the same with native/First Nation feathered headdresses, as Ontario’s Brock University’s student union has taken it upon itself to encourage its student body (and how) to be more sensitive and less offensive.

Hey - you don’t want to be a White guy dressing up in Black face to be Michael Jackson, right. I was talking about early Michael Jackson… when he his skin tone was considered Black.

Hey… my dad has vitiligo… a condition that removes pigment from the skin… my dad has zero of the brown pigment. Zero.

While I am sure it is very frustrating for him, I have, in the past internally gotten a kick out of the frustration of others when confronted with my dad’s skin color.

My wife is white… and while my dad’s skin tone isn’t really white… it’s more like the color of your skin after you have a scab pulled off… I mean… it’s really white. An absence of color.

So… at the DMV when he was there to sign documents to give me the car, the DMV lady couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that the whitish old man was not the white lady’s father, but the brown guys. Hilarity all around.

Anyhow… the idea of a Halloween costume isn’t to wear a sexy nurse costume or a sex geisha costume, but rather to wear a costume that instills fear.

Now, there is also the issue of common decency.

I admit this is one sexy costume, and I'd love to see a woman out, er, in it, but... I got nothing... I'd probably be too intimidated to talk to you... which isn't the same as being scared.  
While a KKK hooded robe, or a Nazi SS uniform may indeed be quite frightening, they also are costumes in bad taste. Like going as a blown-up suicide bomber from ISIS, a dead fireman from 9/11, dressing up as Caitlyn Jenner…

Wait… what’s wrong with Caitlyn? I suppose it depends on how it’s done and have the legs to pull it off, but really… there’s nothing scary about Caitlyn. I cheered for her during the 1976 Olympics.

If you are dressing up as Caitlyn Jenner because you think transgender is amusing, give your head a shake. If you are a guy dressing up as a famous woman or a woman dressing up as a famous guy - go ahead. Avoid infamous, unless it's a long dead and well-acknowledged madman like Rasputin. You want to avoid controversy - not start it.

Go as a sexy devil, or Lily Munster.

Lily Munster (Yvonne De Carlo) from the TV show The Munsters.
In high school, one classmate dressed up as a sperm, complete with tail, as he took on a small role from the Woody Allen movie: Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask).

He might have gotten away with it, except that he kept poking female students in the butt with his tail... twice proving he really had no clue about the birds and the bees and pregnancy.    

I would also recommend not dressing up as jazz singing great Al Jolson.

The same with Superheroes… really… this is Halloween… scary time. The only time you should wear something non-scary is if you are under the age of 8… after that, you should know better.

I was a ghost every year I went trick or treating. My final year, when I was 11 was when I was in Grade 8… Despite my young age, one should not go trick or treating for anything other than mayhem if one is in high school.

Anyhow… a ghost… the problem was that in Grade 8 (my last year), there were no more white sheets for my mom to cut up for me… as I tended to always ask for a costume on October 31 @ 5PM.

So, she cut up a blue and yellow floral sheet for me (eye holes and nose hole and mouth)… and I went as a Hippy Ghost, man. It was 1976, and hippies were still around. Not in my neighborhood, of course… but I watched TV.

Anyhow… if you are going out on Halloween, don’t dress up as a geisha.

If you think about it, it’s not because it is offensive to Japan… it’s offensive to the women who are real geisha… after all… they aren’t scary at all…. except for the cost for their artistic services. No… they are not prostitutes. They are artisans.

Oh… and while I agree that they are extremely funny (see HERE) … no inflatable sumo suits. Again… they aren’t scary people, so why wear it on Halloween?

In Japan, I did dress up as a female high school student. See HERE. While I do have the legs to pull it off, seeing me dress up as a woman is probably the scariest thing Japan has ever seen on October 31. 

No geisha.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Strangely enough, I know two women who are celebrating a wedding anniversary on Halloween… I have never met their husbands, but I hate them both. And, if I have used that line previously, it's okay because it remains true.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Apparent Suicide Blast in Utsunomiya

All I can say, is that if you want to kill yourself, there are better ways to do so than via an explosive.

On Monday morning (Tokyo time) at 11:30AM, multiple explosive blasts rocked Tochigi-ken's capital city of Utsunomiya, killing one person and injuring three - the police believe it's linked to an apparent suicide, as there was an apparent suicide note left at the scene.

The note was found in a house destroyed by the blast and ensuing fire, and belonged to a 72-year-old former member of Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

After the house explosion, two cars in the area also caught fire - one of which is believed to have belonged to the the man.

The blast occurred at 11:31, 11:32 and the final one 15 seconds later.

The explosions seriously hurt two men, with a 14-year-old boy also sustaining leg damage in a nearby park. No-one was injured in the car parking area.

I bring up this story because it's kind of a local story for me, as I lived in Tochigi-ken and frequently visited Utsonomiyashi (city).

In the image above, I like the fact that after an explosive blast or three had gone off, one person can be seen in the far right having a smoke.... cause there's obviously no gas main leak or anything like that.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nikko Is Nippon

Last week while Matthew was in Japan, he sent me this photo he took at Nasushiobara JR (Japan Rail) regular train station waiting to catch a train south of Nishinasuno and from there either a taxi or a bus back to Ohtawara-shi where he is staying.

Nozaki-eki (Nozaki station) is in Ohtawara proper, but it is so far west that the ride in to downtown Ohtawara from Nishinasuno-eki is actually quicker.

The framed images on the train station wall are tourist posters to visit Nikko, because “Nikko is Nippon”.

A pretty bold statement, but for travelers to Japan, it’s not inaccurate. Tokyo and Osaka are like New York, London or Toronto - hep, happening places where something is always going on.

But if you want a glimpse into feudal Tokyo, well, along with Kyoto and Nara, Nikko is a great place to visit, with plenty of shrines, temples, parades, stone lanterns, nature - what have you!
  • It would take me: 20 minutes to ride from my apartment in Ohtawara to Nishinasuno-eki;
  • Catch and ride a regular JR train south 40 minutes to Utsunomiya;
  • Catch and ride the JR train northwest 40 minutes to Nikko;
  • Walk 15 minutes to the main Nikko shrine/temple area to begin gawking at the architecture.
I would visit Nikko once every two months, maybe more often. While I only went and saw the shrines and temples maybe six times in three years, I spent a few times visiting friends (Hutchison Family), sightseeing Chuzenji-ko (Lake Chuzenji) and Kegon Taki (Kegon Falls) to take photos.

But really, mots of the time I visited an antique shop and would talk and learn about ukiyo-e art, purchasing a few along the way.

As for the tourist poster, we notice that the 'Nikko is Nippon' tagline is written in English.

Make no mistake, this poster is for the Japanese public. No. 1... Japan's tourist associations are pretty darn savvy. They would never create an ad for the foreign public using the term "Nippon". Yeah, the word Nippon (which is used by Japanese to represent the name of their country Japan - they also use Nihon) all over their postage stamps, but when marketing to foreigners, they would have used the more familiar tern of 'Japan'.

Also, the dialogue on the posters is written in Japanese...

Still 'Nikko is Nippon' is written in English. There's the word "is"... implying the power that English still has over the populace.

It's a little thing, but it is still telling.

Image by Matthew.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 22, 2016

It’s Always Sunny In Ohtawara

This past week, my good friend Matthew traveled back to Japan with his family to visit his father-in-law who is sick back in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

Matthew, good buddy that he is, sent along some photos of where he was, taking the time to do two things with the photos here.

1) It’s my old home - Zuiko Haitsu (aka Zuiko Mansion) in downtown Ohtawara-shi… I lived on the 3rd floor of the wing. Note that floor one is not street level. Seeing that family apartment building that was at one time the tallest building in the city of 50,000.. well… I can’t help but think of all the great and fun times I had and how I am never going to sleep with that many women ever again. Sigh. What is particularly interesting about this image (for this point), is that the streets are wider, as all of the old homes have been removed. I don't feel too bad about that, as some of those homes used sheets of corrugated steel panels, and while I respect that not every one has money or dumb luck to live in a Zuiko Mansion, those homes looked completely out of place. The roadway back then in 1993, was essentially one-lane each way.

2) The sky is blue. I am pretty sure it was Matthew who drizzled the nickname Ame Otoko (Rain Man) upon me, as it always seemed to rain whenever I traveled in Japan.
Perhaps starting out as a joke, Matthew would ask me of my future movements before making vacation travel plans. It really was that wet when I traveled.
I could arrive somewhere warm and sunny, and after an hour when the rain clouds that perpetually followed me caught up, it would rain. There was talk amongst my Board of Education office staff about sending me around to some of the areas afflicted with a bit of drought to help save the crops.  As Matthew’s photo proves, it’s always sunny in Ohtawara, when Ame Otoko is stuck in Toronto with the rain.

Granted that the old place looks a little beat up... note that I left there 23 years ago.

Would you believe that Matthew called me from Ohtawara on Thursday night? What a friend.

While I lived at Zuiko Haitsu, Matthew lived a five-minute bicycle ride away in a very nice place. I taught at the then seven junior high schools within the city, while Matthew taught at the junior high schools on the outskirts of the city.

Images are by Matthew.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, October 21, 2016

6.2M Earthquake Hits West Japan

After a 6.2M earthquake (it could be upgraded to 6.6M) shook the western part of Japan within Tottori-ken (Tottori prefecture) on Friday afternoon 2:10 (Japan time), reports indicate that there is no chance the quake will cause a  tsunami, as it is too far inland.

The earthquake was triggered under Tottori at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles), and is a shallow depth, as far as earthquakes go.

Reports have come in of seven people injured, zero deaths, with minor damage (relatively speaking) where two houses collapsed, with standard fare of roof tiles off, walls breaking in a few places (older buildings), and the usual stuff falling off shelves.

An NHK news items says a woman was taken to local hospital after oil she was cooking with splashed upon her at a restaurant. 

Let’s not kid ourselves, a 6.6 or 6.2 earthquake is still pretty darn strong.

The earthquake that smashed Christchurch, New Zealand in February of 2011 was a 6.3M.

The epicenter of this Japanese quake was ~700 kilometers (430 miles) west of Tokyo.

Andrew Joseph

Japan And Pogo Stick Jumping

To be perfectly honest, I never, ever saw a Japanese person, or a gaijin (foreigner) utilize the springy power of a pogo stick in the three years I lived in Japan in 1990-1993. That was 23 years ago, but even still... when was the last time you saw a kid on a pogo stick anywhere?

As much of a weirdness magnet that I am, I have only seen one such weird kid bounce a couple of times—and he was doing it on grass, hardly the smoothest surface, because as weird as that kid was, he knew that one misstep on a pogo stick on concrete or asphalt would leave a mark as permanent as the one in my school file.

Driving my son around the other day, he asked me if I had ever heard of some guy who had used a pogo stick to climb Mount Fuji.

Of course not. Not only am I famous for presenting old news, I also have a well-honed BS button that doesn't immediately believe stuff because I am married and have a soon to be 11-year-old son.

(Also... I wasn't just a terrible liar as a kid, I was a pretty damn successful one, so you have to get up pretty early to fool me.)

But my kid wasn't lying... I figured he just misheard something from some other stupid kid friend of his.

But no, he assured me.. he had read it on-line somewhere... so Hades help me, it had to be true.

Turns out the boy was partially correct, while the Internet was fully correct.

There was a guy who used a pogo stick on Mount Fuji and set a world record.

All of which tells me that the concept of 'world record' sure ain't what it used to be.

I just wanted to know who was the heaviest man, set or twins, most number of kids born in one birth, largest number of kids, tallest man, shortest person... stuff like that.

But today's world records are being created as willing participants create ways they they will get themselves included into the 'record book'.

Back in 1986, an American named  wasted his time bouncing up and down the foothills of Mount Fuji traveling a distance of 18.55 kilometers (11.53 miles) until he either got bored and stopped or fell off like spaz because what he really wished he was doing was to have not had that soda pop an hour earlier that is not causing him to want to urinate.

Fro what I understand, Guinness - they of the world record thingamabob - they allow the pogo stick jumper to take a five-minute break each hour

At that time, he broke his own record for longest distance jumped on a pogo stick. No time was given as to how long it actually took Furman to perform his little stunt.

Here's what  Furman had to say in his own words ( " While speeding across Japan in a bullet train, I spotted Mount Fuji sparkling in the distance through the window and I was stunned by its majestic beauty. I knew I just had to climb it on a pogo stick! Since I was leaving the Orient in a few days, there was no time to waste. I had my pogo sticks flown over from New York, alerted the media and, with helpers and witnesses in tow, ventured into the unknown.
It was one of the highlights of my life. It was exhilarating ascending towards the snowline and breathing in the fragrant and crisp, thin mountain air. I had a powerful meditation at the turnaround point. Contrary to what I expected, going down was a lot harder, since I was already tired and had to use all my strength to avoid bounding downhill uncontrollably."

I suppose that's kindda neat, but I don't think owning that kind of title is going to help you get laid anytime soon. Am I right? Still... if you look at the photo up above.. the guy is ripped. So maybe I'm wrong.

In 1993, Ashrita Furman was at it again on Mount Fuji, this time bouncing over a distance of 25.7 kilometers (16 miles)… which took him 6 hours and 40 minutes. The 16-miles was the distance he was aiming for to garner the new distance record.

Says Furman: "My handler was a professor of biology who used to raise butterflies as a hobby. As I was racing down the mountain in the pouring icy rain, deeply concentrating on not sliding off the road and trying to finish before I cramped up, I saw the professor in the distance frantically waving his arms. “STOP, STOP!” he cried out. I thought there must have been a serious accident or something, but, both to my relief and disbelief, when I reached my friend he pointed to a big, brown, ugly moth perched on a tree. Excitedly he exclaimed, “Look, it’s the rare Lepidoptera saturniid! Isn’t it marvelous?"

What’s sad is that it also had to viewed and verified by a world record holder judge in order to be substantiated… so that’s at least three people who apparently had nothing better to do that say.

For some reason, Furman's record has been broken many times, the last (but probable not the last) time it was done by Jack Sexty (that can't be his real name) from Great Britain (U-S-A! U-S-A!) who hopped around Manchester U.K. on April 6 and 7, 2014 for 16 hours and 24 minutes, at which time he traveled 42.195 kilometers (26.22 miles).

No... I am not jealous. Maybe of his name.

And, for whatever reason, another American named Fred Grzybowski performed the most back-flips on a pogo stick in December of 2013 (the site doesn't offer an actual date, and to be honest, does it matter?) - when he performed 17 in a succession without failing or falling off.

So... 17 backflips is actually pretty cool because there's a high level of danger and pain involved in the failure to perform even one of these pogo tricks.

Anyhow... my point remains... if you look at Furman's website comments, it's pretty much all kids who are working the pogo stick.

I am jealous, however, that Furman et al actually got into the world record book.

Sexty. Hee.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Great Postcard Mystery #3

Once again, thanks to the generosity of Vinnie, we have ourselves the third great postcard mystery where he sends me an antique postcard and I try to figure out what the heck it’s all about.

Disclaimer #1. I had help. Lots of it from Takako, the lovely wife of my friend Matthew who lived nearby in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken when we were AETs (assistant English teachers) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme a few years (ahem) ago.

I looked at the front of the postcard above and had no clue who was in the airplane. The guy with the wicked mustache looked French. I also assumed he was French because there were a lot of famous French aviators in that era.

What era?

For that, we have to examine the postage stamp on postcard. Interesting, by the way, that postcard is stamped, but there was no message or address written atop it, meaning it was done for show - perhaps to be sold to a stamp collector at a later date. A keen reason why the postcard is in excellent shape for its age.

The Japanese postage stamp (Sakura Catalog # C27 - part of the commemorative and special issue releases) was my first clue as to age, issued on November 1, 1920, the 3-Sen stamp depicts the Dedication of the Meiji Shrine. It is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken only, and does not contain the emperor's grave, which is located at Fushimi-momoyama, south of Kyoto.

So… either the stamp was produced before the postcard was issued (IE, the stamp was made and held onto for a while before use) or the postcard was made previous to the postage stamp (IE (postcard was made and held onto for a while until it was decided to be used in the promotion, and then stamped with a then-current postage stamp). 

So we have an event depicted on the postcard that is more than likely from before November 1, 1920 and featuring a French aviator.

I looked up famous French aviators in Japan—sure, in Japan, because this is a Japanese postcard… but failed to make any headway.

Then I looked up famous French aviators looking at images - and failed to see the man on the left.

Looking up French and bald, gave me a whole different thing that we won’t get into here.

Then I looked up famous British, then American, then German and Canadian aviators from 1925 and earlier, without any luck.

Then I gave up and asked Matthew who asked Takako who responded quickly, telling me that the Japanese writing essentially states: Italy. The man on the left is Mr D'Annunzio. The aircraft is an Italian bomber called SVA. (ズバ).

Waitaminute… the guy is Italian? D’oh!

Dapper little near-fascist Gabriele D'Annunzio, was more of a poet than a fighter, even though he loved to fight. Wars that is, with other people doing the actual soldiering.
And then Matthew and Takako provided me with a wiki on the D’Annunzio fellow, essentially solving the whole mystery in mere seconds.

Except… who is the second guy (on the right), why are they important enough to Japan that they would create a Japanese postcard of it?

This little mystery takes us to the Meiji Shrine, an examination of postage stamps, Italy and Austria, plus the wackiness of artists who think they are warriors.

Who is D’Annunzio? Well, he is Gabriele D’Annunizio, born March 12, 1863, died March 1, 1938, and he was a poet.

Which doesn’t explain why he is in the SVA airplane.

He was, more than likely at the time of the postage stamp being produced, the president of the Free State of Fiume.

Never heard of it? It’s like a Marx Brother’s movie. 

The Free State of Fiume existed between 1919 and 1924 and called officially "Stato Libero di Fiume". Its territory of 28 km2 (11 sq mi) comprised the city of Fiume (now in Croatia and, since the end of World War II, known as Rijeka) and rural areas to its north, with a corridor to its west connecting it to Italy. D’Annunzio was its head of state from September 12 through December 30, 1920 - the Duce!

For you stamp collector's out there, you already know how much history one can learn from the philately hobby. This is a 1921 Fiume postage stamp with D'Annunzio's portrait, bearing the State's motto in Latin: Hic Manebimus Optime, which translates to "Here we'll stay wonderfully." What a rife!

Apparently a man’s home IS his castle.

Along with being a poet, writer, playwright and journalist (so was/am I),  he was also a soldier during WWI between 1915-1918 as  major, Lt. colonel and general (honorary).

Let’s see… how old would he have been?

37 + 15… 52 years-old in 1915?

He was actually a well-known person of interest in Italian literature from 1889-1910, and after his foray into politics following the Free State of Fiume… 

So what was a poet doing in an airplane?

In the months before the end of WWI, D’Annunzio helped spearhead an air raid on August 9, 1918 known as The Flight Over Vienna.

Never heard of it? It was a big deal to Italy. 

The plan was for 11 Italian-built Ansaldo SVA aircraft flown by his squadron La Serenissima to fly 1,200 kilometers non-stop in a round trip from its military airfield Due Carrare in Padua, Italy to Vienna to drop some 50,000 propaganda leaflets.

The wonderful plan by D'Annunzio was actually thought of a year previously, but there was that whole logistical problem of the airplanes of the day lacking the fuel capacity to pull it off - especially if any of them wanted to return alive, which was a key part of the plan.

After essentially adding larger fuel tanks to the planes, the first attempt was on August 2, 1918, but heavy fog caused the squadron to return to home base.

On August 8, 1918, a second attempt was made, but the wind was too strong... and recall that this is 98 years ago, so airplanes (really aeroplanes) weren't as strong or secure as they are nowadays.

On August 9, 1918... success.

The La Serenissima squadron flew over Vienna and dropped the three-colored card leaflets (red, green and white - the colors of the Italian flag).

What is interesting to people who like this sort of thing, the message on the leaflet to the Austrian enemies of Italy were written by D'Annunzio himself in his native Italian.

Waitaminute! Did he really drop leaflets written in Italian onto the German-speaking populace of Vienna? 50,000 Italian leaflets?

Pasta fazool! No wonder they let Mussolini come to power in 1922.

50,000 leaflets wafting gently over Vienna as dropped by Italy's D'Annunzio and the La Serenissima squadron on August 9, 1918.
So, what did D'Annunzio have to say to the people of Vienna who had no clue what he was rambling on about?

Here's an English translation for you, because I'm not a crazy Italian poet, and boy do I know it:

"On this August morning, while the fourth year of your desperate convulsion comes to an end and luminously begins the year of our full power, suddenly there appears the three-color wing as an indication of the destiny that is turning.

Destiny turns. It turns towards us with an iron certainty. The hour of that Germany that thrashes you, and humiliates you, and infects you is now forever passed.
Your hour is passed. As our faith was the strongest, behold how our will prevails and will prevail until the end. The victorious combatants of Piave, the victorious combatants of Marna feel it, they know it, with an ecstasy that multiplies the impetus. But if the impetus were not enough, the number would be; and this is said for those that try fighting ten against one. The Atlantic is a path already closing, and it's an heroic path, as demonstrated by the new chasers who colored the Ourcq with German blood.
On the wind of victory that rises from freedom's rivers, we didn't come except for the joy of the daring, we didn't come except to prove what we could venture and do whenever we want, in an hour of our choice.
The rumble of the young Italian wing does not sound like the one of the funereal bronze, in the morning sky. Nevertheless the joyful boldness suspends between Saint Stephen and the Graben an irrevocable sentence, o Viennese.
 Long live Italy!"
(signed) Gabriele d'Annunzio

The actual leaflet - just in case you didn't believe me.

Who knows... maybe it worked. Germany and its partners officially ended WWI on November 11, 1918, just three months later. Riiiiight.

Which brings me back to the WTF aspect of the Japanese postcard honoring this event.

Why would Japan create a postcard honoring the exploits of a crazy Italian poet who had the intestinal fortitude to drop propaganda leaflets over enemy territory during WWI? Japan was on the side of the Allies in WWI. Of course, so was Italy.

As near as I can tell, the reason this postage stamp was created was to actually honor Italian aviators who dared to fly out to Japan. And if one postage stamp honoring them is a cash bonanza, then surely multiple postcards with different images would also be a cash bonanza, pardner.

In 1920—the same year the postage stamp on the topmost postcard was issued—famed Italian aviators Arturo Ferrarin and Guido Masiero flew 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from Rome to Tokyo in a pair of Ansaldo SVA-9 airplanes, making multiple stops along the way, thanks to re-fueling, crashes and more. Originally it was 11 pilots - but those... accidents... still, it was an impressive undertaking... especially when you consider the true infancy of aviation at that time.

For the Japanese, the arrival of these two pilots was quite the hubbub, and the populace gobbled up all information and souvenirs on their arrival... hence the creation of postcards of other great Italian aviation achievements such as the Flight Over Vienna. At least that's what I figure.

There was another great Italian flight through Japan a few years later, but that is a story for another day.

Andrew Joseph
Thanks again, Vinnie!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tom Hanks Knows Everything About Japan

So… Tom Hanks—movie and television star and voice-over animation actor—was visiting Japan back in September and has decided to write his own informational blog.

It’s called Gaijin in Japan. Or it will be.

I don’t know what I find more galling… the fact that a guy who has spent all of several days in japan feels like he has enough knowledge to properly write about Japan, or the fact that the blog title “Gaijin in Japan” is STILL available as a blog title despite the fact that there are hundreds if not thousands of blogs written about Japan.

My blog, this one: Japan—It’s A Wonderful Rife, is of course a parody of a movie (It's A Wonderful Life) starring that other famous every-man star. No, not Mickey Mouse, but rather Jimmy Stewart.

Tom Hanks is a very good actor—and I loved watching him on TV in Bosom Buddies (1980-82)—but he ain’t no-no-no Jimmy Ssshtewart, and I think Tom is a gentleman enough to agree, but secretly hate that others are aware of the fact.

According to Tom - you don’t mind if I call you Tom, do you?

Mr. Hanks says he hasn’t actually begun his blog yet, but the first topic du jour may be “Top 10 Ways You Shouldn’t Use Chopsticks”, with future topics perhaps being “The 10 Types of Gaijin in Japan”, and “Japanese People Should Stop Generalizing Foreigners.”

Excellent, Mr. Hankie, sorry… Hanks… perhaps a Top 10 List on Top 10 Lists featuring a Japanese subject.

Okay… I admit I am intrigued by the 10 types of Gaijin, as I can think of more than that, but it really depends on the subjective style he wishes to follow.

The key, is to not really know what I just wrote, but just to accept it as fact.

That’s what Mr. Hanks will hope for, too. Unless he’s getting fed information directly from his translators, rather than experiencing it directly for himself… and really… he’s Tom-frickin’Hanks… how can this guy experience Japan when he’s sheltered by handlers? And has an itinerary where he is actually told about the itinerary, and the itinerary is followed perfectly.

When the heck does that ever happen to the average foreigner in Japan?

Anyhow, Tom Hanks, sorry… Mr. Hanks has also taken video of himself… or maybe he’s had others film him… I mean, wouldn’t you, if you were a movie/tv… IE film star… and is thinking of creating a gaijin YouTube channel.

By the way… the article on Mr. Hanks in Japan… and his plans to start a blog… it was from The Rising Wasabi… a bilingual, satirical publication on news from Japan.

I really should have looked at the name of the publication first. Wasabi... Onion... damn... a parody publication.

So… while it may be true that Tom Hanks visited Japan, odds are really great that he’s not creating a blog about Japan.

I didn’t know that when I sent the original story (HERE) to my buddy Matthew who was just touching down in Japan with his son to visit the boy’s sick grandfather.

It’s funny only because Matthew commented to the story writers as though it was serious… still, I do feel bad… I didn’t know it wasn’t true, either, at the time.Of course, I hadn't actually read the article until after I sent it to Matthew - having just gleaned the headline figuring Matthew might enjoy reading it while on the train(s) to Ohtawara-shi.

My intentions were good, even if the end result was funny for at least one of us.

Gomen, ne,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mount Fuji Postcard - Bird's Eye View

Here's is a real photograph postcard of Mount Fuji given to me by my buddy Vinnie.

The stamp on the back shows the date 28.8.7., which is the year, and month/day or day/month.

The year, however, is not 1928. The Japanese use the date of the current Emperor's reign to denote the year, though nowadays, they also use the current Gregorian calendar, so they are all aware that it is now 2016.

But which 28th year of Emperor reign is the postcard from?

I wondered if it could be from the 28th year of the Meiji Emperor, which would make it 1895.

However, a quick perusal of the use of real photographs as postcards did not occur until a few years later.

According to "Though the first documented photo postcard was mailed in 1899, the style wasn’t firmly established until Eastman Kodak began selling Velox photo paper with a pre-printed postcard back in 1902."

The next Emperor with a 28+-year reign is Emperor Showa (the son of Emperor Taisho, who was the son of Emperor Meiji).

The 28th year of Showa's reign puts this card at 1951.

All of this means that me wanting to do a simple posting of an image of Mount Fuji showing an image I bet none of you have seen before was again a mini, magical mystery tour.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sumo Stereographic Photo And T. Enami

I'm a fan of Japanese sumo wrestling, pretty much picking up most of the sport's intricacies from watching every tournament on television between 1990-1993, and talking and asking a lot of questions of the male teachers at my various schools who all watched it.

The female teachers - not so much.

It's like every stereotype you can think of being true.

The men like sports. The women say they like to watch sports, but usually the only intelligible comment I could get from the women was that Takanohana was a very handsome man.

I know the women did sports in school as a student and even as the teacher in charge of certain club activities. I know there were female physical education teachers.

But when it came to Japan's national sport, it was a male dominated industry.

Perhaps that has more to do with the fact that women were not allowed to be sumo wrestlers even as youngsters, for fear that that whole bleeding once a month thing would befoul the purity of the sport.

As stupid as it sounds, in sumo there is a lot of purification of body and soul and of the ring going on by the ritualistic tossing of salt done by the combatants before each match.

Still... no female sumo athletes is silly. I know some clubs have been progressive in allowing female sumo wrestlers in their club, but problems invariably arise when less-enlightened clubs refuse to allow a female fighter to battle one of their own - claiming that purity thing.

Up above, we have a stereograph photo of some sumo wrestlers from - and I am guessing here - from the turn of the 20th century or within 30 years before it. Image is from

However, from what I have learned, this print may be from 1903 or later, simply because that was when the photographer began placing his imprint on the FRONT of the sterograph cards. It does not mean that the photograph was taken at that time, just that that was when this card was manufactured.

 A stereograph photo is created when two photos of the same scene are taken, with one photo shifting the angle ever so slightly. When viewed through a special sterograph viewer, it presents a single image in 3D.

The photographer would shoot his or her images in black and white film, with artists later hand brushing in color.

The hand-painted aspect of the sumo dress garb was more often than not done for the foreign visitor market, or for booklets shipped and sold overseas, as many western nations achieved their own Japanese version of Beatlemania back in the 1870s or so.

The sumo-san look little like the images we have of sumo, who are always huge mountains of flesh hiding thundering muscles... but this group above... they are powerfully built - especially when you compare shoulder width of the bare-chested men against the others.

Back before WWII, the majority of sumo wrestlers were buff men like the ones pictured above. Very few were the huge, fat guys we imagine was the norm for the sport. However, those who were big and fat-looking were immortalized via various ukiyo-e paintings. 

Below, someone took the time to combine the two images of the stereograph photo to create a moving Gif file.

But who's kidding whom?

I like history. And while I can't tell you who the men are in the photograph, I can tell you that they are from the Yokohama area, and were photographed by T. Enami (江南 信國 Enami Nobukuni, 1859 – 1929, born in Edo (now known as Tokyo).

T (maybe Toshi) Enami, circa 1909.

While all of the 'famous' Japanese photographers of the era would include a few photos of sumo wrestlers in the albums they created, Enami was one of the few create an entire album devoted to sumo wrestlers, featuring champions and well-respected beya (stables of wrestlers).

The image above is S363 from Enami's known 3-D Catalog.

You'll notice that the man in the far left of the image at the very top is a 'ghost', an effect seen in older photography because he moved his head during the snapping of the photos.

I am in the process of communicating with another website (where the photos were found) to determine if they know WHO is in the photo and from what sumo beya/stable and when the photo was first taken - at which time, I'll add an amended or updated notation at the title.

For more on T. Enami and magic lantern images IE sterograph photos, look to

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Japan’s Seagaia Ocean Dome

I admit that I am not all that interested in swimming as much as I am of ogling behind sunglasses at the beach, so much so that I can’t recall ever having visited a beach.. except for a week in the Bahamas when I was 20-years-old.

I don’t swim, and I don’t need to lie under the sun and get a tan. I do tan, of course - I actually turn a coppery-orange under direct exposure to sunlight.

Anyhow, I found the above photo while surfing—on-line of course.

I wonder if I am typical of most people of India-descent… have you ever heard of the swim team for India? How about a ski team? I think that when it comes to athletics, anything to do with water is a no-go.

I would assume that outside of pushing corpses away whilst wading the Ganges River, no one can picture a brown person doing anything on water in any shape or form. I don’t swim or ski, ergo the same must hold true for the 1.1 billion people of India.

I’m kidding, of course, but it’s almost becoming a stereotype.

When I was in Japan back in 1990-1993, there was a fledgling market for sunglasses. Despite living in a country known as “the land of the rising sun” Japanese people didn’t wear sunglasses, nor did adverse brightness, so it seemed, bother them.

Until I was 17-years-old, I wore photo-grey prescription glasses that were as thick as my index finger… and the lenses were ultra thins… which would explain why I was shy and never dated a woman until I was 22 when I suddenly gained a bit of confidence after being a male model.

No, that wasn’t a typo or a joke. I’ll do a Christian D’or turn for you, if you like.

Anyhow, photo-grey lenses turn darker as more light hits it. As such, when I switched to contact lenses (as thick as  a bottle cap) (kidding), I couldn’t take the bright light. So I wore sunglasses all the time.

I even wore them throughout my last semesters of high school - in class - because as far as the teacher’s knew, I wore glasses that were photo-grey.

I was so cool.

No one noticed of course, but at least I also grew 30 cm (12-inches) taller that year, too. No one knew who I was, and I was still shy from all the psychological abuse obtained in that horror show known as high school.

As such, even now, I wear my sunglasses all the time when I exit a building. I’m pretty sure none of the soccer teams or baseball teams I have coached have ever seen my eyes.

The photo above shows the always good-weather Seagaia Ocean Dome (シーガイアオーシャンドーム, Shīgaia Ōshan Dōmu). You’ll notice that it actually has an English name written and pronounced in katakana English.

Why? I have no clue, except that despite Japan’s self-love, it really does think that English is cool.

As for the name "Seagaia"... there are two options we could look at:
  1. The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. Man, I love Wikipedia, sometimes.
  2. Gaia, or Mother Earth, was the great goddess of the early Greeks. She represented the Earth and was worshipped as the universal mother. In Greek mythology, she created the Universe and gave birth to both the first race of gods (the Titans) and the first humans.  
If I was a betting man, despite the aspect of the word "sea" alongside "gaia", I would have to say it was named after the Gaia hypothesis... I mean... organisms (aka Japanese sunbathers) interacting (lying round, wading and possibly surfing... I thought Suzuki-san don't surf... but I'm obviously wrong) with inorganic surroundings (pretty much everything in the Seagaia Ocean Dome), helping perpetuate life in Japan (providing a relaxing environ for weary Japanese).

Opened in 1993, the Seagaia Ocean Dome in Miyazaki was the world’s largest indoor water park.

For those of you who have never lived in Japan, the country’s summer is stupid. It is either 37C at 9PM and getting hotter and more humid, or it’s raining and getting hotter and more humid. Oh! And just wait until typhoon season!

It was always cloudy in Ohtawara-shi, Japan, though I fear that may have had something to do with Japan’s unofficial rain god, me - the Ame Otoko (Rain Man). Yeah, definitely me. Definitely. Yeah.

Okay, that’s it for true anecdotes. Let’s get back to the fake beach.

Seagaia Ocean Dome was 300 meters (984.25 feet) long and 100 meters (328.1 feet) wide, and featured a retractable roof, and even when closed on those less-than ideal sunny days, the roof was clear, so you can see whataminute… it wasn't clear! It depicted a clear blue sky even when the real sky outside was grey and dull and dismal.

The temperature inside the facility was kept at a balmy 30C (86F), while the water was at 28C (82.4) - ahh heaven, I would imagine if that’s what you picture heaven to be like and if that’s your idea of an ideal temperature for a fake beach and fake ocean.

Did you see the video - despite the wonderful natural-looking waves, the rocks at the rear of the Dome appear to ejaculate streams of water up into the air. Or maybe it's just part of some puppet theater... because I don't see anyone frolicking in the water.  

And... because a beach, water and roof to keep the world out aren’t enough, inexplicably the Seagaia Ocean Dome came with its own fake volcano, because nothing says family fun quite like seeing a volcano in one’s general vicinity spit out flames every hour with an eruption, though it was active every 15 minutes.

“Yes Okuna-san, it’s a wonderful day. It’s a good thing that the Seagaia Ocean Dome is around to remind us with the volcano that death is always imminent.”

“I agree, but why do you call me, your wife, by our family name?”

I have to admit... the place looks pretty damn impressive... even that volcano looks good.
There’s was also wave generating equipment to make you forget about the fact that you have to go back to work over the next six days putting in those mandatory 72-100 hour workweeks. Almost. Why did you bring work with you to the fake beach? You know someone did.

The beach was made up of perfect crushed white marble sand which was so perfect you’ll forget about that time you walked on that beach made of coral—or was that the night before when you accidentally made like Godzilla and stepped on your kid’s LEGO city?

The great thing about the crushed white marble sand is that even when wet it doesn’t stick all over your body and get into those nasty places for the next several weeks no matter how many baths you take. Screw real sand.

Japan—It’s A Wonderful Rife isn’t sure why this is even there, but apparently the Seagaia Ocean Dome was a part of a resort hotel that also includes tennis courts and golf courses.

What Japanese grown-up is daring to spend time at a resort? There's work to be done back at the office! It’s the busy season - which is apparently all the time!

There’s even a zoo nearby, but who cares? Golf courses!!!!

Surprisingly, it wasn't that expensive. Adults: ¥2,600, kids ¥1,600, kids under 4 were ¥800.  Really? You charged for kids under the age of 4? If you wanted to rent a surfboard, that’s just ¥1,000.

Yup... just Aussies using the surf waves. Good music on the video, though...

Wait… is it the Phoenix Seagaia Resort or the Sheraton Seagaia Resort? Phoenix, I believe is the new name … Aw, who cares.Did I also use the word "was" five paragraph's back?
The fake beach could hold up to 10,000 visitors, but don’t worry if the place is too crowded for your liking.

It actually closed its doors in 2007.

Why? Well, you did notice that when writing about the Ocean Dome, I used the past tense, right?

We (proverbial we) are sure it cost a lot of money to operate, but we suspect that when new ownership became involved, and upgraded the resort and everything else but the Ocean Dome, they realized they could save a lot of money by shutting it down and forcing the people to travel 300 meters further to use the real beach… yes, a real beach with all of that horrible nature and crap.

You can see the real water and beach at the top of the photo at the beginning of this blog.

And the crappy weather. No fake volcanic eruptions, though. So lose-lose.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Harold Agnew - The Man Who Helped End WWII

Here's an interesting photo I found!

It's Harold Agnew carrying the plutonium core of the Nagasaki Fat Man bomb, 1945.

You can tell that no one really understood just what the atomic bombs was going to do, just by the fact that Agnew is carrying it like it's his lunch bag.

Shorts? Where the heck is the hazmat suit? Oh yeah... 1945.

And he's smiling?

Well... Agnew was no stranger to the atomic research and bombs.

He was a member of Enrico Fermi’s research team at the University of Chicago in 1942, where he saw the very first sustained nuclear chain reaction. of Chicago Pile-1.

Later, between 1943-45, Agnew worked in the Experimental Physics Division at Los Alamos.

When the Trinity test was on, he was flying out to Tinian Island in the Pacific as part of Project Alberta. Project Alberta was the test group who would assemble the atomic bomb.

He was also aboard a B-29 bomber called The Great Artiste, as it flew with the B-29 bomber Enola Gay carrying the atomic bomb for the Hiroshima attack (along with Necessary Evil as the camera plane, Full House performing weather reconnaissance, and the Jabit III, also doing weather reconnaissance.

Agnew's (and the rest of the crew) measured the size of the bomb's shock wave in an effort to determine the power of the atomic bomb.

He also filmed the explosion with a movie camera.

As for the core he carried for the Fat Man atomic/nuclear bomb destined for Nagasaki? The plutonium core - the box he is so leisurely carrying in the photo weighed a scant 6.2 kilograms (14 pounds).

Of that plutonium core, only about one kilogram (2.2 pounds) would undergo nuclear fission, of which one gram (1/30th of an ounce) was converted into the explosive force that was equal to 21,000 tons of TNT which exploded over the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

So what would have happened if Agnew tripped and dropped the plutonium core in the box?

The box was made of magnesium, which would dissipate heat and not reflect neutrons, and would simply have bounced had it been dropped.

How do we know that? They tested it, of course.

Considering scientists didn't know as much about nuclear power and bombs in 1945 as they do in 2016, I have to admit that was pretty ballsy of them to have tested the box's integrity.

Heck, while atomic tests in the ground were destructive, there were still concerns about what the bomb would do when it exploded in the air (like it did above Hiroshima)... such as would it set the atmosphere on fire. Considering no one expected the black rain that fell, it beats me how they could even test a dropped plutonium core with any level of confidence.

So... did carrying around the plutonium core in the safe magnesium box cause any long-term health concerns for Mr. Agnew?


Harold Melvin Agnew was born on March 28, 1921 (so he was 24-years-old in the photo) and died on September 29, 2013, at the ripe old age of 92, although he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a common-type of leukemia, that is essentially a cancer of the white blood cells.

Still... 92-years-old... what dangers from exposure to nuclear radiation?

Agnew, after his stint carrying plutonium cores around tiny islands in the Pacific that I would bet no one reading this could find on a map without using a digital search, worked on the Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in 1954.

He became head of the Weapon Nuclear Engineering Division in 1964, served as a Democratic New Mexico State Senator from 1955 to 1961, and was the Scientific Adviser to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) from 1961 to 1964. Holy crap.

He was director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1970 to 1979, when he resigned to become President and Chief Executive Officer of General Atomics.

In 2005, Agnew is quoted as saying: "About three-quarters of the U.S. nuclear arsenal was designed under my tutelage at Los Alamos. That is my legacy."

I prefer to think his legacy is his nonchalant manner of carrying a nuclear weapon that would kill about 70,000 people of Nagasaki... but that was war.

That photo above shows Agnew happily posing for a photo with the device that essentially ended WWII, saving more lives than what were ultimately lost at Nagasaki. If you haven't read up on some of the other WWI articles I have presented here in the past, please note that Japan at that time was in a "death before dishonor" mode, where it would have fought to the last man, woman and/or child in the likelihood of a Allied incursion in on its shores.  

Andrew Joseph