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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kit Kat Celebrates 45 Years In Japan

While the number 45 isn’t normally an auspicious one when it comes to celebrating anniversaries, Nestlé Japan has decided to do it anyway—celebrating 45 years of Kit Kat in Japan.

And why not? Kit Kat is, quite frankly, the de facto go-to chocolate for Japanese thanks to the over-load of flavors Nestlé Japan has created for its market.

Yeah, us Canadians and Americans may have whooped it up when White Chocolate was added to our limited drabness (regular, Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, and Orange - are what we have available for general sale), but Japan has - near as I can quantify, about 190+ different flavors.

I’m not talking different sizes or different packaging graphics, I’m talking flavors.

Some blogs claim there are over 350 different flavors of Kit Kat chocolates in Japan - but unless you can show me a label, I don’t believe it.

You can see my detailed listing of Kit Kat chocolates available or once available in Japan HERE. I’ve even include a couple of fake ones that were making the Internet rounds.

By the way... Nestlé Japan markets the chocolate bars as Kit Kat - with a space between the words, while North America Nestle markets it as KitKat (no space).  Come on guys - get it 

Anyhow, celebrating 45 years, Nestlé Japan decided it would take submissions from its fanbase, receiving over 4,000 flavor concepts - and then choosing 21 of what it called the most promising.

Some of those 21 include such flavors as yuzu, and wasabi cheese.

There have already been Kit Kat flavors for wasabi, and cheese, and there’s even a Yuzu Kosho, but the latter one wasn’t just plain yuzu (a type of citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit complete with its tart flavorings with overtones of mandarin orange).     

In April 2018 at the New Flavour World Summit Campaign, some 500,000 votes from 81 different countries picked their choice for new 45th anniversary celebratory flavor in Japan - Strawberry Tiramisu (いちご  ティラミス, ichigo tiramisu). They decided to use the Japanese katakana alphabet for “ichigo/strawberry”, rather than the more common Japanese hiragana alphabet (イチゴ).

The flavor features a bitter tiramisu cream with coffee and cocoa coated in a strawberry-kneaded white chocolate. 

The new packaging - seen at the top of the article (so I guess I didn’t surprise anyone), was painted by Kinashi Noritake, a Japanese artist, actor and comedian.

The concept depicts a couple with a Kit Kat stuffed in to their mouths (probably fed to each other - but who can tell?) congratulating Kit Kat on 45 years in Japan. The couple says they are also looking forward to their own 45th anniversary one day. 

Cost is ¥120 for a 3-pack to be sold in convenience stores and ¥500 for an 11-pack at supermarkets and drugstores.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, November 19, 2018

Japan Animation Stamps: Heroes Heroines Volume 2

I'm still a bit zonked, so here's the second series issued by Japan Post in 2005 of its Japan Animation Stamps: Heroes Heroines Volume 2... this one featuring Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム,
Kidō Senshi Gandamu).

This animated TV show premiered on April 7, 1979, and lasted until January 26, 1980, spanning 43 episodes featuring the giant robot RX-78-2 Gundam and is famous for basically starting the giant robot genre using robots as war machine suits instead of human soldiers. 

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Japan Animation Stamps: Heroes Heroines Volume 1

Yeah - I'm late with this blog today - bu I'm still a bit zonked after my trip last week to Poland where I gave a 30-minute speech to the Polish meat processors association about consumer trends and advertising in Canada.

I didn't think I knew anything about the topic, but when has not knowing anything ever stopped me from a free trip to a wonderful country.

Somehow, I actually spoke for 30 minutes, and made it interesting - or so I was told by the audience and by the translators who were so fast that there was little lag in my commentary and the well-timed laughter from my audience.

Apparently, I was quite animated. Segue... 

What we have here in today's blog is a set of Japan's first ever Animation Stamps - the Hero Heroine Series Volume 1 Pokemon, issued on June 23, 2005.

They feature some of the characters from the Pokemon anime (animation) television series. Pokemon is the short form for the full title Pocket Monsters, of course.

The stamps feature, from top to bottom: Pikachu, Charazard (known in Japan as Lizardon), Mew, Rayquaza (Rekkuza in Japan), Munchlax (Gonbe in Japan).

Munchlax and Rayquaza are 50-yen stamps, with the other three 80-yen. 

I believe there are over 22 sets in the Hero Heroine series issues by Japan Post featuring such beloved characters as Chibi Maruko Chan, Naruto, Detective Conan, Patlabor, and much more. I'll do more of these as time permits - or rather whenever I am short on time. 

And no... I have discovered that I don't get nervous when I have to speak. For my first ever speech since grade school (where I sucked), it seems apparent to me that all of this coaching in hockey and baseball, and teaching in Japan has allowed me to speak without nerves coming in to play.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I Had A Ball

I'm back in Toronto and almost ready to start writing my full-length articles here... but while I am back, I have prepared myself for the fact that I am incredibly busy and won't have enough time to write a proper blog - which is why I am writing it ahead of time, a week before I actually leave on a work trip to Poland.

Since I am writing out of time, with no time to spare, let's take a trip back to 1990 - my first year on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, where I am doing a home-stay over at the house of Japanese friend, co-worker and co-boss Kanemaru-san.

Above is a photo of his youngest son Tomohiro, who is, I think, about five or six years old in the photo.

The kid, for whatever reason took a real shine to me. He was a handsome lad, warm, funny and completely unafraid of the big, hairy gaijin (foreigner) aka me.

He made me feel welcome and allowed me to be his new big brother. Really. That's how I felt about him.

He's got to be about 34 years old now, probably with a child of his own at about the same age he was in this photo.

I know you can't see his face - but that's not the point. I think the point is that after so long, he doesn't look now like he did back then... hell, neither do I.

Hell... I don't even know if Kanemaru-san is still alive. 

But that's okay... I'm still time traveling. Right now... he is. 

Andrew Joseph
PS: Hopefully back to some sort of normalcy tomorrow.  Though who knows. I might be burnt out. Damn blog OCD won't let me take a break.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Back To The Future

Although I am still away as I write this, I am back in town at some point in time today.

As such, I wanted to show you the message I found on the wall of my apartment in Ohtawara-shi when I first arrived there in very late July of 1990.

I liked it so much, that I kept it up the entire time I was there - three years. I never had the heart to remove it even when I was moving out.

In case you can't read it, it says: "Welcome to our city Mr. Andrew Joseph"

Hopefully I am welcomed back to Toronto today.

I'll be jet lagged, and assume I won't want to write a blog tomorrow... so expect another photo journal entry tomorrow.

As it is, I have to coach two hockey teams tomorrow - two different leagues in two different cities, and supposedly make it back for a night out with my local friends. Hmm.... there may be yet another of these for Sunday.

Did you know that in Poland where I traveled to, their idea of a short speech isn't five or 10 minutes long - it's 30 minutes long, and I have to give one.

While Japan certainly provided me with the opportunity to get over my shyness - and opportunity I readily accepted, I thought I'd be out of practice for this trip I'm on. Strangely enough, all of the coaching I've done over the past few years seems to have removed my nervousness. We'll see though.

It's difficult to write about future events as though they have already occurred. Time travel is buggy.

Soon... or is it later?
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 15, 2018

After All, Tomorrow Is Another Day

I'm still away doing work for work over in Europe, so the photo above shall have to suffice.

This is Ashley... my girlfriend for the first year on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, and a FWB for most of the second year.

I've given Ashley a hard time here in this blog about my adventures that took place 25-28 years ago... most of it deserved in my opinion...

But what can not be denied, was that she was good-looking. Here she is atop a balcony at Fukushima-jo (Fukushima Castle) in the Fall of 1990. It's wet, rainy and chilly, and she looks like she's about to give me the finger... but dammit she looks pretty hot.

Andrew Joseph
PS: The blog title is a bit of dialogue from Gone With The Wind. Ashley is from Atlanta, the main heroine is in love with a man named Ashley, and tomorrow is another day I'm away.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Samurai Battle In Flowers

I'm still away on business this week, and I've run out of time to write blog articles, so for the next few days - photos from my collection of my time spent in Japan and accompanying dialogue will have to suffice until the weekend.

I'm a wee bit OCD with this blog. I've been posting an article every day since February of 2011, and I don't intend to blow that streak.

What we have in the photo above is an autumnal vista taken near Fukushima-jo... a minor castle in Fukushima-ken taken during in 1990.

My friend Naoko and her boyfriend drove my girlfriend Ashley and myself up there from our homebase in Ohtawara - though Ash lived one town over in Nishinasuno.

While the photos shows the leaves turning color on the trees, what's cooler is the flower sculptures showing two samurai going to battle on the stairs.

What's even more impressive, is that there aren't any tourists around to spoil the shot.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

2018 List Of Japanese Buzzwords

I found this at the Japan Times website: a list of 30 Japanese 2018 buzzwords, one of which will become the buzzword of the year.

A buzzword is, of course, a word (or phrase) that becomes popular within the common language for a while. For example, “Where’s the beef?” “Wasssssssss up?” “Fake news”

Take a look at the words below, and click HERE for write-ups by the Japan Times on how or why these words/phrases have come into the Japanese vernacular.


  • Aori unten あおり運転 (tailgating); 
  • Akushitsu takkuru 悪質タックル (foul tackle);
  • E-supōtsu eスポーツ (e-sports);
  • “(Osako) hanpa naitte!”「(大迫) 半端ないって!」(“Osako’s unbelievable!”);
  • "Ossanzu Rabu” おっさんずラブ (“Ossan’s Love”);
  • GAFA ガーファ (acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon);
  • Kasō tsūka/dāku uebu 仮想通貨/ダークウェブ (cryptocurrency/dark web);
  • Kanaashi Nō sempū ⾦⾜農旋⾵ (Kanaashi Nogyo sensation);
  • “Kame-tome” カメ⽌め (“Don’t stop the camera!”);
  • “Kimitachi wa Dō Ikiru Ka” 君たちはどう⽣きるか “How Do You Guys Live?”;
  • “Kinniku wa uragiranai“ 筋⾁は裏切らない “Muscles Never Betray (You)”;
  • Gurei hea グレイヘア (gray hair);
  • Keikaku unkyū 計画運休 (planned suspension);
  • Kō-puro ⾼プロ/⾼度プロフェッショナル制度 (short for kōdo purofesshonaru seido: high-level professional system);
  • Gohanronpō ご飯論法 (rice reasoning);
  • Saigaikyū no atsusa 災害級の暑さ (disastrous heat);
  • Jitahara or jitan-harasumento 時短ハラスメント/ジタハラ (“short-time” harassment);
  • Shushō anken ⾸相案件 (prime minister’s matter);
  • Shō-taimu 翔タイム (Sho time);
  • Sūpā borantia「スーパーボランティア」(super volunteer);
  • “Sodane~” 「そだね~」(“That’s it”);
  • Dasakakkoii ダサかっこいい (roughly, “so lame it’s cool”);
  • TikTok (short-video app);
  • Naomi-bushi なおみ節 (roughly “Naomi-esque");
  • Nara hantei 奈良判定 (Nara judgement);
  • Hyokkorihan ひょっこりはん (comedian's name);
  • Burakkuauto ブラックアウト (blackout);
  • “Bōtto ikitenjanē-yo!” 「ボーっと⽣きてんじゃねーよ!」 (“Don’t sleep through life!”);
  • #MeToo;
  • Mogumogu taimu もぐもぐタイム (snack time, literally “chewing time”) 

That’s it.

Until tomorrow… nanu-nanu,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo by Christoph Polatzky on Unsplash

Monday, November 12, 2018

Shrine Changes Name To Help Foreigners

The photo above shows the vermillion torii fates of Motonosumi Inari Shrine, cutting through the cliffs above the Sea of Japan in Nagato-shi, Yamaguchi-ken.

After making CNN’s list of 31 most beautiful places in the country (of Japan), it received so much international attention that in order to placate would be visitors, the shrine has decided to alter its name.

After the March 2015 CNN news story, visitors to the shrine went up from 30,000 in 2014, to 75,000 in 2015 to 1.08 million in 2017.

So Japan decided it wanted to do something nice for the gaijin/foreign visitors by shortening the name of the shrine… to… drop the entire word “Inari” from its moniker, with the plan to henceforth, as of January 1, 2019 be known as Motonosumi Shrine.

The hubub is that “Inari” is a shinto religious god…

If it was me, I would have shortened the FIRST name of the shrine.

I am at least familiar with Japanese pronunciation and even I stumble over Motonosumi.

Even so… the fact remains that the Motonosumi Inari Shrine is actually a privately-owned shrine, and the owners can call it whatever the hell they want… even the gaijin-friendly Motonosumi Shrine.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Japan’s Sterilization Victims Want Apology

This is my version of honouring Remembrance Day - a day to honour those who died during a... pick a war...

From comes this video about Japan’s four decades of forced sterilization done upon the mentally-challenged or physically-challenged, as a means to stop the propagation of such deformities within the country.

At first I thought - is this story made up (we don’t use Trump’s words here - not anymore, not even fun. I feel that will help make America great again. D’oh!).

Known as Eugenics, it’s a quotation-mark “science” whereby via selective breeding, the genetic composition or purity of the human race can be achieved.

Hitler was into that.

Despite his own brown eyes and black hair, Hitler favoured the made-up white race called the Aryans, created by German scientists in the 1800s as a ways of showing how great Germany was. Hitler wanted blonde hair and blue eyes as his model of the Master Race. The German Aryan.

Of course, the Aryans are a Indo-Iranian peoples… and are hardly blonde (naturally), but you may indeed find blue eyes there.

In Japan… back in the 1930s - heck even earlier… Japan created its own Master Race theories, which is why it felt it was its rightful duty to rule all of Asia, including India.

Japanese scientist Shige Yamanouchi (1876-1973) was a plant cytologist who searched for a way to have the Japanese race surpass the dominant Western race of the 19th and 20th centuries. He wanted to breed smarter and stronger Japanese people.

Japanese journalist Shigenori Ikeda (池田 林儀) had lived in Germany, started up his own magazine: Eugenics Movement (優生運動 Yūsei-undō) in 1926.

Taking things one step further and becoming the news rather than reporting on it, in 1928 Shigenori promoted December 21 as “Blood Purity Day (junketsu de)” by offering free bloodtests at a lab. Buddha help you if you were a muggle or Korean.

He continued in the 1930s with eugenic marriage questionnaires sent via popular magazines. It’s goal  was to show these surveys could ensure the eugenic fitness of spouses and help avoid class differences that could disrupt and even destroy marriage.

You know… like having the beautiful Japanese women defouled by those ape-like Korean men. Holy crap.

The Race Eugenic Protection Law was submitted from 1934 to 1938 to the Diet. After four amendments, this draft was promulgated as a National Eugenic Law (国民優生法, Kokumin Yūsei Hō) in 1940.

This law limited compulsory sterilization to "inherited mental disease", promoted genetic screening and restricted birth control access.

It is estimated that between 1940 and 1945, 454 people were sterilized because of this law.

Some people didn’t care for the whole eugenics thing, concerned only that rather than treat its people as being of divine origin, it instead lowered them to breeding stock. Toe-may-toe, Toe-mah-toe.

Japan did try and convince its citizenry not to marry into the Korea bloodline - since… well, forever.

It’s that way now still amongst much of its populace… marrying a gaijin is an embarrassment. Ah… but don’t get me started.

Enacted in 1948. Japan’s Socialist Party (you’ll recall that the Nazi’s were National Socialists) proposed the Eugenic Protection Law (優生保護法, Yūsei Hogo Hō) to replace the National Eugenic Law of 1940.

Yes… this one is meant to protect people.

The main provisions allowed for the surgical sterilization of women, when the woman, her spouse, or family member within the 4th degree of kinship had a serious genetic disorder, and where pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman. The operation did not require consent of the woman and her spouse, but the approval of the Prefectural Eugenic Protection Council.

You, the person, don't get a say in the matter.

Of course, the main sticking point could be “serious genetic disorder” Just what does that mean?

The law also allowed for abortion for pregnancies in the cases of rape, leprosy, hereditary-transmitted disease, or if the physician determined that the fetus would not be viable outside of the womb. Again, the consent of the woman and her spouse were not necessary. Birth control guidance and implementation was restricted to doctors, nurses and professional midwives accredited by the Prefectural government. The law was also amended in May 1949 to allow abortions for economic reasons at the sole discretion of the doctor, which in effect fully legalized abortion in Japan.

The law was used by local authorities as justification for measures enforcing forced sterilization and abortions upon people with certain genetic disorders, as well as leprosy, as well as an excuse for legalized discrimination against people with physical and mental handicaps.

So… how long did this go one for? The 1960s? Surely the flower power generation reached Japan?

The 70s?

The 80s?

The 90s?

Are you telling me that this sterilization thing was still going on while I was in Japan?

Yup. The law was effectively revoked under the Mother's Body Protection Law (母体保護法) enacted on June 18, 1996.

Welcome to the 20th century Japan… enjoy the next few years until it’s the 21st century.

Makes you wonder who the real lepers and mentally-challenged are. Racially purity. There hasn’t been racial purity ever. Every version of human beings is derived from something else all the back to slime in warm primordial ooze.

Or am I looking too broadly at the “BIG PICTURE” ?

Anyhow… since the article is a real story, have a watch:

And for Buddha’s sake, Japan… apologize for the stupid laws and actions of the past. It doesn’t make YOU evil, it makes you compassionate.

And hey... it can be done... on November 8, 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for Canada turning away Jewish refugees in 1939. Our Prime Minister back then was William Lyon Mackenzie King... and he's on our $50 bill.

Oh yeah... the 2020 Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Teeth Found In McDonald’s McMuffin

Well, it’s obvious that the meat processor over at McDonald’s need to have an X-Ray system installed that can pick up bone or teeth.

Bits of human teeth were found in a Japan McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin purchased from its  Kanazawa-Arimatsu restaurant.

Three pieces of broken teeth, measuring from four to eight millimeters long were found in a McMuffin served this August 2018—found by a lucky consumer who spied them just as he was about to bite into the breakfast sandwich.

Man… I love those Sausage Egg McMuffins… and the ones with bacon instead of sausage… but do I really want to be biting into something that could bite into me?

So… there always more!

McDonald’s Company (Japan) Ltd. investigated the factory in Aichi-ken where the muffin was baked, and could not figure out how the teeth got into the food.

The food processor in the U.S. where the sausage was also investigated, and McDonald's Company could again not determine how the teeth pieces got in.

It is possible that the foreign matter could have been introduced during shipping and receiving at the McDonald’s restaurant, was introduced while in refrigeration at said restaurant, could have been placed there by an unscrupulous cook during cooking, or placed there by the consumer himself.

While not fool-proof, or perhaps it is, the teeth fragments could be tested to determine if the teeth were from someone Japanese or from the west.

It’s based on expected levels of chemicals to be found within teeth based on a person’s locale and expected eating habits.

Andrew Joseph 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review - The Buddhist Swastika And Hitler's Cross

Have you ever picked up a book and expected great things from it and been sorely disappointed?

The Buddhist Swastika And Hitler's Cross is NOT one of those books!

Published by Stone Bridge Press and written by the Reverend Dr. T.K (Kenjitsu) Nakagaki (中垣 顕實), a Buddhist priest, the book explains in exquisite detail what the differences are between Nazi Germany's symbol of hate and racism - the hakenkreuz - and the eastern symbol - the swastika - and how Hitler used it to destroy this Buddhist symbol of "all virtues".

Of course it's not just a symbol of Nazi Germany or of Buddhism.

Take a look at the cover image above.

Hitler's hakenkreuz is always right-facing, placed at an angle, and is encompased in inner white and outter red. At least that's the way Hitler used it.

The Buddhist symbol, is usually found with it being left facing. It is called the gyaku manji (逆卍, lit. "reverse manji")

Oh yeah.

As a "reverse manji" it implies there is a "forward manji". Sometimes it is right facing, as seen in the photo I took below at a shrine around Mt. Nasu in Tochigi-ken, Japan:

The swastika symbol above is on the face of a large taiko drum. I suppose we can just call this a manji symbol.

But, thanks to this book - The Buddhist Swastika And Hitler's Cross - I have learned that the swastika... the eastern symbol was never called a swastika by Hitler. It was just a hakenkreuz. A hooked cross.

Other cultures also use the swastika in their religions. The Jains and Hindus for example. But there were other usages as well.

Along with an obvious swastika symbol applied to it, there was a certain Boy Scout merit badge. It used the right-facing symbol.

So to did an American Coca-Cola badge.

The swastika was considered a "good luck" symbol.

Yes, the symbol is being used by various Hate Groups around the world - white supremacists and anti-Semetics - but are they using it correctly.

Unless the symbol is placed at an angle to mimic Hitler's Nazi symbol, it's not a hakenkreuz. It's just an eastern symbol of "good luck" and "virtue".

Ah... but I don't do the book justice with such a flippant remark.

The book does tend to beat to death the differences between the Buddhist symbol and Hitler's - but that's okay. It needs a beating. Buddhist philosophy aside, of course.  

Nakagaki wants the world to stop fearing the Buddhist swastika - it's the hakenkreuz that deserves the negative attention.

Nakagaki also delves in to Hitler's origin story. Not merely content with writing about the hakenkreuz, the author delves into what the political climate was like in the years before Hitler's rise to power, discussing the anti-semitic writings of composer Richard Wagner and protestant reformation founder Martin Luther - stuff that blew me away.

Wagner was my favourite composer... but after reading this book... now he's not... though I do like the pomposity of his music.  

On a lark, on Wednesday evening I decided to write to author Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki. I asked a few questions, praised his book and thanked him for teaching me a few things.

He wrote back!

Here’s what he had to say:

“For me, the book is the first step to start more dialogue, awareness and education. I had an interfaith dialogue on the swastika symbol at the Parliament of the Word’s Religions Conference in Toronto the other day. Though we had only 45 minutes, the panel presentation was great.”

Wait… the guy was JUST in Toronto where I now live - and I missed this? Nertz.

I asked about why Hitler decided to tilt the hakenkreuz, but he was unable to find an explanation.

I asked if the term svastika or swastika was a constant in other languages - you know, a borrowed word.

Nakagaki said: “As for what name people name the symbol, each culture and language use it differently. Svastika in India is definitely very ancient as the symbol of the sun. Other cultures may use it differently such as four rivers.”

Available at Stone Bridge Press (, the paperback book is a mere US$18.95 and chock-full of great historical information and photography covering 169 pages of text, but 200 pages of book (there's a lot of bibliography, end notes and credits to go around).

Along with being a quick read, it's a fascinating read. You will learn something - guaranteed.

If you are going to arm yourself with anything, arm yourself with good knowledge.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Japan - The Gateway Drug

So… you’ve come looking for your daily filling of info and wailing from me… thanks.

But, today is my birthday, and I’m taking the day off. 

To celebrate, please enjoy this really cool photograph showing a lantern in the midst of a torii gateway leading up a mountain. 

Yup… look at the very top of the photo… you can see more of the vermillion-painted gates now moving right-to-left. 

I use that direction in deference to Japan’s reading of books.

Torii (鳥居, literally bird abode), is a wooden gate usually found at the entrance of or inside a Shinto shrine. In fact, if you look at a Japanese road map, you will see graphic image of these gates all over the place - guess what? It marks the location of a shrine.

The torii is meant to mark the physical transition from the mundane to the scared.

I love the Japanese torii gates, and used to love taking pictures of them myself. Of course I also liked to take photos of roofs (architecture) and clouds (lighting), so there's no accounting for taste. 

I dated a Tori after returning from Japan, and while wild, it wast the same as the Japanese torii.  

See you tomorrow. 

Andrew Joseph 
PS: Photo by Federica Galli on Unsplash

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dashi Floats

Not to be confused with Dashi (soup stock), or Buddha help us, dashi ice cream floats, the dashi I wanted to discus today are those large, decorative floats seen carried around during Japanese festivals.

Upon my arrival in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken Japan in very late July of 1990… I believe it was around July 29 or 30… to be honest, after boarding that flight from Toronto to Tokyo, my head was in a fog… first from confusion, then humidity, and then a combination along with alcohol consumption.

Anyhow… after my bosses had driven me to my new home of Ohtawara, and had left me alone in my tiny three-bedroom apartment with the LDK, western bathroom and two balconies—looked at my kingdom, I was finally there to sit upon my throne as the Prince of Bel-Air… or Ohtawara.

It was one of those what the fug am I doing moments that usually only last a few seconds, only this one lasted three plus years.

So I’m sitting down on my couch watching The Incredible Hulk TV show from the 1970s, when all of a sudden a clamour emerges from three flights down on street level, with Asian music blaring (though to be honest, everyone kind of referred to it as “Oriental” back in the 90s).

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.    
(a couple of lines from the poem: A Visit from St. Nicholas, aka The Night Before Christmas and ’Twas the Night Before Christmas

Look at that! A reference to a TV that began while I was in Japan, and one to a poem written in 1823 first uttered welllllll over 100 years before my birth.

While my place did not have shutters or sash, I did go behind the drapes to open up my floor-to-ceiling glass sliding door to my northern balcony so I could see what the heck was going on.

There… dressed in blue happi coats, a bunch of men and women were clamored atop a dashi wooden float carried by many unfortunate men squashed below.

They saw me come out, smiled and waved, and I did the same—a big damn grin on my stupid face.

I must admit that at the time, I thought this display was done solely for my benefit.

If it was a parade, it was a piss-poor parade, as this was the only float. It went right by my house, everyone looked up and smiled and waved at me, abnd it went away.

It was a welcome to Ohtawara-shi moment. I swear that’s what I thought. I don’t think I ever mentioned that before.

The dash (and mikoshi) are portable shrines that supposedly contain shinto gods (singular).

These gods are said to inhabit the altar of the shrine, and stay there all year round—except during festivals when they apparently are allowed to used the dashi to visit local area neighbourhoods.

Andrew Joseph  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Japan’s Six Days Of Repetitious Superstition

Japan, as mentioned in numerous other articles within this blog, is a superstitious country.

It has, within its calendar, something called “rokuyo” (六曜), aka six days.

These days are:

先勝 – Sensho (also known as Senkachi or Sakigachi) = Good luck in the morning, but bad luck in the afternoon;

友引 – Tomobiki = Good luck all day, except at noon;

先負 – Sakimake, (also known as Senmake or Senbu) = Bad luck in the morning, good luck in the afternoon;

仏滅 – Butsumetsu = Unlucky all day

大安 – Taian = Lucky all day

赤口 – Shakku, (also known as Shakko or Jakko) = Bad luck all day, except at noon.

The darn thing is based upon the Japanese lunar calendar… but even then, it’s not that simple.

  • Sensho: Lunar Month 1/First Day 7;
  • Tobobiki: Lunar Month 2/First Day 8;
  • Sakimake: Lunar Month 3/First Day 9;
  • Butsumetsu: Lunar Month 4/First Day 10;
  • Taian: Lunar Month 5/First Day 11;
  • Shakku: Lunar Month 6/First Date 12

The first thing you need to know, is just what the heck a lunar month is. Well, that’s when an astronomical “New Moon” appears in a times zone.

Now… a lunar month could be 29 days long, or 30 days… well, actually it’s 29 days eight hours all the way up to 29 days 19 hours.

As such, a lunar month is rounded up or down as dictated by the number or hours… which depends upon how long it takes for the Moon to complete a single cycle of phases.

Naturally, a Leap Month was added every few years to keep the Lunar Calendar in alignment with the four Seasons and applicable Solstices.

Confused? Sure. Six auspicious types of days for a seven-day week based upon a rounded up or down lunar calendar that needs not just a an extra day (February 29) every four years, but an entire extra month just so it can work.

The six "days" repeat in the same order...

Stupid? Yes.

Here’s the thing, Japanese people still blindly follow aspects of this superstitious calendar.    

For example, since Taian is a lucky day, weddings and other celebrations are held on this day.

But for Butsumetsu, which is essentially the Buddha’s Passing, it’s an unlucky day, so you might not want to have an office party on a date that Butsumetsu falls upon. In fact, wedding halls in Japan offer discounts on these days - but few it seems, want to challenge the superstition.

Now… I personally have to question the whole Buddha’s Passing as an unlucky day.

Yes, it’s too bad the Buddha died, but isn’t his death merely the passing into a higher plane of existence? That sounds like a good thing.

By the way... here's some words of wisdom from one of the world's greatest writers... and I mean that:

“Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.”—Terry Pratchett

Andrew Joseph  
PS: Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Optics Of Illusions

Like most of you, I’m sure, I am fascinated by optical illusions.

The Dutchman, M.C. (Mauritis Cornelis) Escher is the one that stands out for most people.

While I don’t tend to spend my life waiting around for the, some people do.

The Neural Correlate Society runs an annual competition celebrating the best new illusions, with Japanese mathematician (杉原 厚吉, surname first) taking home the 2018 top prize for his Triply Ambiguous Object (yes, “triply” is spelled correctly).
Sugihara Kōkichi

Illusions such as what the Neural Correlate Society empower, are those that play on the ways that perspective and reflections change a person’s perception of an object(s).

Sugihara is a Japanese mathematician and artist who is well-known for his three-dimensional optical illusions that appear to make marbles roll uphill, pull objects to the highest point of a building's roof, and make circular pipes look rectangular.

His illusions, which often involve videos of three-dimensional objects shown from carefully chosen perspectives.

He has won first place at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest in 2010 and 2013, and second place in 2015, and 2016. And of course first place this year in 2018.

Here’s the winning 2018 entry:

His 2016 Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion freaks me out. How did this not win first prize? And what amazing illusion did win?

The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion shows a stack of cylinders that from one point of view appear to have a circular cross-section, and from another point of view appear rectangular.

Have a look!:

Mind blown?

For my gal-pal Alice, here’s another bit of mind-blowing:

“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee, “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”
Alice said, “Nobody can guess that.”
“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”
“Where I am now, of course,” said Alice.
“Not you!” Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”
“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out — bang! — just like a candle!”
– Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” (1871)

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Japanese Kingfisher

Known as the kawasemi, the Japanese Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a bit larger than the common sparrow but is one of the most beautifully-colored birds I have ever seen (on TV).

About 18 cm long, with short rounded wings giving it speed and maneuverability, the kawasemi’s feathers are an electric blue along the head, back and wings, while its chest and underparts are a bright orange.

It also has a white “beard” and an orange patch under each eye, with a large pointed black bill … though females of the species will have a line of orange on the bill’s underside.  

Located in Hokkaido through to Kyushu, the Japanese kingfisher lives and fishes along rivers and streams.

They are very fast fliers… sitting atop branches before flying low or darting down into the water a few inches to snag a small fish, crustaceans or aquatic insects.

Smaller prey is swallowed whole, while larger prey is beaten to death on a branch or perch. Vicious.

Do a test. Punch a sink full of water as fast as you can - in and out. That’s what Japanese Kingfisher does when it’s hunting.

What helps the bird when hunting from above, are the light polarizing filters that act as eye lids. It helps remove water glare so the Japanese Kingfisher can easily see its prey underwater.

However, when the bird dives into the water to catch its prey in its long bill, it closes its eyes, effectively going in blind, using its sense of feel on the bill to know when to snap its beak shut.

The birds Japanese name of kawasemi translates to “river cicada”, but are much rarer than cicadas.

Unlike most birds, both the male and female are spectacularly coloured.

Courtship begins in February, with the males, as usual, doing the courting, spewing a trilling, whistle song sometimes while carrying a fish as a gift in their beak, which does NOT affect the quality of their song.

The female Japanese kingfisher will listen to the male’s song from the comfort of a hole near the riverbank, and if she finds the song good enough will fly out to meet him, accept the fish gift, and then return to the hole.

After mating, the pair will dig out a tunnel in the riverbank so she can lay her eggs in April, and close enough to the water so he can easily fly out to the water to bring her food.

They will even have a second clutch of eggs later that year in July/August.

While the tunnel is now home sweet home, there’s no real plant-base nest made, rather the eggs are laid on the discarded bones of the caught fish , and barfed up undigested pellets.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top is by Monte M. Taylor, found at



Saturday, November 3, 2018

Japanese Cherry Salmon - Amended With More Sex

The Japanese Cherry Salmon has several names, which is apt considering that after birth, and growing in the streams, roughly half the young salmon undertake a life far different from the other half.

Also know as the masu salmon, masu or cherry hybrid salmon, it has the official name of Onchorhnchus masou.

Found in the northern part of the Pacific including Korea, Taiwan and Japan, the Japanese Cherry Salmon has, when it reaches maturity, a darkened back, with strips on the sides turning bright red to merge onto the abdomen into a single longitudinal band of lighter color - hence the name cherry salmon.

The salmon tend to weigh 2-2.5 kg (4.4-5.5lb) and are about 50cm (20 inches) long, though larger specimens are seen.

Like any salmon, the Japanese cherry salmon is a very commercial fish, and as such, is raised in fish farms and caught as a game fish.

But what makes this fish interesting is its lifecycle.

After spawning, the fish stay within the slower running areas of the river, but after a bit of growth will move to pools and other areas where the river is stronger and faster to feed on chironomid, stone fly, and may fly larvae, and on airborne insects.

Just like the law of the jungle where only the strong survive, the stronger fish, and in this case I mean about 50 per cent of the males, chase away all the other fish from the perceived best feeding areas, and continue to grow bigger and strong than the other 50 per cent of the males and all 100 per cent of the females.

The fish that are growing stronger and larger by feeding better or more efficiently in the river stay in the river for their entire lifecycle.
Add caption
At around the second year of life, the lifecycle for the Japanese cherry salmon alters for those not deemed strong enough.

It’s at this time that the females and the smaller male Japanese Cherry Salmon population will split away from the larger river Japanese Cherry Salmon - which now take on the name "yamame" (It will maintain the look it has in the photo immediately above) - and begin a journey downriver to the ocean waters.

As you know, the ocean is saltwater… and while these salmon do not become wholly saltwater fish, they are capable of surviving and thriving in the marine waters.

These marine cherry salmon stay near the shores of the ocean, but feed well on the crustaceans around them where they tend to grow bigger and stronger than their brethren that remained in the rivers.

But they will need the strength.

Upon reaching sexually maturity, these freshwater salmon begin the arduous journey back up the rivers and streams to their spawning river - leaping up small waterfalls.

These fish not only stop eating during their journey upstream, but begin to undergo physical alterations too - turning redder, and elongating their jaws - such as in the photo at the very top - which expose their sharp teeth - which will be used during mating to fend off other males.

Not every fish makes it back to the spawning ground. You can imagine that some die unable to leap high enough to get past the higher water falls, or are caught by anglers or hungry Japanese Brown and Japanese Black bears.

Those that do are exhausted… but not too exhausted to have sex. I don’t think there is a species out there that is ever really too tired to have sex. Maybe some female humans, but that’s probably it.

The marine Japanese Cherry Salmon are usually much larger than their River yamame kin, but because of the hazards mentioned earlier, pretty much every male fish gets fishy with it ensuring the species will have another go at it.

But the sex scene is interesting.

The larger marine fish will use their elongated hooked jaws in battle to have the one female they want to mate with.

After fending off all comers, the victorious male and his female (the ocean female is also MUCH larger than the river yamame fish, but is still smaller than the marine male) with begin mating.

The marine male will vibrate his body against the female, and when she releases up to 1,000 eggs in a blast, the male will release his sperm simultaneously.

Of course at this time, any nearby males will also get in on the action, including other marine salmon, and the plucky smaller river yamame salmon.

What's cool, is that when the male and female are ejecting eggs and sperm together they kind of have that "fug-face", with their mouths wide open in exquisite agony and thrill.

Male marine Japanese Cherry Salmon large and front and center with his sperm fertilizing the eggs of the female behind him. You can see how they both have their mouths open. Sneaking in on the action with his head peeking out from the sperm cloud is the yamame river salmon version of the same species.
After spawning, the larger marine salmon die, leaving only the smaller yamame river salmon to go at it again the next year.

The dead marine salmon - both male and female act as food for the Japanese population of Black and Brown bears.

And there you have it. The Japanese Cherry Salmon is both a river and marine fish.

I have no idea if one lifecycled fish tastes different from another. I would imagine there would be a difference.

Andrew Joseph 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Korean Court Rules Japanese Company Owes WWII Reparation Payments

Apparently it is still soon.

Despite WWII having ended in 1945 - 73 years ago, for some the war hasn’t ended at all.

Between 1941-43, four (amongst many others) South Korean workers were forced to work for the company now known as Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. as part of Japan’s takeover and rule of the Korean Peninsula.

These four men sued Nippon Steel at the Seoul High Court in July of 2013, and won, with Nippon Steel told it must pay each of the four workers 100 million won (about ¥9.9 million).

Nippon Steel then appealed the decision with South Korea Supreme Court. On October 31, 2018, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal.

Japan, however, says that the matter of financial compensation has long been settled - in 1965.

According to Article 14 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan (1951): "Japan should pay reparations to the Allied Powers for the damage and suffering caused by it during the war. Japan will promptly enter into negotiations with Allied Powers."

Let’s see - reparations were made:
1956: US$550 million (¥198 billion) to the Philippines;
1959: US$39 million (¥14.04 billion) to Vietnam;

Also, the 1951 treat had Japan make payment to the International Committee of the Red Cross to compensate prisoners of war (POW) of 4.5 million pounds sterling (¥4.54109 billion) was made; and Japan relinquished all overseas assets approximately US$23.681 billion (¥379.499 billion).

In 1952, Japan signed a peace treaty with 49 nations, and made 54 bilateral reparations agreements that included (according to Wikipedia):

  • 1954/1963: Burma (US$20 million);
  • 1955: Thailand (¥5.4 billion, also see below). Thailand was an ally of Japan in WWII;
  • 1956: Switzerland (see below);
  • 1956: Netherlands (US$10 million);
  • 1957: Spain (US$5.5 million);
  • 1958: Laos (see below);
  • 1959: Cambodia (see below);
  • 1965: Republic of Korea (US$300 million in payments and US$200 million in long-term and low-interest loans); 
  • 1958: Indonesia (US$223.08 million);
  • 1967: Philippines (US$525 million/¥52.94 billion);
  • 1967: Malaysia ($25 million Malaysian dollars/¥2.94 billion);
  • 1969: Micronesia;
  • 1977: Mongolia, economic aid of ¥5 billion (US$18.7 million);
  • Sweden and Denmark (see below).

The payments began in 1953, and ended in 1977.

Korea… reparations payments were made and completed in 1965.

For countries that renounced any reparations from Japan, it agreed to pay indemnity and/or grants in accordance with bilateral agreements. In the Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China (1972), People's Republic of China renounces its demand for war reparation from Japan. In the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, the Soviet Union waived its rights to reparations from Japan, and both Japan and the Soviet Union waived all reparations claims arising from war. Additionally, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), under President J. R. Jayewardene, declined war reparations from Japan.

Despite what Wikipedia says above, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand - agreements made for compensation were not actually called “reparation” payments.

  • Laos received US$2.8 million for a six-year period beginning in 1959;
  • Cambodia received US$4.2 million over a five-year period beginning in 1960;
  • Thailand actually had an agreement with Japan for Japan to provide the country with US$26.8 million in Japanese goods and services over an eight-year period beginning in 1962.      

So there were reparations payments without actually being called reparations payments - in an effort to reduce post-war feelings of anger and to help create smoother trade relations.

Japan also had various agreements on settlements of claims with other countries. Because  Switzerland, Spain and Sweden did not declare war against Japan, they were not parties to the San Francisco Peace Treaty and did not waive claims.

France, Denmark, Italy, the U.K., and others had claims against Japan that were in place before WII, and thus were not included or covered by the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Anyhow… the matter with Korea was settled under the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Cooperation Between Japan and the Republic of Korea.

As such, according to Japan, South Korea is violating international law by upholding the lawsuits presented by the four Korean workers.

I get it. These guys (and others long dead) got screwed over when Japan forced them to work.

However, the real issue is whether or not Korea actually doled out any of the reparations payments it received from Japan to any of these workers suing the Japanese company(ies). More than likely not.

Basically, we can assume that the government kept the reparations payments received in 1965 in an effort to build up the country economically. Or it lined the pockets of various Korean government officials.

Unless the government of South Korea reacts “internationally” to Japan’s claims that it has already paid its financial debt, how will Korea react when the Japanese companies fail top pay the Korean court ordered reparations?

Even now, since it lost the case, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. is on the hook for massive legal expenses.

Interesting still, is that there are a few other similar cases on the docket in South Korea’s courts.

Andrew Joseph  

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Osaka-jo Castle - How Did They Build That?

What we have here - above - is the base of Osaka-jo, otherwise known as Osaka Castle. It just finished raining.

It is a fairly modern rebuild of a 16th century castle destroyed by fire, but the point remains, that it was a rebuild of something made 500 years ago.

This isn't one of those glory shots showing the castle nestled within the cityscape of Osaka, rather it shows the stone base the actual castle is built upon.

Take a look at the reference point of size - the man in the bottom right corner taking a photograph.

Yeah, yeah, I saw him there and thought - perfect. Size reference.

Imagine, if you will that the photographer is about 5'-6" tall... making the largest of the base stones about his height. And look how long that corner stone is! That's a lot of weight to be moving around.

How did they move such large stones around?

That's why I took the photo. It kind of blew my mind.

For reference, here below is one of those glory shots I mentioned, also taken by myself during another visit. It's about to rain.

That's the wall for the moat out in front of the Osaka-jo castle. If you look closely at the top of that moat wall, you can see a white post. That's actually the upperbody of a person... again, just a size reference point.

Andrew "I am the God of Rain" Joseph
PS: Yes, I know I did this same type of article in 2013, but that was almost five years ago. HERE

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Just in case anyone is actually wondering, yes, that is me... the last known photograph taken of myself, by myself, a month or three ago.

No, my eyes don't have a square ring in them - that's just the lighting from a bathroom mirror. I saw it, thought the effect was cool and took the photo. Despite the appearance, my eyes are dark brown when visible without sunglasses drowning the effect.

I sure as hell don't think I look anything like the young pup in all those other photos... which may be why I colored my hair darker in the interim. I miss my thick, naturally black hair.

I'm vain about a lot of things, but my hair is the one I admit to.

And yes, my phone cover looks like a Japanese woodblock - of a dragon, and my shirt is actually a Japanese version of the Jurassic Park logo. To be honest, the shirt part wasn't planned in the snapping of this photo.

Notice the side of my head where I have tan lines from my Ray-Ban sunglasses. I wear those suckers so much that the tan lines no longer have time to fade in the Winter.

Anyhow... this is the mask I usually walk around in. Tomorrow... Halloween.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 29, 2018

Japanese Bats Recycled As Chopsticks A Big Hit

The barrel of one bat can yield five or six pairs of chopsticks, which are adorned with team logos. 

Japan loves it baseball as much Americans love their baseball. It's not the national sport - that remains sumo, despite all of its scandals and match fixing allegations.

But baseball - imported to Japan back in the late 1800s - has become ingrained in the Japanese psyche to this day.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the baseball bats that are cracked or broken in a ball game? In the US and Canada, charities get them or are sold by the team to collectors.

In Japan, the baseball bats are turned into chopsticks. Figures, huh?

Now... how many chopsticks do you figure you could get out of one baseball bat?

Try five or maybe six pairs. That's it.

The rest is thrown away. So it's not as though this is repurposing for a greener community at work.

Rather it is repurposing and reprocessed for reusuable kattobashi, a made up Japanese word that combines the words for chopsticks and a baseball chant sung by Japanese fans "get a big hit".

If you look at the photo at the top, these aren't your typical chopsticks. They are chopsticks for the baseball fan complete with team logo on the eating utensils.

It's kindda cool, actually. I've used a lighter adorned with my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs hockey logo, and I'm sure other fans have some other similar team adornment on something also utterly wacky - even Christmas tree decorations. Fan = Fanatic. I get it.

Now, while North American baseball bats have been made using Ash, Maple, Birch, Bamboo and composites, the Japanese use a specific type of Ash tree called the Aodamo, which is found only in Japan and parts of eastern Russia.... well, mostly. Hokkaido was considered THE spot in Japan.

Anyhow... thanks to its strength, flexibility and resistance to splintering, it was the tree supplying the wood for Japanese baseball bats for decades - heck, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui (surnames last) used the Aodamo wood for their bats.

But, when environmentalists pointed out that wood consumption was outstripping tree conservation, the baseball companies and sporting companies realized that it was no longer economically feasible for them to get their aodama wood for baseball bat manufacture.

Really... the problem was that despite cutting down the trees and turning them into baseball bats, no one was actually replanting sapling aodama trees.

Has no one in Japan ever read the Romax... er, I mean the Lomax by Dr. Seuss?

The way things stand now, is that the aodoma forests in Hokkaido may be back to "normal" in about 50 more years... which is why Japanese baseball bats are now made from imported maple or white ash.

Actually, an aodoma tree takes between 50 to 70 years for it to reach the right age where it can be harvested to manufacture baseball bats again... maybe by that time, ball players will have forgotten about the aodoma wood.

Known as Fraxinus lanuginosa (株立), the aodama tree grows to a height of 10-15 meters (32.8 - 49.2 feet), with only a diameter of 60 centimeters (23.6 inches).

Aha! A thin tree.

Deciduous, it sheds its leaves, and is found on Hokkaido, southern Kuril, and in a few places on Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and others - but mostly in Hokkaido.

The wood is a light yellowish white, though the heartwood (deep middle) is slightly darker.

The tree's wood is bendable, which is also why the tree is used in the construction of tennis and badminton rackets and skis... but its thin diameter means few other uses.
Image from, it shows a 2meter tall tree for sale.
Chopsticks... right... right.

After reading a The Nikkei financial newspaper article in 2000 about the decreased availability in aodama (IE, if this is your investment, get out), the Hyozaemon chopsticks company read it and felt that it should start utilizing recycled materials.

Company chief executive office Uratani Hyogoo, 73,  called up friend Minatoya Takeo, 81, who had been involved in professional Japanese baseball as a pitcher for the Taiyo Whales of Japan’s Central League and, later, a general manager and consultant for the team, now called the Yokohama BayStars.

Minatoya knew that the broken ball bats were either given away to fans or were burned as fuel in barrels to keep players warm during spring training.

Uratani thought Minatoya could help convince Japan's baseball teams to turn their broken bats into chopsticks.

I suppose that means colder ball players. 

The Hyozaemon team pays a licensing fee but can now apply a team logo to the 12 teams it has convinced to get in on this chopstick scheme.

As part of the licensing fee deal, the Nippon Professional Baseball annually contributes ¥3.5 million (US $31,000) to the not-for-profit Aodamo Preservation Society, which uses the money to plant aodama seedlings in Hokkaido.

Hyozaemon gets about 10,000 broken bats each season from the professional ranks, as well as college and industrial leagues.

It prefers to use the barrel of the bat (the part that is farthest from the hands, used to hit the ball) where it is thickest when it comes for chopstick repurposing.

Don't worry, it's not like those old cartoons where they use a sawmill to whittle a tree down to a single toothpick.

But... keep that image in mind: each aodama tree cut down, only yielded between 4-6 baseball bats. 

Other parts of the broken bats are used to make shoehorns (I have no idea if this is a bustling Japanese business or not... they take their shoes on and off a lot more than "western" society), and handles for western cutlery. Even the cap of the bat can be made into a drinking cup.

In other words, Hyozaemon tries to re-use as much of the broken bat that it can. Unlike the companies making the baseball bats all those years ago. Four to six bats out of a tree?

That's sickening when you think about it.

Now... when I left Japan, I was given a gift of chopsticks manufactured by a Japanese Living Treasure who creates chopsticks for the Japanese Imperial Family... so apparently when it comes to chopstick manufacture - at least real chopstick manufacture, there is an artisan skill to it.

After the barrel is cut away from the rest of the baseball bat, it is sliced lengthwise into think blocks.

From each block, a mighty chopstick is evoked, thanks to artisan sanding. After applying a decal of a team logo, the chopsticks are lacquered with several layers, dried and sent off for sale.

And now you know...

Andrew "Lorax" Joseph

Sunday, October 28, 2018

My Big-Busted Friend

Because apparently no one in this family throws sentimental things out, I bring you a letter I sent my parents dated June 14, 1991 from my new home in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I was about 10-1/2 months into my first one-year contract, and had already signed on for a second at this time.

I'm not always sure (27 years later) just what I was writing about, but it all seemed so much more important then. All I do know, is that my mother was planning on visiting me in Japan in August of 1991. She passed away in 1994, so the trip was even more than special for myself.

Here we go on another time trip back... back to 1991!

Dear Mom and Dad,

It certainly was great to talk to you last week. I really do love and miss you very much.
I'm feeling much better now as my ego seems to have recovered from its recent deflation. It was a total shock that left me, well, shocked.
I'm doing more and more activities with the natives here. I seem to be flooded with invites. The month of June is a total write-off when it comes to free time.
My friend Matthew (Albany, NY) and I will be going to the Tochigi capital this weekend to see some recent movies. I don't mean current because the movies now here were in the West over six months ago. The Christmas movie Home Alone opens up today. I am getting tired of renting movies. Since late-late December, I have rented 81 movies. Aaaghhhh! Get a life. 70% of these were watched with Ashley. There just wasn't enough to do here. Talk, eat, shop and mess around.
I hope you can handle Japan, mom. My city is really a large village - a small-scale Brantford. Anyhow, I figure that when you come, you have to see: Kyoto, Nikko and Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. Kyoto will take you several days to see and is about 6 hours away by Shinkansen (It travels at 200KM/Hr). You can see Nikko in a day or two and it's about 1 and a half hours away by regular train.
Tokyo is mostly a shopping city a la Toronto (only more expensive). Aside from Tokyo, Nagasaki and  few other cities, the place is full of old-world charm. Shrines, temples, pagodas, tea ceremonies, a plethora of kimonos, farms, rice paddies, spiders (which are a respected a great deal - but not by me) and truly friendly people. You'll like it if you don't go broke from over-shopping. It's really easy to lose track of your expenses: There are three paper bills: a ¥1000, ¥5000, and a ¥10000. They are worth $8, $40, $80 Cdn respectively. The bank machines only give you 1's and 10's. Where does all the money go? I just bought some Ray-Ban sunglasses here for ¥15000. There is no way I would have paid $120 for them in Toronto. But I did here. 
Right now it's the rainy season (till the middle of July). However, until yesterday it was sunny. At a bout noon, it was 32C. Since my work schedule does not usually allow me much contact with the sun, I decided to take advantage in the lull. At 1:30, I went out in my shorts and jogged a mile and threw a baseball against a wall. I went in an hour later. By that time, it had become gray and overcast. It cleared up at 3:30 when I went out to play baseball with the students and to teach and be taught some naught words. At 4 when I was totally exhausted and went back into the school, a siren suddenly wailed.  It was a warning for all golfers at a nearby club that an electrical storm was approaching. Two minutes later, the sky turned black and started spewing hurricane-like winds and rain. There was thunder and lightning like I would have only suspected as a harbinger of the apocalypse. Trees were uprooted. A half hour later the sky was blue again. Then it began again at 5:30PM and continued till 8. Bizarre. At least in Toronto you know you are going to get a mild thunderstorm virtually every summer nite. I'm told these summer storms occur with alarming frequency during the next month. Great.
Luckily, you'll only have the sun/son to contend with here.
I'm finally learning grammar. I'm learning the most complex grammar in the world and I don't even know English grammar!
Oh, bring a handkerchief. In the majority of the restrooms, there are no paper towels. Sometimes there's no toilet paper (use kleenex). The hanky will also come in handy when you perspire in the dry heat. Not me though. I've got an air-conditioner! Sweating goldfish as an excuse! They bought that old scam!
Uh, Mom, you say you are just taking a few things with you except for stuff for me... but what about the 3 countries you'll be in before you come here? Will you have enough room? If so, I'd appreciate a couple of (this is important) NINTENDO GAME BOY video games. I can only get Japanese language versions and can't get games designed for the Western market, I'd like: DUCK TALES; and GARGOYLE QUEST. I also have a SEGA GAME GEAR, (I have: Dragon Crystal, Wonderboy, and Mickey Mouse. Alnything else would be appreciated.)
I'd also appreciate a Toronto T-shirt for my short but big-busted friend Kristine. 
Other than that, I'll see you soon Mom, and talk to you sooner Dad.
Love as always,
PS: I ate this at an Indian restaurant in Kobe
vegetable pakora; barbecue mutton, chicken and fish; pork curry; vegetable biryani; and a beer. 
It stayed in me for three hours. I'm getting better.


And there we have another look at life in Japan for Andrew. That line about the shirt still makes me laugh! What the fug was I thinking? I have no idea now if I ever got the shirt. Probably did. I probably even mailed it off to my good friend Kristine, as she was a bout 500 km away. 

We really should have hooked up. It would have been fun, and I know she told me a few years ago it was part of the plan when she stayed at my place for a few days while she traveled the east part of Japan. I, of course, was sick. Timing is everything. 

I'm also pretty sure I didn't get the video games... though I do have some sort of memory of playing Duck Tales. So maybe? I still have my Game Boy!

My mother was visiting me in Japan, and I flew out to Thailand to meet her for a week. Before that, she was in Hong Kong. And... I have no idea where else. Though I could go and do a search of her photo albums. 

The weather was all new for me, more or less. In 1990 of August it was all just weather. I didn't know that late August and September was the hurricane season #2, with the first hurricane season hitting in April, which was when I learned more about season 2.

At this point in Year 1 when I wrote this letter, I must have been on the outs with my girlfriend Ashley, which is why I didn't ask her to bring anything for her. Then again, I didn't ask her to bring anything for my friend Matthew. Just Kristine. Hmm. I guess I know now what I was thinking. 

By the time my mom arrived in Japan, I had Ashley back (as a friend with benefits) and had Karen as a girlfriend, though I'm afraid that when she started bonding with my mom, that was it for me. Too close, too soon. Though she was a big-breasted redhead. And I don't even care about boobs. 

The weather was like I described, though Toronto was the propensity for a thunderstorm every summer night (though not recently) thanks to the humidity. 

My mom did not visit Nagasaki, as I suggested, and instead visited Hiroshima... which I never did. She did see Nikko with Karen, however. Me? I was working, so more often than not, my brave mother traveled Japan by herself. 

Okay... that's all for today.

Andrew Joseph 
PS: As you can, relative to yesterday's letter to my friend Rob, I change the way I write depending on the audience. Though I still can't believe I said that about Kristine... but the point was I wanted to make sure my mom bought her a big enough shirt that might fit and NOT be uncomfortable for her boobs. See? I cared about Kristine and her boobs.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Eggs Before Chicken

You guys don't know how lucky you have it. Back in 1990-1993 while I was in Japan, I had come to the conclusion that I liked writing and that I was good at it.

As such, whenever I would write to people - especially my friend Rob - I would experiment with stream of consciousness writing.

I kind of do it now, in that when I sit down in front of the computer screen I usually have zero idea of what I am going to "say" or how I'm going to express it.

Nowadays, I have a much more focused brain, and my stream of consciousness writing usually gets to the point sooner rather than later.

But back in say... 1992, I lacked that focus... but holy crap does it appear as though my brain was all over the effing place. I pity my poor friends who had to try and decipher just what the fug I was talking about in my artistic phase of writing. IE... a new writer who fancies himself pretty damn good.

Even though he wasn't.

Allow me to re-type for you, a mailed letter I sent to my friend Rob dated April 1, 1992, the day after his birthday. I have edited to downgrade the swearing only... but present this just so you can see what goes through my mind when I'm trying to be funny. Warts and all.

By the way... it is 1992... and about a year before the Internet looked like the Internet of today, and still before e-mail. There was an Internet from the late 1960s on, but it was basically message boards.

It was also before CDs and DVDs and 999 television stations, and if you missed a TV show, and didn't record it on your VCR, you missed it. 

As such... if I wanted to know some trivial bit of information, I had to look it up in an encyclopedia. Since I left my set of encyclopedia from the 1930s (I swear that's what I had/have) back in Toronto, I would have to find things out from reading newspapers, talking to people or having some wicked recall memory.

Dear Rob,
I call you "dear" but I don't mean it any sort of "funny-limped-wrist-hello-sailor-new-in-town" type way.
It was great to talk to you two hours ago, although I suspect it will be closer to eight days and two hours ago by the time you read this. Unless of course you decide not to open it, in which case I probably don't have to write as much.

But, just in case you are reading this right away, I guess I should keep writing (or is that typing - actually I know I am typing, but is it still called writing? Is what still called writing? Exactly my point. Typing comes from using a typewriter. Since I am using a computer, am I computing? GIGO. Do you remember Computer Studies? I got a 41. And my dad's the big computer genius. Anyhow, I remember that GIGO stands for: Garbage In - Garbage Out. With that in mind, it's time now (or it was eight days ago your time) for some more random thoughts - brought to you by a case of over-active boredom at the office.

  • My supervisor is gone. He's been traded to some other Board of Education in another city. Now nobody can speak fugging English in my office! Aaaarrgggghh!!
  • Why are Popeye's forearms bigger than his biceps? Is this some sort of side-effect from eating too much spinach?
  • Women. You can't live with'em and you can't shoot'em. Actually you can. It's just not that easy to get away with. Ha. I can see all of the guys at your work place sort of going, "Hmmmmmm."  and scratching their head(s). It could be jock itch. 
  • Love. Exciting and new. Come aboard. We're expecting you. The Love Boat. Soon we'll be making the final run. The Love Boat - promises something for everyone. I can't believe I actually watched that show in the 1970s and 80s. No... I'm pretty sure I stopped watching it by the time the 1980s rolled around. 
  • Wasn't Doc that nazi, KAOS-guy from Get Smart? Man. Now that's acting.
  • I was doing a 1.5 litre bottle of coke a night. Worried it might be affecting me, I gave it up. Now I can't sleep and my hands shake. Oh my god! I've got a monkey on my back! I'm a coke addict!
  • Hey! The new boss of the office speaks English very fugging well!!! I still don't know who MY boss is, though. 
  • A Stitch In Time? I thought so. Somebody has ripped the fabric of time and space and they've tried to fix it so no one would notice. I bet it was a chick - because they're the only ones in Japan who know how to sew. 
  • I just got some tax forms. I calculated my yearly income. I make $27,0000! I don't have to pay any taxes because of teh agreemement between Japan and Canada. Of course, I had a girlfriend most of the past year. No wonder I only have $200 in my bank account. I'm not bitter, though. Bitch.
  • How could she do this to me? Did she think forever meant three months?!
  • (Editor Note: I think this begins a new day. I was the end of page one)
  • Hm, my thoughts seem less chaotic and jumbled today. It must be the lack of coke fugging me up.
  • Ha! Okay, you aren't going to believe this one! Since today is the day people are changing jobs, there is a lot of bowing here in my office. Some poor shmo just clonked heads with my section head (no pun intended). They hit so hard, they each dropped their glasses.
  • Raindrops keep falling on my head. I wish they'd fix that bloody roof!
  • I was watching a quiz show on TV. Well, you know how smart those Japanese are? Everybody won. No one got a wrong answer.
  • People keep coming up to me and speaking Japanese. What teh fug are they aying? Gooneegoogoo?
  • Fugu. A fish for those that like to live life on the edge. This is a blowfish that contaons toxins that can kill you. It's supposed to be delicious. It is. I ate some one week ago. I read in a paper today, that three guys had their faces paralyzed, and one guy died from eating it... at teh same shop I went to.
  • Do's and Don'ts in Japan: You can: pick any orifice in public, but you can't blow your nose in public. You can take a leak generally anywhere, but you can't hold hands. Who'd want to now?
  • Uh-oh. I'm all alone in the office. I think we're alone now. Home Alone. Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word - 'cause what can an antelope say? Say what? James Watt. The Who. Beach Boys. Sandbox. Cats. Midnight. The Witching Hour. Ashley on her broom. I think I'm alone, still. Which brings me back to Do. Pillsbury. Yeast in fection. Eggs Benedict. Paul Revere. Rock and Roll. Beethoven. Dead German Guys. Yes, I'm a 75-year-old German, but I was never a nazi. Klaus Barbie. Toss another shrimp on the barbie. Ken dolls. Not anatomically correct. But then, who is? Every single guys swears he has a penis as big as John Holmes. He died of AIDS. Does anyone know who he got it? Got to get you into my life. Beatles. Scarabs. Pyramid Power. Red Kelly. Go Leafs Go. Go go Gadget. Scooby Doo where are you? V, W, X, Y, Z. Rush. Exit Stage Left. Snaglepuss. Hanna Barbera. Wilma. Alice. Lucy. Red heads. The wet head is dead. She sells sea shells by the sea shore. Dinah Shore. Dinah won't you blow my horn. Great horny toads. I can't get no satisfaction. Devolution. Institution. 999 Queen St. Can you give me sanctuary? The Cult. Blue Oyster bar. Police Academy. A doo-doo-do-a-doo-doo-da that's all I want to say to you, and if you act now we'll send you other great pick-up lines. But wait, there'S more. Breakfast cereal. Killers. Whales. Star Trek. Sequels. Again? Play it again, Sam. Green Eggs and Ham. Nuclear Zucchini's taste better with Heinz. Anticipation. Constipation. Pepto Bismol. The End. Big Ass. Ashley. Really, I'm not bitter.   
  • So can you follow my train of thoughts this time? I think I've got you in a few places. Yes, I know the Doors sang that little bit about "Sanctuary", but the Cult also had a song by that name. 
  • Whoa! How did that brief respite of normality get in here? Must be the coke! 
  • I eat my peas with honey. I've done so all my life. It makes my peas taste funny, but it keeps them on my knife. 
  • Born Free. As free as the wind blows.
  • Did anyone else besides me like Petticoat Junction? It used to be on right after Green Acres in the late 1960s. Do I watch too much TV?
  • How come Dick Van Dyke never did much work after the 1960s ended? This guy was a fantastic comic on his own show, and he was great in Mary Poppins - acting, singing, dancing! Yet, Mary Tyler Moore had her own sitcom (she also had the legs in the show The Millionaire - she was the secretary of this guy who would give away a million dollars one an episode. We never saw her face.) and now she has her own TV production company. MTM. Hell, even Jerry, Dick's brother is working on TV. Coach, I think. So I like TV. It's My Plastic Fantastic Lover. That's a Jefferson Airplane song. Before being called the Jefferson Starship and then Starship, they were called The Great Society. I just love bits of useless trivia, don't you? Well tough! I got more.
  • How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Well, scientists in Japan have determined that if you take an American Woodchuck, it will only chuck about 40 pieces of wood an hour for about eight hours a day (including lunch and two breaks), and you can't make it work over-time unless its Union says it's okay. However, if you take a Japanese Woodchuck, which is much more active than its lazy American compatriot, you'll generally find that it chucks 60 pieces of wood per hour and is not afraid to work over-time and weekends. Scientists have also found that the Japanese Woodchuck has a poorer standard of living, and is likely to die from over-work. The American Woodchuck, while having a higher standard of living, is more likely to die from over-indulgence of pork rinds.  
  • This chicken decides it's high time she had a night on the town. So she preens her feathers and heads out and picks up a handsome young egg. They have a few drinks and then go back to her coop from sone good old barnyard sex. Later, they're lying around in the nest. The chicken turns to the egg and says, "So, who came first?"
Sh!t. I gotta go. Now the office is going to move desks. I'm not happy about this. Oh yeah. I've gotta bad back. That sounds good. But how do I make them understand? Speak English or die!

Rock and Roll ain't noise pollution,
Keep'em coming Moses... "though shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife." Damn. Now what do I do? Oh well, there's always taking the Lord God's name in vain. What did he say? Oh great! Next thing you'll know he'll say no stealing! He dis? When? Number 4? God dammit all!

X (signed)
Prince Charles, heir to the throne. Let's throw Mama from the throne.

- 30-

Awww... now I feel sorry for you. Here's the thing... I understand what I wrote. It was nothing... just a panicked Andrew on the day he found out he was getting a new supervisor... and that all of the people he had known at the Ohtawara Board of Education office were being replaced by strangers. Except for Kanemaru-san, but he was no longer a co-supervisor, and had other duties... and I still have one and a half years to go in Japan!

Worse yet, I never did learn the name of my new supervisor. I got a business card from him, but it was all in Japanese!!! Don't they know I'm special. I cross back and forth between genius and insane. I need people who can understand me.

Hell... I didn't and don't even understand myself. 

Oh well... did you like that woodchuck joke? I can't recall if I read that somewhere or wrote it myself. No clue. Same with the chicken/egg joke.

By the way... everyone knows that the chicken came after the egg. There were dinosaurs laying eggs way before there were chickens. Next stoopid question!

Oh... here's the Love Boat theme... I didn't quite get the words:

Anyhow... welcome to the inside of my head circa 1992. Ignore the echo.

Andrew Joseph