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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Six Digress Of Gilligan's Island

As a kid growing up in Toronto, I would watch the comedies on TV after school before ignoring my homework in favor of playing sports (judo and soccer) and then perhaps watching my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs play hockey or some other television programming.

I make no bones about it... I watched a lot of television.

I was a lousy student... but after somehow squeaking in to university and somehow getting a degree, I actually tried when I went to college to do journalism... the university degree, journalism background and an ability to communicate with anybody about anything - thanks to an ability to use what I had learned while watching a lot of television, I was able to con enough people on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme to think I would be perfect for assistant teaching English in Japan.

Turns out I was, but what are you going to do?

Years later, I still watch a lot of television, augment it by reading a book a week, write daily blogs here, and weekly ones for another, and write for a monthly magazine.

I ain't no professor, but I like trying to teach people new things.

Which brings me to Gilligan's Island... a television show from the 1960s that only ran three years, but despite it's completely improbable plots, remains a beacon for comedy writers everywhere.

I was writing about myself a few days ago - about my genetic background, and fell down through a rabbit hole (hello, Alice!), and decided to add a short cartoon video about Bugs Bunny and a genie.

That genie was voiced by Jim Backus, who played Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island. I decided to read up on him, then Natalie Schafer (who played Mrs. Lovey Howell on the show). Because Natalie donated some of her fortune to co-star Dawn Wells (who played Mary Ann on the show) who was once Miss Nevada and was in the 1960 Miss America pageant - and I'm sure we can ALL believe that to be 100% true, so I read up on her... and because her bio mentioned Russell Johnson (The Professor), I read up on him.

By the way... did you know Rack-el, sorry, Raquel Welch also auditioned for the role of Mary Ann in pre-1964?
Okay... I can see Raquel Welch as Mary Ann now.
Her rise to fame came when she donned (sorta) a wet fur bikini as she emerged from the sea in the movie One Million Years BC. It's a classic poster that hung on many a teenaged boy's wall - you can look that up if you like. OMG - she should've tried out for Ginger... though I love Tina Louise (redhead) in that role.

Also, by the way, Gilligan's Island owes its plot to the 1939 Lucille Ball (love I Love Lucy... I have every episode!) movie Five Came Back, that included a wayward pilot and co-pilot, a botanist and his wife, a sultry woman with a shady past, and a rich playboy and his homespun wife.

Rabbit hole. And six hours to write this...

And that's how I come up with these blogs. Thought process? What's that?

So... in Russell Johnson's bio, I saw that he was involved in WWII... the Pacific Theater.. and then learned about his Japanese connection.

First off... some background on The Professor:

His full name on Gilligan's Island was Dr. Roy Hinkley Jr., born in Cleveland, Ohio, US of A, and when the show began he was a 45-year-old high school teacher, who just so happens to hold six university degrees in the fields of chemistry, botany, biology, psychology and geography—but unfortunately not one in boat repair... which makes sense, otherwise the show would have been over in two episodes.

According to background notes from the show's "Bible"... notes about each of the characters a creator will create to better flesh out all of the story/concept.

The professor was a genius from a very early age, and has a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) from USC (University of Southern California), a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) from UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), a M.A. (Masters) from SMU (Southern Methodist University - my ex from Japan, Ashley, went to this university), and a Ph.D from TCU (Texas Christian University) at the age of 15.

The bible says he spent two years on an Egyptian expedition. Along with English, some of the languages he can speak are Marubi (I think it's Albanian, but I can't confirm), Papuan (New Guinea), and Katubi (no frickin' clue)... with the exception of Papuan, the Professor's language abilities were meant to be useless... but then not useless.

His background includes him being the number one man on his chess team, and he was the youngest Eagle Scout in the entire city. At the time of the shipwreck, he was considered to be a Scoutmaster. He has never been married nor is he in a relationship when he boards the SS Minnow (the boat that gets shipwrecked on the show) for this three-hour tour via Gilligan's Island.

He is an author, of sorts, having penned the book "Rust, the Real Red Menace," and was in the process of writing another, "Fun with Ferns," which was why he was taking the three-hour boat tour... research.

Here's a list of some of The Professor's inventions on the isle:
  • Island Electrical Generator;
  • Bamboo Island Taxi;
  • Pedal-powered Hacksaw;
  • Pedal-powered Washing Machine;
  • Bomb (a timed-explosive used to relieve the pressure on the island's volcano);
  • Dental Chair;
  • Thermometer;
  • Bowling;
  • Guillotine (to help split coconuts);
  • Fish Scale (for weighing food as well as the Skipper and Gilligan), perhaps an early way to better conserve food?);
  • Hypodermic Needle (for medical needs);
  • Pedal-powered scuba (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) pump;
  • Scale (I think it's just used by The Professor to weigh ingredients for his experiments);
  • Geiger Counter;
  • Alcohol Still;
  • High G Centrifuge (a test to see who can best use a jetpack they find);
  • Island Blowtorch;
  • Island Telephone;
  • Lie Detector;
  • Pedal-powered Fan;
  • Barometer;
  • Seismometer;
  • Sewing Machine;
  • Retinoscope (looking into the eye);
  • Stethoscope;
  • Record Player;
  • Dynamite;
  • Transmitter.
The Professor trying to mix up some jet pack rocket fuel;
Contrary to what we might recall, The Professor simply could not fix the shipwrecked boat. He had tried to make nails with the found ferrous oxide on the Island, but they shattered like glass or exploded... he simply did not have enough of the ore to continue experiments. However, after discovering that Mary Ann's attempt at making syrup for pancakes had created an ultra sticky concoction, he thinks they might be able to use the glue to fasten wooden planks to cover up the hole in the boat that's about the size of a 10-pound rutabaga, if I recall.

To better protect the boat, they apply the adhesive all over the keel of it.

The problem occurs when they find out that the adhesive is not waterproof, turning to dust as soon as it touches water... causing the boat to basically come apart at the seams... luckily while it was still on land and not laden with passengers and crew.

It is the professor's fault for not performing more tests on the adhesive before applying it all over the boat, but it is not his fault that they couldn't fix the SS Minnow. That was TV's.

Some background on Russell Johnson, the person, and the reason for this article:

Born on November 10, 1924 in Ashley, Pennsylvania, US, as Russell David Johnson, after graduating from high school, Johnson enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet.
Military credentials of Russell Johnson:
After finishing his training, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, and flew a total of 44 combat missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II as a bombardier in B-25 bombers.

On March 4, 1945, while flying as a navigator in a B-25 with the 100th Bombardment Squadron, 42nd Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force, his B-25 and two others were shot down during a low-level bombing and strafing run against Japanese military targets in the Philippine Islands.

Navigator Russell Johnson, back row, far left.
After coming under heavy anti-aircraft fire, and all three of those B-52s had to ditch in the sea off Zamboanga, Philippines.

Though his bomber's co-pilot was killed on the landing, Johnson survived, but had broken both ankles, which later garnered him a Purple Heart.

He was also awarded the Air Medal (awarded for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight), the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three campaign stars (you are given this for having merely participated in the Asia-Pacific theater), the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one campaign star (a military award of the Republic of the Philippines for help in it achieving its liberation from the Japanese), and the World War II Victory Medal.

After Japan's surrender, Johnson was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant on November 22, 1945.

He joined the United States Air Force Reserve and used the G.I. Bill to pay for his acting studies at the Actors' Lab in Hollywood. While there, he met actress Kay Cousins (1923–1980), whom he married in 1949.

Anyhow, it is thanks to his time spent battling Japan, that he was able to afford acting lessons, which is why I was able to see him in the role that typecast him forever as The Professor.

Russell Johnson died in 2014 at the age of 89... and while his character wasn't the funniest on Gilligan's Island, he was one of the gang and it was always curious to see what crazy invention he was going to come up with next.

I loved watching every single episode of the show... and even have the three DVD season collection - back when it was cool to pay for things legally. I think I'll go watch an episode now.

Andrew Joseph
PS: On the pilot for Gilligan's Island, Russell Johnson was NOT The Professor... that role was played by John Gabriel, who was replaced because they felt he look too young for the role.John is perhaps best known to TV soap opera viewers for his role as Seneca Beaulac in the ABC-TV soap opera series "Ryan's Hope" from 1975 to 1985 and from 1988 to 1989.
PPS: Dabney Coleman also tried out for the role of The Professor.
PPPS: I believe that in the opening shots of the first episode, just after the crew wakes up to find the SS Minnow marooned on the island, we can see the cast members of Bunny and Ginger from the PILOT episode asleep under blankets. Ginger and Bunny were two secretaries in the Pilot).
PPPPS: Gabriel does appear in Season 1, Episode 12's Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk in a flashback, also in re-used footage from the Pilot, during a flashback scene.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Bowing Deer Of Nara

The first time I saw the video above, I really did state out loud... WTF?!!? Really…

I don’t know why I’m so surprised, however.

I have taught my cat to sit with the same hand gestures I used with my dog, and am now trying to get my cat Freddy to Lie down… and stay… without rolling over onto his back.

The whole reward them with treat-thing is a fail with cats, as they aren’t that interested in treats… or at least Fred isn’t…

So… deer learning to bow, as in a monkey-see, monkey-doo way… well… maybe the buggers are smarter than we thought, right.

But why? Let's enter the brain of one of these Nara deer: 

They bow, I bow, they give me a treat.

If they don’t, I head butt them. 

Then again... for those of you who have gone to Japan and have accidentally bowed at someone who things you their superior... a bowing contest takes place.

You bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow (getting dizzy(

(For those of you who have not yet been to Japan, you might think I am over-exagerating, but I wouldn't do that in a million years)

you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow, you bow, they bow,

Somebody help
Andrew Joseph off the floor.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Hate Japan So Much I'm Going To Stop Learning The Language

Friend and co-conspirator Vinnie sent me the following diatribe from a gaijin (foreigner/outsider) in Japan who wrote out his thoughts on the “I Think I Am Lost” website:

Vinnie didn’t mean for me to go and comment on it, because I don’t join chats... while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, everyone who is proffering their own opinion seems to forget that everyone else has rights, as well.

I'll get to the complaining letter in a moment, meanwhile I'll provide some reasons as to why I am evening writing about it... because we all know I want to know why... as I am unsure even as I type these words. That's the problem with writing via stream of consciousness... ya never know what's gonna happen next. It's how I amuse myself. It's also why I never re-read my own material (to edit, even), as the thrill of seeing it the first time defuses any joy I might get from the story... really...

Ahem... so...

Why did this person even feel the need to write out his complaints about Japan? Could he not have simply expressed his concerns to a friend... why bother to post them on a public internet forum?

Why are people writing in to add their two cents (in Canada, we don’t have cent coins anymore… so it’ll have to be five-cents worth… I can’t call it a nickel because there’s more than copper (75%) than nickel in a nickel.. and this is in the US).

Anyhow… since I’m already here questioning why anyone would want to post their innermost thoughts and feelings on a public forum, allow me to give you my take on the whole thing.

It’s not irony, if you aren’t aware it's irony. Else wise, it’s comedy. ;)-

Now, I’m not going to be comedic here in my reaction to the mysterious complainer.

First… let’s take a look at what he has to say… keeping in mind that even though I have a vocabulary filthier than an aircraft carrier full of seamen about to go on leave for the fist time in three years, I try to avoid the use of major swear words in this blog. As such, I am editing the naughty words. If you don’t like it, you can go F$^^$ your $#@@%^ and then #%%$^ your ##$$$$^ with a #XX@ that was just stuck up the #%@#) of a ?!^) that has a diseased %%%>>/ for years of %&($. Roughly. If you know what I mean.

After living here for not even a year, I just hate too much about living in Japan to want to study the language anymore. It's not that I hate Japanese history and culture. But modern Japanese work culture can go fug itself. I'm sick of seeing old people disapprove of everything. I'm sick of seeing young men ponce about with egos the size of fugging mountains because they've been taught that they can do no wrong and that their "honor" would be insulted if you criticized them. And I'm sick of seeing young women take all the blame for affairs, sexual misconduct from perverse Japanese men, and more.

Just fug it all. Being here makes you hate it here. This is a country that never takes outside input and a place where arguments about what is the most effective solution to any problem just involves people pulling age and rank and repeating themselves. English education here is a joke and no matter how much the international community comments on it, they're not going to listen.

So as a result of my falling out of love with Japan I've lost the will to study the language.

The only motivation left for studying Japanese is to try to learn to flirt and talk with cute Japanese girls but the few I've dated here have basically made a move for marriage from the first date. Not my style.


Wow… that’s his opinion, and one’s opinion is never wrong. The key is “opinion” .

The first thing we should ask ourselves (as I mentioned before... so maybe this is the second or third thing we should ask ourselves), is WHY the rant at all? Why rant about it in a public forum in front of strangers? Why not just rant to your friends? Point overly made.

And who the fug cares if you hate the country so much that you no longer want to study the language anymore?

When are you leaving?

I’m not saying he should leave… but if he hates Japan’s social structure so much, why not leave?

Not once did he say he wanted to leave Japan. Not. One. Time.

His method of showing his distaste is to give-up studying the Japanese language.

Wow… waydda take a stand.

Look… I applaud him for not leaving (for not stating that he was going to leave)…. but by protesting by not learning the language… that’s just selfishness.

How about you try and change things?

I used to say fug social convention. It’s why I ate natto when told by the Japanese that gaijin don’t like to eat it. Bring it on… I’ll eat more than anyone.

You think the Japanese can drink? I’ll show you… I’ll out drink anyone. I know judo, I like kyudo, I like kendo… heck… I’ll learn enough about sumo so that you’ll wonder which of the two of us is the real gaijin.

Heck... you think the Japanese women are treated poorly in Japan - yeah… they are… so maybe the next time the women hover around the tea pot serving o-cha, go and help them serve. I did it. What are the Japanese men going to do about it? Grab me and order me to sit and be served? They. Are. Going. To. Grab. Me?

Not bloody likely.

They will sit and be embarrassed as I serve them.

The women will look on with wonderment… and maybe they will see that not all men are dinks, and maybe it will lead one of them to sit and await her time to be served o-cha by a man.

When I did that for the female teachers at one of the schools I taught at, every woman was shocked and confused... at first... and then they thought it pleasant that I would do such dirty work by serving THEM.

In the hierarchy of things, at least at the schools, it was Japanese Men, Gaijin Men, Gaijin Women, Japanese Women. Students. Yes, age (IE rank) was also in effect, and still it traveled in the order mentioned in the previous sentence.

Me serving tea to the women. I didn't think it was a big deal at the time. I didn't know about these gender customs... and even when I did learn, I didn't give a crap.

My role on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme was NOT merely to be a human tape recorder and say "repeat after me"... no... it was to educate... educate internationally... via internationalization... to teach, or perhaps even just to inform Japan that maybe, just maybe, men and women should be treated with the same amount of respect and not be waited upon by one or the other.

The complainer has a wonderful point... but his manner of dealing with it, is less than combative, or even passive aggressive... it's capitulation followed by self-pity and the non-ostritch burrowing of the head in the sand.

Ostriches do NOT bury their head in the sand when frightened. Can we at least agree that that old nugget was more myth than fact?

I served the men and women... the teachers in a school, o-cha... bih whoop... to me it’s a small thing… but it’s at least a thing that is a damn side better than giving up learning the language.

It presents doubt in the mind of the oppressed. Doubt that it needs to be that way.

Dude… I gave up studying Japanese after I learned 500 kanji in a few months, but realized that I really didn’t care if I learned Japanese or not. And I survived, and thrived over three years there. It was my choice, but not one brought on by any negative influence. It was my decision alone.

Languages aren't my thing. Weird thing for a writer to state, huh? I prefer telling stories rather than writing. I like to tell stories that can be read.

Anyhow... I learned enough of the Japanese language to survive three years… and more importantly, I surrounded myself with others who could speak Japanese better than me… gaijin or Japanese.In Japan, I didn't mind being looked after.

But… the strangest thing I found in that guy's entire diatribe is his assertion that Japanese women were kind of pushing the whole marriage thing on him after one date.

Either this guy is even better then me in the sack (I’m thinking me in Japan, and a few years after that - and not current me), or…

… the global media is wrong, and Japanese women really do want to get married!!!!

Japan has, according to national government data and media, a negative birthrate… but apparently the Japanese women in our complainer's part of the country are willing to do their damnedest to quell that nasty numerical downslide.

Or maybe the media has it wrong… it’s not that the Japanese women don’t want to have sex and get married and have kids… maybe they just want to do it with gaijin, and not the chauvinistic stuck up… what were the terms this guy used… too lazy to go read it again... let's just say Japanese men.

I do not believe that every Japanese man is stuck on his maleness, but the vast majority are. Hell... I talk a good game here and now, but maybe that's not how I come off in real life. But since I have a lot of female friends at work, I can assume I don't appear to be a dink. At least in that environment.

According to the plethora of gaijin men who are in Japan now or were there recently that I have chatted with, they find or have found it extremely difficult to find willing female Japanese partners to do the fandango with.

Look… it’s not like our complainer isn’t correct in most of his statements about Japan and its Japaneseness… but seriously… he’s turning down action with Japanese women because they are talking about getting married?

Is he the only guy on the planet that isn’t using that for more sex? I guess he’s not a player, AT ALL. Most guys would know they don’t have to put a ring on it after the first date… and not even for the first week, month or year.

Gods, you can if you want to… but those of us from a western society want to enjoy the ride a while longer.

If the Japanese woman is put off by your refusal to get married when she is constantly chattering at you about marriage, She. Will. Break. Up. With. You.

Why the fug are you breaking up with anyone after the first date?

What’s the real issue here?

Why are you dating? I mean really? Is it for sex? Is it for companionship? Is it for marriage? Even if you are correct and marriage pops up during the first date, at least you know where the Japanese woman stands. She hardly expects you to get hitched at that point in time.

Why not ride it out? What do you want? Friendship? In Japan, friendship is usually a lifetime commitment.

These people still call the kids they went to Grade 1 in 50 years ago - their friend. Are you, the gaijin going to be around? They want a relationship, you want companionship. Maybe you just haven't met the right woman yet.

If you want more than companionship, then what is it... physicality in a sexual way? Then you are messing up already, and if I was a sex therapist, I'd help you, only I', not but I have played one in another blog. Yes he has.

Dude… if you aren’t having sex, or dating, or learning the Japanese language because the whole social hierarchy of the country depresses you… just what the hell are you doing when you aren’t “teaching” or “tending bar”? (He didn’t say which of the two possible gaijin jobs they actually had.)

Hopefully something constructive... while there's nothing wrong with doing something constructive for yourself, maybe you could think about how you could help rectify the situation you so despise and despair of in Japan.

Fight the power.

Somewhere %^$^%$%^ with a $%%^$^%$ and then ><(*#… you know what I mean, he says nodding and smiling,
JAMS Joseph
PS: Image at top is from 1933, and shows a member of the Nazi party throwing confiscated books into a bonfire during the public burning of "un-German" books on the Opernplatz in Berlin.

PPS: Today's blog is brought to you by Public Enemy, and their hit 1990 song Fight The Power from their album Fear Of A Black Planet... and don't even get me started on the Japanese...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Japanese Study: Insomnia Can Lead To Depression

I have sleep apnea (but use a C-Pap machine)… and for years, I struggled with poor sleep… as with apnea, your brain wakes up your body to make you try and grab a breath of oxygen so you don’t die.

I was killing brain cells… forgetting words, struggling to speak my thoughts… and all because my brain woke me up every 40 seconds or so to breathe, as I had some 600 apnea episodes over an eight-hour (or less) period. What, me worry?

In whatever dreams I had, I would replay the exact same circular moment over and over and over and over and over again… it was horrible.

When I wasn’t breathing, my body would panic, and emit sweat and adrenaline… a sour milk stench that would soak the sheets every night.

I know… pleasant, eh?

I use the machine now… get less than six hours of sleep per night and am never tired (except late at night)… considering what sleep I was getting, or not getting, the near-six hours is a dragon’s horde of healthy sleep for me. For now, that’s all I need.

I did have insomnia once - in Japan… sleeping for what seemed like maybe 18 hours over a 30 day period…

Which is worse… insomnia or not sleeping well?

I could have died from sleep apnea. And insomnia… I was just as tired… I had hallucinations… and would have done just about anything to get some shut eye.

With apnea, I had put on weight. To try and combat the over-tiredness I felt from not sleeping well, I fell into the vicious circle of eating more sugary products to try and stay awake… which puts on more weight, which lends itself to making the apnea worse.

Anyhow, I’m okay now… though I do get to wear the very sexy disco bondage headgear every night.

And I do mean every night.

I know so many people who wear it whenever they feel tired. Idiots. Wear it every night. You need it every night. You can’t catch up on your sleep. You can’t. You might think you can, but you can’t. Do you know why you think you can? Because the lack of sleep is making you stupid. Or stupider… er, more stupid.

Anyhow, according to a Japanese research group: Fumihiko Koyama, Takeshi Yoda, Tomohiro Hirao, they have done a report on how insomnia kills, entitled: Insomnia and depression: Japanese hospital workers questionnaire survey. It was published in De Gruyter, but I found it in Science News (

Here’s what the report says:

Lay people tend to think that insomnia is usually a symptom of something else, like stress, a bad diet or a sedentary lifestyle, but this may not be true at all. It is possible that insomnia itself causes many of the conditions that it is seen as a symptom of. Using previous research that shows that insomnia causes a decrease in blood flow in the front dorsal lobe of the brain, and correlates it with depression, the authors of a Japanese study recently published in De Gruyter's open access journal Open Medicine entitled 'Insomnia and depression: Japanese hospital workers questionnaire survey' seeks to establish a link between insomnia and depression.
Depression is a hidden killer. It is a condition that affects people all around the world. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in Japan. The yearly financial cost to the Japanese economy of depression and suicide is estimated by UPI to be USD 4.1 billion. Middle-aged males, one of the groups that was found to suffer the highest rates of insomnia are also the likeliest to commit suicide.
In March of 2011, over 7000 hospital staff in ten hospitals in the district of Rosai were given a self-administered anonymous questionnaire. The questions included information about the respondent's gender, age, and medical profession, as well as questions about their sleeping history two weeks prior to responding to the survey, as well as detailing their overtime work, and their history of disease and chronic pain. It also asked them to assess their own feelings of depression and fatigue.
The results were alarming. Thirteen percent of men, and nineteen percent of women suffered from insomnia, and the medical profession with the highest rate of insomnia were nurses at twenty percent. For comparison, about ten percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia.
Chronic insomnia can lead to depression, and a better understanding of the link between the two conditions could be used to improve treatment, and prevent the condition from worsening while strengthening the world economy. The hope is a survey will be developed for healthcare professionals (and other high-stress professions) that can identify insomnia before it becomes a problem.

It’s a pretty weeny report, if I may say so… but still, they did ask 7,000 hospital staff in 10 Japanese hospitals... I just mean the way it had it's headline, which I will place here for the first time:

Sleepless in Japan: How insomnia kills

was used... the implication is that insomnia could kill you or a person... uh, no... the actual reports says that those with chronic insomnia appeared to have a higher percentage of developing clinical depression.

While it's true that some people who suffer from depression do try to kill themselves, the depression itself doesn't kill you... ergo neither does insomnia. Sensationalist media...

My headline at the very top attempts to avoid any misconception for the reader.

It’s a sleep study… men and women working in a hospital suffer from insomnia… do we know why? Was it the horrors or the excitement of the day? Was it poor eating habits? Was it a constant caffeine intake throughout the day that keeps them awake?

I can have a Coke at 1AM, chug it back, and then fall asleep 10 minutes later nowadays. Well, actually I could always do that. The only time I couldn’t was when I had insomnia… and I was probably over-stressed out about being away from home, people I knew dying, and women troubles… you know… the usual.

But this Japanese hospital worker study notes that chronic insomnia (it happens all the time) can lead to depression… and in this case they are talking about clinical depression… a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Now… the next step in this study, as I see it, is to either expand the study to all hospital workers at every type of medical facility… or…

… to take a closer look at the original 7,000 respondents and determine whether or not clinical
depression is a concern within the staff.

Did they have depression BEFORE entering the medical field, or has it developed since then. When did it develop… that’s always the tricky one. That old adage re: “Physician heal thyself” is sticky, because many in the field seem to not look after themselves as well as they would advice their patients.

… like with the whole insomnia thing.

I would also think that police officers should be examined in the same way… not just in Japan, but globally. Police officers might have a 12-hour shift, then pull overtime, and then maybe go and do an outside “security” job for a few hours… and then maybe try and get some sleep. Not everyone of course.

Outside of Japan, firefighters, too. These guys might be on-call for four days, off for three, etc.

I have to admit that I do not have numbers when it comes to medical staff, firefighters or police officers. I would imagine their sleep patterns are far wackier than the average person’s. Is it healthy?
Is it sustainable?

If anyone has any insider information on what a typical professional from those fields might have re: work schedule, I’d love to learn.

Or maybe the military…

Anyhow… from this Japanese study, we learn that insomnia is bad, and it can make your life worse.
I can personally state that a lack of proper sleep is dangerous to the individual…

To die, to sleep, perchance to dream...
Andrew Joseph
PS: For the record, I do not have any mental health issues, but I do know more people with them than I do without them... which seems to be more a fact of reality.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

1930 Japanese Baseball Packaging

What we have here is something extremely rare… a Japanese baseball  - mint in package… a 1930 Hirano & Sons baseball.

The baseball package, which was recently up for auction at sold for US$300.

As the photo shows, it has never been unwrapped, and still sits within the preservative foil and outer wax paper wrapper… so unfortunately we can’t see what the baseball looks like… hint… it looks like a baseball.

There are many paper labels on the wax paper and the outer paperboard package featuring the company’s logo… a weird-looking humanoid figure on a black backdrop with the inscription Hirano & Co., Osaka, Sporting Goods Etc.

I can’t find any information on this company, or even an unwrapped example of this baseball brand - if you have any data, please share.

On a side note and not quite entirely unrelated, Japanese base ball player Hirano Yoshihisa (平野 佳寿) is now an MLB (Major League Baseball) player with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Previously, Hirano pitched 12 seasons for the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), mostly as a reliever (at least since 2010), and their closer from 2012-17 - but career-wise he had 156 saves.

In the 2014 season, Hirano led the Pacific League with 40 saves. He also won NPB’s best middle reliever award in 2011.

The 34-year-old has a mid-90s (mph) fastball, and a forkball that falls of the table as it flies towards the plate.

Yes… the MLB season opens this week. Support your local team, but not the Yankees or Red Sox. :)

Andrew Joseph

Asahi Clear - Where Design Outstrips Form

What we have here, is an image of Clear Asahi beer brewed by Asahi Breweries as an happoshu style beer… a rich, but pale lager beer that doesn’t seem to have resonated with beer drinkers... and is something that is no longer produced.

IE, it doesn’t taste as good as it looks…

I, personally, hate IPA (India Pale Ale) beers of all varieties… and while the Clear Asahi isn’t an ale, but a lager, it still has the word “pale” in it, which probably means it is bitter.

I know that IPA beers are extremely popular now, but I have long preferred the white beer Blanche Du Chambly, Boddington’s Cream Ale and Guinness… the original…

I like lagers and ales, but just not IPA’s or the stupidly high alcohol percent beers that have a ton of sugar sweetness to them.

In Japan, I preferred Kirin Lager, and Asahi Super Dry, but that’s about it. I’d rather have drunk sake, vodka or rum, anyhow. Maybe a bourbon and soda.

It doesn’t matter now… I don’t really drink anymore. If I go out with my friends Nigel and Rob a few times a year, I’ll have a beer - otherwise I don’t drink much… well, except when Rob kindly buys me a bottle of sake

It’s not that I can’t drink anymore, it’s that I can, have, and have nothing to prove, as I think I took everything I did in Japan as part of some sort of inner competition. How much, how many… and now I think, how come?

I don’t think I ever drank alcohol except to excess… never enjoyment. Maybe enjoyment through excess… but still…

There was no reason, except that when I got back home from Japan and started seriously dating, I couldn’t drink AND drive, so I gave up the drinking.

It didn’t matter… I think I drank alcohol to either relax me to handle the stress of having women or not having women in my life… and maybe I just grew out of that.

I can see clearly now, the fog (sic) is gone... 

But none of that is important… at least not to you (or even to me… it just is…)

Take a look at the very cool graphic elements on the can of Clear Asahi.

Look at how that drip of beer head seems to actually be falling from the top of the can?


The beer sucks, according to the comments of the beer tasters who bothered to post such information…  but in my opinion, the package design is awesome.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Here's a video of the Johnny Nash 1972 hit I Can See Clearly Now:

Monday, March 26, 2018

More Genetic DNA Background On Myself

So... my father also had his ancestry DNA (spit) tested, and his results are in.

My brother did it first: According to my brother’s spit, we are indeed 3/4’s South Asian (India), with the next largest chunk (15%) having roots in East Asia…. which includes China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines (and more) … oh, and of course Japan.

Smaller amounts (in descending order) of genetic markers have us from: Melanesia (Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, as well as the French special collective of New Caledonia, and the Indonesian region of Western New Guinea); Central Asia (kindda includes Israel/Palestine), and Polynesia (uh… the thousands of islands scattered around the central and southern Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand, American Samoa, Cook and Easter Island, Hawaii, French Polynesia, Tonga, Samoa, Pitcairn Islands, Niue, Norfolk Island, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, and Rotuma, Gilligan’s Island and others).

Now, according to my dad's test, he is 6% more South Asian (Indian) than my brother.

There were also the 10% amount of East Asian... no one knows where that is from. A small amount, but more than my brother for Melanesia, too.

The Central Asia is there, too... but much less than what my brother had, which is weird ONLY because my dad's mother is supposed to have been born in Israel/Palestine.

No Polynesia appeared in my dad's DNA, implying that my brother got that from our mother's side.

Coming at less 1% are traces of Eastern Europe... but the surprise of the bunch is that my father had nearly as much of genetic marker from Finland/Northwest Russia as he did from Melaneasia.

My brother had zero markers from Finland/Northwest Russia.

Of course, my brother may simply NOT have picked up the genetic markers from my father, and picked up more from our now long deceased mother. It doesn't mean mine own genetic DNA is the same as my brother... as I might have picked up more from my father than he did, or I may even have picked up more of the markers than my brother did.

Still... it may explain why I had a thing for blue-eyed blondes et al from Mother Russia in my early 30s.

But no... the intriguing thing for me is the whole Melanesia-thing, along with the double the amount of East Asia genetic markers.

While I doubt I have Japanese DNA in me, I can't say that I don't.

As such, the East Asia markers appear to be coming from my father's side.

As mentioned, his mom's parents - of which we know next to nothing about (she died in childbirth, he was a merchant marine)... where were they from? They could have had parents/grandparents from China, Japan, Korea, The Philippines... we'd never know. Both of my dad's mom's parents died after my dad's mom was born... in childbirth and apparently months later on a sea voyage.

Nothing was passed down. Just genetic markers.

For me, it raises more questions - and since I know my history as well as anyone is going to know it - which is to say not very well, I'm afraid I'll never know my true family history.

My wife... her family on her mother's side is known (via books!!!) back to the late 1600s and earlier.

Despite me loving history, my own is short, not even making it back to the 19th century as far as details go... just traces (genetically speaking) that hint of a far more interesting past. Well... maybe not more interesting, but certainly a more "intriguing" past.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Video above is from the 1948 Warner Brothers Cartoon starring Bugs Bunny in "A-Lad-In His Lamp". I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've used that Genie's (he his known as Smokey) intro as my own.
The genie is voiced by Jim Backus, that wonderful actor who also voiced Mr. Magoo, was the drunk in 1963's It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (perhaps the funniest movie ever!), and of course played Thurston Howell III in Gilligan's Island.  

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Shinkansen Supreme

When I think of "Supreme" I tend to think of fashion accessories... The Supremes music group... a Taco Bell product... but now I suppose I'll have to think of shinkansen (bullet trains) made in Japan for Japan.

Earlier this week, Central Japan Railroad Co. (JR Central) rolled out its newest shinkansen, the Shinkansen N700S, aka the Shinkansen Supreme.

That's all well and good as far as it's nickname goes, but it leaves very little, if any, room for improvement.

While test trains will begin running later this month, the Shinkansen Supreme is expected to be put into full service in 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

Back in 1964 when Tokyo last had the Olympics, it debuted the first shinkansen.. the first true high-speed bullet train... just in time for the world to have a look-see.

Shinkansen Supreme Green Cars (First Class) with superior leg room.
The Shinkansen Supreme will run between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka... though the company does hope that its train will attract foreign buyers, too.

Compared to the more square N700A series, which entered service in 2013, the new Supreme series will have a curvier head profile, featuring a sharper nose called the Dual Supreme Wind (a silly name considering it is causing the wind to flow over it), which will better reduce noise when entering tunnels and lessen air resistance.

That front end (see image at top) kindda makes it look like a duck... or a platypus.

Does anyone else wonder what happened to N700B thru N700R series? I do. But I don't have an answer.

Thanks to the Dual Supreme Wind profile, less air resistance means better "fuel" economy, faster speeds and thus shorter travel times.

Shinkansen Supreme - regular class seating.
If the Shinkansen Supreme utilizes the 16-car variation (it can also run as a 12-car variant) , it will be 11 tons (22,000 pounds/ 9,979 kilograms) lighter than the previous generation's N700A series.

The lower weight is achieved, in part, from use of a silicon carbide material on the semiconductors, as well as from use of a natural air cooling system.

Sleeker, lighter and with better fuel consumption, the Supreme also has a better braking system enabling it to stop quicker and smoother, though I personally never felt that was an issue, even on the bullet trains I traveled on back in the early 1990s. Stopping power was superb then, but I trust that with the Supreme's new system it is even safer with a quicker response time should a cow somehow wander onto the tracks conveniently located some 50 feet (15.24 meters) overhead.

And, while I have postulated that the sleeker, lighter train would allow it to travel faster, I was wrong. The railway company has capped its top speed at 300 kilometers (186.411 miles) per hour, as all the other shinkansen can travel at... perhaps for safety reasons... maybe the rails aren't equipped to handle anything more for long journeys multiple times a day.

Still... the importance here is its greener aspect of requiring less fuel.

As for the passenger seating, there are some nice updates:
  • More leg room - 15% - in the special Green Cars (aka First Class);
  • Smoother reclining of the seats;
  • Each seat will have its own power sockets... but only for electronic devices, so I don't think you can plug in a toaster or electric blanket, but you can plug in your phone... so I suppose that's cool.
All seating aboard the Shinkansen Supreme will allow you to get a charge out of it, with an outlet to plug your digital device into. It's a nice touch!
 And, with apologies to The Supremes, while you can't hurry love, you can hurry to Osaka.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Coca-Cola and Asahi Offer Special Hanami Packaging

When I was living in Japan between 1990-1993, my favorite beverage then as now, is Coca-Cola, though I have had to switch to Coke Zero, or whatever they want to call it now.

While I preferred the Kirin Lager beer, my next best favorite was Asahi Dry (or Super Dry).

I never saw a differentiation in package design for much of anything back then, as I think brand owners were always afraid they would lose customers if a package's look was so different from the norm.

Obviously that's not the case.

Why do it? Change the graphic representation of your established brand?

I think brand owners are smart enough to realize that when it comes to brands such as Coca-Cola or Asahi, consumers will spend that extra time to make sure they get exactly what they want - regardless of how it looks.

Plus, there's a collector's market out there.

Even I, with my limited desk space at work have four cool Coca-Cola products (an original can I never opened from just before they went to New Coke, a can with MY name on it that the people at Coca-Cola Canada were kind enough to make for me and send to me. They also did one for my wife Colette and son Hudson, though he threw his away after chugging it back at school.

I also have one of those spectacular Diet Coke bottles that are covered in modern art, and are printed (and cut) so that no two bottles in the world will ever look the same.

And I have one celebrating Coca-Cola's 100th anniversary as a bottler in Canada (1906-1916).

Decades past, and just before I went to Japan, while in Japan I collected beer bottles i had drunk commemorating some sort of religious theme: Santa Claus beer, El Diablo, Pope's 1880... stuff like that.

People like art... nice things... and in the case of Suntory and Coca-Cola Japan, they are delivering them...

... even if the theme is (ho-hum) cherry (sakura) blossoms... just in time for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season in Japan.

If it's not Mt. Fuji, it's sakura, oh sakura. I suppose both the the two iconic images that the Japanese could say represents them.

But, for the rest of the world, it would be geisha, ninja, samurai, shinkansen (bullet trains), Godzilla and Gamera, sushi (though most people confuse it sashimi - thinly sliced raw meat), and even kimono (the plural of kimono is kimono - in fact, in regard to the plural of all things Japanese, there is no apostrophe "s").

Regardless... the Coke and Asahi (Suntory) consumables are not for the foreign market, and are for the Japanese market... as such... perhaps if you would like these limited edition cans/bottle, you should reach out and try and make friends with someone there.

I am not there. Go make your own friends.

Oh... and last Sunday I wrote about how I should take my son to see the Harlem Globetrotters... well, later that night a commercial appeared on TV, and lo and behold the Globetrotters were coming to town in April... so I bough three tickets.

There were only three levels of ticket available... and so I bought the middle range. Did you know that after paying some $20/ticket in service charges on top of the ticket price, the cost was actually $9 (in total) more than what it would have cost to go see the professional NBA Toronto Raptors game.

I can only hope snacks at this non-downtown Toronto event are cheaper... I already know there's free parking... but still... the prices are ridiculous...  and what sucks is that they are NOT upfront about what the extra fees are.

Yes, they state that there are service charges in addition to the ticket price, but they don't tell you what the service charges are until you spend all the time and effort to actually purchase them.

It's like going to the movies... $32 for two tickets... $35 for the snacks. And they wonder WHY people are not going to the theater? People love the experience, but hate being ripped off. That's why, after a while, people find alternative things to do with their time and money.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Google Doodle For Saruhashi Katsuko

Katsuko Saruhashi’s 98th birthday
What we have here is a Google Doodle from March 22, 2018 depicting Saruhashi Katsuko (surname first), a Japanese geochemist who made some of the first measurements of carbon dioxide levels in seawater and subsequently showed the evidence in seawater and the atmosphere of the dangers of radioactive fallout.

Born on March 22, 1920 in Tokyo, Saruhashi graduated from the Imperial Women's College of Science (predecessor of Toho University) in 1943 before joining the Meteorological Research Institute (part of the Central Meteorological Observatory - now known as the Japan Meteorological Agency), and worked in its Geochemical Laboratory.

In 1950, she started studying CO2 levels in seawater. At that time, CO2 levels were not recognized as important, and as such he had to create her own methods to measure them.

She earned her doctorate in chemistry in 1957 from the University of Tokyo, becoming the first woman to do so.

After the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests in 1954 involving geothermal hydrogen bombs, the Japanese government asked the Geochemical Laboratory to analyze and monitor radioactivity in the seawater and in rainfall.

The Bikini Atoll is an atoll in the Marshall Islands which consists of 23 islands totaling 3.4 square miles surrounding a 229.4-square-mile (594.1 square kilometer) central lagoon.

A Japanese fishing trawler had inadvertently found itself downwind from a hydrogen bomb test, and as it turns out, its occupants became ill from the radioactive elements in the air. You can read about that sordid tale HERE in a blog I wrote just over four years ago.

The nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll program involved 23 nuclear devices detonated by the United States between 1946 and 1958 at seven test sites on the reef (atoll) itself, on the sea, in the air and underwater.

During the second series of tests in 1954, code-named Operation Castle. The first detonation known as Castle Bravo (shouldn't it have been called Castle Alpha?), was a new design utilizing a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb.

It was detonated at dawn on March 1, 1954. Scientists miscalculated (don't you hate when scientists miscalculate?) and the 15 megaton (Mt) nuclear explosion far exceeded the expected yield of 4 to 8 Mt, and was about 1,000 times more powerful than each of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
The Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test on March 1, 1954. Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing to see here.
The scientists and military authorities were shocked by the size of the explosion and many of the instruments they had put in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the device were destroyed.

Anyhow, Saruhashi determined that it took 1-1/2 years for the radioactivity from the Bikini Atoll tests to reach Japan via the seawater.

By 1964, the radioactivity levels from those same tests showed that the western and eastern North Pacific ocean water had mixed completely, and by 1969, the traces of radioactivity had spread throughout the Pacific.

This was some of the first research showing how the effects of fallout can spread across the entire world, and not just affect the immediate area.

Now... what I don't know is just what they mean by traces of radioactivity. Obviously Saruhashi and her team were searching for traces of a particular type of radioactivity, rather than the common stuff that falls upon us everyday... but just what does "trace" imply.

Obviously it was not considered a danger to human or even marine health... er, that is long after it had mixed in with the waters for several years diluting its potency. But... what would be interesting to determine is how long did it take for the waters in the immediate area of the hydrogen bomb test to return to a level of "safety".

The U.S. military authorities and scientists had promised the Bikini Atoll's native residents that they would be able to return home after the nuclear tests. As such, a majority of the island's family heads agreed to leave the island, and most of the residents were moved to the Rongerik Atoll and later to Kili Island. But, both locations proved unsuitable to sustaining life, resulting in starvation and requiring the residents to receive ongoing aid.

The tests continued at the Bikini Atolls, with Redwing in 1956, and Hardtack in 1958... and despite the fact that the scientists and military had promised they could return to their island home once the tests had concluded (did they know it was going to be that many tears?), the constant bombardment from the hydrogen bomb testing made the entire area unfit for habitation, as the soil and water was far too high with radioactivity

The United States later paid the islanders and their descendants $125 million in compensation for damage caused by the nuclear testing program and their displacement from their home island, which is great... because well... I'm not sure why.

Apparently as of 2014, the Bikini Atolls has been declared "technically" possible for people to live there again.

So... they can go back, right? The problem of course is that they have spent what... nearly 70 years off the island? It's no longer their home. And what would they do there? Would you want to go back or, as the case for the majority is, go there for the first time ever to reclaim your heritage?

Despite that 2014 "technically"-speaking report that said people could go back and live, it didn't say for how long.

A 2016 report showed that radiation levels were at 639 mrem yr−1 (mrem = millirem, and a rem is short for "roentgen equivalent man", a measurement of radiation).

The  established safety standard threshold for habitation of 100 mrem yr−1.

Well... if these hardy Bikini Atollinders (Atollians?) can handle the heat, they would find, according to a 2017 Stanford University study, plenty of marine life in the crater of the Bikini Atoll.

The report did not mention any three-eyed fish.

 The islands continue to be uninhabited.

Later, in the 1970s and 80s, she turned her attention to studying acid rain and its effects.

Saruhashi earned quite few awards and distinctions throughout her scientific career:
  • 1958 - established the Society of Japanese Women Scientists to promote women in the sciences and contribute to world peace;
  • 1979 - named executive director of the Geochemical Laboratory;
  • 1980 - first woman elected to the Science Council of Japan;
  • 1981 - won the Avon Special Prize for Women, for researching peaceful uses of nuclear power and raising the status of women scientists;
  • 1981 - established the Saruhashi Prize, given yearly to a female scientist who serves as a role model for younger women scientists;
  • 1985 - first woman to win the Miyake Prize for geochemistry;
  • 1993 - won the Tanaka Prize from the Society of Sea Water Sciences.
Saruhashi was also an honorary member of the Geochemical Society of Japan and the Oceanographical Society of Japan.
Saruhashi Katsuko

She died on September 29, 2007 of pneumonia at her home in Tokyo, at the age of 87.

The Google Doodle was created in honor of what would have been her 98th birthday.

Andrew Joseph

Clear The Track - Here Comes The Cat

Back when I was a kid, one of the most famous hockey players was a guy named Eddie Shack. He may not have been the most skilled hockey player, but he sure was entertaining. It's why his nickname was The Entertainer.

Eddie (I can't call him Shack) was fun to watch on the ice and off the ice, as in both instances one never quite knew just what The Entertainer was going to get up to next.

He helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967, was a three-time All Star... and sadly I only caught him towards the end of his career.

Here’s an example of what life with Eddie on the ice was like, however:

“I didn’t need an excuse, I’d had a thing going with Eddie Shack for a long time,” recalls Philadelphia Flyer Eddie Zeidel recounting a 1967-68 hockey game between his Flyers and Shack's Boston Bruins.

“The last time we were in Boston, the two of us had bumped during the warmup.  I figured it was time to balance the books. So I went to the game like a kamikaze.”

See... another Japanese connection! Kamikaze!

In the opening minutes of that particular hockey game, Eddie Shack and Zeidel collided and traded insults. Later in the first period, they again came together along the boards and Zeidel swung his stick and opened a three-stitch cut on The Entertainer’s head. Enraged, Eddie began to swing his stick at Zeidel’s head—some seven times. Zeidel, in a defensive posture held his stick horizontally in front of his face, somehow managing to escape the frenzy with only a three-stitch cut on his scalp.

Hockey aside, I did see Eddie do TV commercials.

The one that sticks out (and maybe this is the only one he did). it was to show the toughness of a Glad home garbage bag.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of it.

In a mock kitchen, a filled garbage bag is suspended via rope from the ceiling (like it is in everyday life). Eddie, besides his skills in carving up the opposition with his hockey stick, was also a renowned pugilist (fighter). 

The commercial called for Eddie to come out and punch at the garbage bag as though it was something akin to what you might find at a boxing gym…

There he is in the commercial, trying to beat the crap out of a full garbage bag (because obviously a tough guy like Eddie Shack wouldn’t have a problem in tearing a new one in a plastic garbage bag, right?

Eventually, after punching the bag multiple times, he gives up, but returns with a frenzied kick (I believe - maybe it was a stupidly hard punch) finally tearing a hole in the bag, as the garbage falls to the ground.

It was funny… as the commercial pretty much says it’s tough enough for whatever the average joe can throw at it without dumping a mess, but maybe we shouldn’t attack it or have Eddie Shack around.

I am working off 40+ years of memory here...

Before his commercial uprising, Eddie was the inspiration for a rock and roll pop song called 
Clear The Track, Here Comes Shack a catchy tune by Douglas Rankine and The Secrets in 1966.

That song is why I created the title for this blog article above...weird how some things stick in your head. Or my head, as the case seems to be.

Oh yeah, and if you look at the image at the very top of this article, you’ll see a pink shinkansen (bullet train).

The West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) will launch a Hello Kitty-themed shinkansen on its Sanyo Shinkansen Line between Osaka and Fukuoka this summer (2018).

The Kodama train will feature Sanrio Co.’s popular kitten character who can be purchased by companies looking looking to better market whatever product or brand they want to market. Hello Kitty don't care... she just wants the money.

Its design was inspired by Hello Kitty’s trademark red ribbon, which describes JR West’s desire to enhance ties between regions with shinkansen services in western Japan, the company said.

The train will pull eight 500-series cars... but a unique feature - besides being plastered with Hello Kitty graphics, is there will be a grand total of zero passenger seats in car No. 1, which will be dedicated to sales of local specialties. Car No. 2 will have full Hello Kitty decorations. I believe Cars 3-8 will have the standard bullet train seating.

I would imagine that if you are sitting in Car No. 2, not only will you get to pay extra for your seat, but you will also have access to Car No. 1 and its "local specialties"... what do you suppose "local specialties" are... I mean the freaking distance between Fukuoka and Osaka is a stunning 613.3 kilometers (381.1 miles), as it crosses the west coast of Japan.... which local specialties will it be? Food, drink, Kit Kat bars? Does the locality of it all encompass one of the following cities: Osaka? Kobe? Hiroshima? Kitakyushu? Fukuoka? Parts in between? Will it all have a Hello Kitty branding to it?

I guess we'll have to wait and see...

By the way... that image showing the bullet train at the top of this article... that's NOT what the train will look like. At this time, it is merely a conceptual image representing what the Hello Kitty shinkansen may look like.   

In the mean time, JR West put out this sorta promotional animated video:

So yeah... clear the track, here comes the Cat.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Japanese Senior Citizen Crime A Portend To The Decay Of Japanese Society

My good buddy Julien sent me a bit of news the other day about how shoplifting has become something of a lifeline for Japan’s elderly population.

According to the old Bloomberg newspaper article (HERE), nearly one in five women in prison is 65 years of age or older.

I should first point out that this is the second age-ism related article that the much younger than I Julien has sent me (one in March of 2016), so I’m unsure if he’s trying to tell me something in an effort to find the best retirement plan for myself.

It is no big news that Japanese senior citizens are committing crimes so that they can go to jail in an effort to get free care, accommodations, food and even operations… like I said, Julien sent me a lead on that story two years ago.

The senior citizen plan is, a smart plan, as the penal system will look after the convicted for free… but the downside is you aren’t free.

But I say that as someone who feels trapped without the bars, but no longer enjoys going to bars. When did that happen? I used to like drinking. Now I don’t.
According to the latest media shoveled my way by Julien, nearly 20 percent of the female inmates in Japanese prisons are senior citizens. IE 65-years-of age or older.

It’s for the same reasons I stated previously… a means of escaping (ha-ha) a life of poverty.

To tackle the issue of seniors behind bars, Japan is building prison wards (in both male and female prisons) specifically for the elder criminals, and is increasing its nursing staff.

I noted in my previous blog on this topic two years ago, that since 2005, that approximately 35 percent of all petty crime shoplifting offense were committed by people over the age of 60… 

While no one who commits a shoplifting crime is going away for life - even in Japan - since the seniors wanting to be jailed has increased, so too has the rate of re-offense, with approximately 40 percent re-offended more than six times.

Why not, right? With kids unable or unwilling to look after them as was the norm for hundreds of years previous, this lost generation of senior citizens in Japan is being forced to survive the high cost of the 21st century by what us so-called younger generation seems to find distasteful…

… by any means possible.

For those who grew up as a child surviving a devastated Japanese economy post WWII, doing whatever needed to be done is a mantra not easily forgotten, unfortunately.

As I see it the only thing wrong with the fact that seniors are willing to go to prison to get three square meals a day, a bed, and medical care is that they have to do this at all… which is a crime against society.

It’s an indictment on Japan’s government that has created an economical problem for its growing senior citizen base, and it’s an indictment against the families of the seniors who are not providing for their parent’s well-being.

Unlike most countries, seniors in Japan have for umpteen generations counted on the fact that their golden years would be spent in the company of the eldest son’s family… who would invariably live in the same city/town or village as the one they grew up in… and in the same house, too.

But Japanese society has changed over the past 30 years.

While certainly most Japanese seniors are being cared for by their now adult kids… and the seniors who are now grandparents repay by providing free babysitting… or even doing nothing more than providing some financial contribution to the home with their monthly “retirement” checks…

But nowadays, the young adults aren’t getting married, or have found employment outside and away from the comforting constructs of the generational family home.

Perhaps these seniors are too proud to ask their kids for help, when they assume they shouldn’t have to ask… it should just be given as it always was for generations past. Maybe, they just don’t know how to ask for help, comfort or finances, because it’s not something they ever expected they would need to do.


Still, if that’s the case, they are being stubborn in their refusal to find familial help and are opting instead to go to prison to get the help… after all… “shouldn’t Japan look after us? We paid our taxes and were the good, perfect citizen Japan wanted..”

That was me trying to think like a Japanese senior willing to go to prison.

Is it being done to shame their adult children for not having cared about their well-being?

Maybe… the only way to find out is to talk to a senior who has willingly committed a crime to go to prison.

But this is Japan… how many people would be willing to actually talk about their feelings?

I’m almost 100 percent positive that no one will talk to other Japanese about it… but I bet you they would talk to a gaijin

Japanese people talked to me all the time about stuff they would never dare reveal to another Japanese person… who would I tell, they probably figured?

Until I began this blog 16 or so years after leaving Japan, I wouldn’t have told anyone.

What to do? Obviously Japan needs to adopt the whole “bread not circuses” approach… and instead of trying to make itself look good in the global eye, it should instead spend its money where it is really needed.

I am a fan of the Olympics… of sports in general… but why should Japan be spending billions of dollars on hosting an Olympics, when it should have instead spent the same billions (less advertising) on helping its senior citizens, or those impacted by the tsunami and nuclear accident circa March 2011?

Of course it is doing what it can… but it could have done a lot more than trying to prop up its own ego in the world of sports.

The thing is… in this day and age… with global social media a keyboard or mouse or touch screen away, all of Japan’s warts and flaws are easily exposed… such as the lack of care being provided to senior citizens who are willing to go to prison to be fed, clothed, etc…

Your national ego takes a beating regardless of how pretty the upcoming circus(es) will look.

It’s too late with regards to money spent on such three-ring affairs as the Olympics, but perhaps Japan needs to look inwards and really see what problems it has, and how it can better allocate its resources to alleviate them.

As a Canadian, I’m not one to talk. We probably have similar issues brewing. I have no retirement plan, except that maybe I’ll be dead before I have to retire. That’ll solve one problem.

Every payday allows me to go further and further into debt. How do I get out of this whorling eddy? I know, I know… sometimes you have to take a risk…

While mine doesn’t involve committing a minor crime to go to prison… because I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go to become a semi-permanent resident of Canada’s penal system… but I suppose I have options….. come on, lottery balls.

Anyhow, this isn’t about me… no matter how hard I try… this is about Julien sending me stories about Japan’s senior citizens, who have given up hope of receiving real help from their government and their family.

Is Japan becoming a nation without hope? They seem to be on the verge of giving up on the family-concept - both in having kids, a spouse and even looking after their elders…

Whither Japan,
Andrew Joseph
PS: from

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Einstein Manga Caricature By Artist Okamoto Ippei

Please forgive the shortness of this blog, but I've had too many things on the go.

Still, it is interesting.

What we have here is a portrait of Albert Einstein, preeminent genius, created by the cartoonist Okamoto Ippei (surname first, 岡本 一平) done in December of 1922 in Sendai-shi (Sendai City), Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture), Japan.

Einstein was in Japan on a tour discussing Physics, after winning a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

I'll assume his talks were translated from German into Japanese. His talks were very well-received by the Japanese public.

Okamoto was born June 11, 1886 in Hakodate, Hokkaido-ken, dying on October 11, 1948.

The following was taken from

After his studies in Fine Arts in Tokyo, Ippei Okamoto made his comments on political and social actuality in his cartoons for Asahi Shimbun starting in 1912. At the same time, he created comics for several magazines, starting with 'Kuma o Tazunete'. He began collaborations with several magazines which resulted in works like 'Tanpô Gashu' (1913), 'Kanraku' (1914), 'Match no Bou' (1915), and 'Monomiyusan' (1916). In 1921, he made 'Nakimushi Dera no Yawa', before he started travelling around the world. 
When he returned in Japan, he introduced (classic) American comic (strips) like 'Mutt and Jeff' and 'Bringing up Father' to the Japanese public through publication in a supplement of Asahi Shimbum and in Fujokai. He also took on his own production again and produced 'Yajikita Saikou' (1925) and the collection 'Ipei Zenshû' (1929-30). His book with caricatures, 'Shin Mizu ya Sora', was very famous. Okamoto was additionally an artist of advertising comics, as well as a novellist ('Fuji wa Sakaku' in 1927).

He considered himself a manga-kisha (comic strip/book-journalist), an artist who made social and political commentary via his drawings... something that had certainly existed before him, but perhaps not to the degree to which he threw himself in Japan.

In 1915, Okamoto gathered his manga-kisha friends from the major dailies of Tokyo to establish the first professional organization of mangaka, the "Tokyo mangakai".

This association promoted their work through public events, festivals and exhibitions, especially the Tokaido manga ryoko ("manga trip on the Tokaido"), a trip of twenty designers in cars illustrating in their own way the fifty-three stages of this route between Tokyo and Kyoto immortalized by ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige Ando.

For more about Hiroshige, and an image of one of his original prints that I own, click HERE.

The mangakai were the ones who helped popularize the term "manga", aka comic book in Japan.

In 1921 when he began to travel the world, he visited Europe and the U.S., and was obviously back in Japan at the end of 1922 to provide the excellent caricature portrait of Einstein a la manga.

Between 1929 and 1932, he enjoyed worked abroad as a special envoy of the Asashi Shimbun (Asahi Newspaper).

He is considered to be a pioneer in Japanese manga, preceding the modernist stream embodied after the war by Osamu Tezuka (the man who created Astro Boy).

One of his fans was author Soseki Natsume (surname first), who had Okamoto illustrate many of his stories that first appeared in the Asashi Shimbun.

Okay... that's all I have time for!

Andrew Joseph

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Brief Look At Love Hotels And The West

Thanks to Vinnie, I read an article this afternoon that tried to introduce Love Hotels as a concept to North American audiences.

Back in the day - which is old guy talk for "I remember when..." - Love Hotels were a profitable concept in Japan where young non-married adults could get away from their parents for an hour or two (and pay for an hour or two) at a hotel, have sex, and go back home in time for their girlfriend's father-imposed curfew.

My favorite place (not visited by myself and whomever I was boffing) was the Japanese chain know as 5-5-5.

In Japanese, the number five is said as "go". Now say the name: Go-Go-Go... obviously a western English term of endearment encouraging someone to have sex... go-go-go!

At a love hotel, you can purchase a room for an hour or for an overnight stay (per a regular hotel).

In Japan, because single-aged adults (is that right?) needed privacy, because well, dammit, it's just not that comfortable to try and have sex in a stick-shift Toyota Corolla... and because well, maybe you want more than just the old in and out.

Sex in a Love Hotel offered that. As they became more popular, in an effort to draw in more business, the love hotels began offering special theme rooms for its paying clientele... a Tarzan room complete with swinging vines; a Star Wars room where you can dress up as Luke and Leia (that second movie must have caused a scene when it was revealed they were brother and sister); or other such rooms later based on Japanese manga (comic books) and anime (animated films).

It was a way for the young adult to let their inner kink out.

(I had only ever been in one Love Hotel... it was the only place Ashley and I could find at a cheap enough rate after a long day of walking and shopping down in Tokyo. I fell off the round bed while attempting a maneuver. I think I was trying to sleep.)

Now, of course... love hotels in Japan are taking a beating as many a young and single adult in Japan is moving out into their own apartment... so who needs a love hotel.

Then again... young people in Japan don't seem as interested in having wet, drippy, nasty, fun sex as the generation or two before them did.

They are too busy working... not needing to date because they are too tired, or don't want to follow into the same trap as their parents... or maybe there's some other reason. People aren't sure, and blame social media and video games and other things you can do by yourself.

Sad. In my day it was a Simpsons Sears' catalog and a powerful imagination, which made you want to find out more with a real living and breathing woman.

Now with porn available everywhere, there's no need for the imagination to be stimulated.

Hmm... I wonder if I've hit upon it?

Now, I say young single adults, but in truth, up until I was there (and I can't speak for what happened after), most married men (until the mid-1990s) had a piece on the side... a mistress... who would do things for them that their married wife would not... like listen to them, and maybe whip them or stick things in their backside, or maybe even just touch them. Whatever the reason, most men seemed to have one, and while never discussed in polite company (but talking to your local gaijin (me) while drinking was ever anything but impolite), the wife seemed to know about the mistress and if they cared, they accepted it as something that was part of the Japanese culture.

Just don't get caught in public and embarrass the wife if it should come out. No... it's not really about embarrassing yourself... though that would also mean embarrassing your company and bosses, et al.

Hence... the Love Hotel was a popular place to schtup.

So you accidentally bump into your boss as you are exiting the love hotel? Who cares? You don't acknowledge each other, even though you both know why each is there... and it is never brought up in conversation... except when you are talking by yourself to that gaijin (me).

The newspaper article Vinnie mentioned to me said that for westerners, a love hotel if it existed would be great... you could slip away from the kids, spend some quality time tying each other up, and be back later that evening... only having to spend money for rental of a hotel room for an hour.

Though.. you wonder how the department of health would allow it to happen... whatever you do... don't shine a black light in the room!!!

The only thing is... westerners already are willing to rent a room for the evening to have some adult fun, whether it's with their spouse, girlfriend, mistress, or someone earning a living or putting themselves through university.

The main difference is, the hotels charge per night stay... and why would they bother short-changing themselves by offering rooms by the hour?

Still... it might drive more business...

Somewhere with a great imagination,
Andrew Joseph