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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Japanese Signage For The Birds


Japan is a society where it hates to say “no” to avoid casting disappointment to people and thus making itself look bad, or as the bully.

It’s just part of the country’s unique social make-up.

For those of us who have been to Japan, we understand that there are 47 verbal and non-verbal ways in which a Japanese person can avoid saying “no”, a number I made up, by the way.

There are a lot of ways to say maybe or perhaps, or could be. There’s even the old sucking of air through the teeth routine - and amusing gesture for the gaijin/foreigner who has seen it before and knows exactly what it means.

It means, that whatever you asked for or wanted to do—it ain’t happening.

As long as everyone understands that… that unless the Japanese person you are talking to says “Yes!”, all else means “no.”

Above we have a poster sign informing the visitors to not feed the birds.

In this case, everything I aid above gets thrown out the window, because there’s no “maybe” about it.

That bird is telling you “No! Do not feed the birds.”

It actually says “NO!” in English.

Considering most English-speaking people have built IKEA furniture using non-verbalized directions (all pictograms), the above poster could simply have refrained from using the word “NO!” in English.

It’s like the message was done that way to ensure the stupid foreigners don’t continue to feed - and thus attract - birds, or in this case pigeons.

If the messaging was just for the Japanese, why not simply have the message written in Japanese.

Now don’t tell me that the Japanese should know how to read English!

Even using the same alphabet, me… the English speaker would be confused if I saw a message with the odd French word tossed in. I know I was supposed to have learned French, but all I know is enough to say “cheese omelette” and “roast beef”, and “Will you sleep with me tonight?”

I can honestly say that not one of those phrases ever got me what I wanted.

Now… let’s also examine the poser of to whom the poster message is directed to.

Let’s look at the Japanese fist. It could be kids… little kids… pre-schoolers out for a walk with grandma or mom. They could feed the pigeons. They wouldn’t know the English word “NO!” and may not even understand the Japanese writing, but there’s a chance they might understand the graphic… that the bird is full, and doesn’t need human hand-outs that might be birdseed, or it could be illegal narcotics of some kind.

It’s not the school-aged kids. They are generally too busy doing school work, club activities, and cram/night school to ever stop and smell the roses and feed the birdies - unless it was a scheduled school event.

The young adults. If not involved in higher education activities, they are working. Money is tight, and time to spend slacking off is even tighter. No. Not this group.

Older adults. If they aren’t out drinking and partying and doing that special bonding thing required of all co-workers regardless of the work they perform, then they are home nursing that hangover or off wasting money doing private drinking, gambling at pachinko, or some other sort of sexual-related activity with someone other than their spouse. No… too self-absorbed in being Japanese, and then indulging in their own secret life. Feeding birds? That’s for the birds.

Seniors. Sure. I suppose there’s a good chance of that. We can all picture a bunch of grey-hairs sitting on a park bench sprinkling birdseed or bread crumbs out for our avian friends.

But does that actually happen anymore? Anywhere? I suppose there are some kind-hearted people who do that. My dad would put seed into four feeders, and even toss out meat scraps for the crows in the winter time (left over stuff from what we fed our four rottweilers).

Okay… let’s say it’s the Japanese senior who are feeding the birds, with maybe toddlers and possibly a young adult here or there.

That sure is a lot of writing on the sign - and in two languages, to boot!

Keep it simple.

Still… one has to admire the way the sign says “NO!” but still attempts to be cute with the bird actually being the one smart enough to refuse the handout.

Now… to prove that non-verbal communication works, aside from IKEA and LEGO instruction booklets, below are two signs I saw… the top one in western Japan, and the other in Thailand (I think).

There’s no mistaking the message.

XX

XX

My point is that the sign - cute though it is - could have got its message across without being all preachy… or having to resort to English.

Oh Buddha… you don’t think they used English in an attempt to seem hip… er, cool, er… what is the term used by kids nowadays?

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What’s In An Honorific: San, Kun, Senpai And More

In Japan, respect and honor are highly cherished.

Hells, who’s kidding whom… respect and honor are highly cherished in every damn country.

In North America, we use the honorifics of Mr. (mister); Mrs. (Missus); Miss and Ms. In England they might add in Master when referring to a young male, and gods help me I have no idea what they call a young girl… Mistress?

Anyhow… in Japan there are plenty of neat honorifics that are added on to people’s names.

It is of interesting note that while most are used for attachment to a surname, some are also used just for the given name.    

These Japanese honorific terms were not created as part of the country’s grammar, but rather were created as past of its socio-linguistic culture… a kata… a way of life that is what the Japanese follow - in this kata case, to ensure appropriate speech when dealing with others.

And... just in case you have looked at the photo above and wondered why the heck I used it: 

"You call him Doctor Jones, doll."





Oh… and here’s a beaut. Do not ever refer to yourself using an honorific (don’t say: I am Andrew-sensei… ) and don’t drop the honorific (I am Andrew)… no… you should call yourself, Joseph-san, or better yet use your own SURNAME name.

This is apparently true even if you ARE a teacher. You introduce yourself as “Joseph-san” (surname first), and then when further introduction is done - say with a business card, your job title and place of employment is then exposed.

The idea is to NOT sound so full of yourself.

So… here are: 

Ten Honorifics Used In Japan

San (さん)  -Tthis is the generic greeting, and can be used to describe anyone: IE Mr. Joseph is Joseph-san. Mrs. Morita is Morita-san; Miss Fujita is Fujita-san, and Ms. Crabapple is Crabapple-san. It’s generally used for adults, especially if a specific work title is not in play… you’ll see later. Used for surnames, only… unless you are a foreigner, in which case, you are quite often referred to by the Japanese as “Matthew-san” or Ashley-san” - Mister Matthew and Miss Ashley. Apparently in the Kansai dialect, the term is pronounced as “han”. To be sure, just use “san”, unless someone tells you it’s okay. And that will never happen.   

Kun - (君) This is used to describe a friend, but really just used to describe boys. Women can certainly use the address when talking to and about their boyfriend. For example, Noboko always purred at me calling An-do-ryu-kun. I suppose married couples could use the phrase, too. So boys, lovers, and boys who are friends. The term can also be
used by those more senior to reference those more junior, and as such it could be a negative descriptor if your boss calls you this. Now…. there are different rules for additional use, but I leave that to the linguists. I love linguini.

Tan - (たん) - Buddha help me, but this is a cutesy baby-talk way of using the “chan’ honorific… it’s a diminutive, and is used much in the same way you might say “what a widdle baby” instead of “little”.

(坊) - this is the same as “Tan”, and is used to describe cute widdle boys.  I would refrain from using or Tan. I would bet that there are also different words used in Japan that are wholly-dependent on location. Rural slang. But, whatever… some people use it, so here they both are. 

Chan - a diminutive  term for a small girl. Guys - you can also call your girlfriend this… Noboko-chan, because for whatever reason the Japanese women don’t seem to have a problem in being labeled as “little girls”. Proof of that are the Japanese women who will wear high of junior high school uniforms in a way to appear sexy to Japanese (and yes, most other) men, who also seem to get off on the whole, Lolita thing. I never got it. Because I’m an adult now, I prefer to look at women, rather than girls. I have been that way since I became an adult…. probably even waaaay before that, as I discovered the Girls of Munich pictorial in a 1973 issue of Playboy as a pre-teen. Anyhow… small girls, lovers and girls who are friends can be have a "chan".  

Sensei - The term actually translates to “higher born”. With 先生 (sensei). We generally know this to mean “teacher”. A teacher of anything holds a high degree of respect in Japan. It doesn’t equal any great financial dividend, but apparently in Japan you can eat respect. Respect is, of course, very, very important in Japan. There are also additions to this, such as kocho sensei, which is used to describe the Principal; kyoto sensei = vice-principal; yogohoken no sensei = school nurse; and hojokyoyu = assistant teacher. You certainly don’t want to call the principal, for example “sensei” - you will be corrected. Now… what you didn’t know, is that the term sensei is also used when talking to doctors, politicians, lawyers, scientists, and generally those in authoritative positions. It is used as an honorific to acknowledge those who have gained a level of mastery in an artform… as such, it could be properly used to describe accomplished novelists, musicians, artists, and of course those who instruct the martial arts.  Just as there is a kocho sensei in reference to one higher than a standard teacher, there is also hakase, which is used to describe someone with a very high academic expertise, as it means Doctor or PhD.

Sama - (様) This is used to describe a god or added on to respect lords (the upper society mucky-mucks)… so if anyone calls you An-do-ryu-sama, they are either flattering you with godhood, hoping you will be kind to them; or its sarcastic because there aren’t any lords nowadays (I think), and because An-do-ryu is the complete opposite of a god. I found it to be usually the former. But honestly, it can also be used in a respectful manner for someone you respect. For example, I respect my boss Hanazaki-san…  I could show respect by calling him Hanazaki-sama. It can also be used to show respect for guests or customers.

Senpai - (先輩) you can add this when you are talking to an older colleague or school mate: For example, I could always have called my boss at the Ohtawara Board of Education Hanazaki-senpai as a means of respect, because he was 44 years old to my 25 when I arrived in Japan. The fact that I am so much older than his age now is a cause for concern for me. I’m worried some younger Japanese person will call me An-do-ryu-senpai. It’s like when you get to a certain age and people start calling you “sir” or “ma’am”. In Japan, however, the senpai term is a sign of respect. Here, senpai can also be used to describe an elder at a dojo or other sorts of sports club… but not the instructor or coach. Just an elder. 

Kohai - (後輩)  This is what an older person, senior employee or older classmate can call a junior person. Senpai and Kohai are indeed determined by age and professional rank, or since you are in Japan, it’s the same thing. The kohai will bow deeper and longer when addressing his/her senpai. While not an exact science, and even before meishi (business cards) are exchanged to properly identify title and rank, when bowing look at the other person’s shoes. If they have better shoes than you, you bow deeper and longer.

Shi - (氏) This one is used for formal writing or formal speeches when you are talking about someone you are not necessarily familiar with… someone you’ve heard of, but have never met. Now… in writing, after the person has been initially introduced using “shi” (Joseph-shi), it is then written as shi, without using the person’s name. Of course this ONLY works if only one person is being referred to within the written or speech context.   

Kanpai shi,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I used "shi" incorrectly. It's not used as a group reference... but since only one of you is reading this, know that I am using the honorific for you.
PPS: I love that Indiana Jones II quote, spoken by young Short Round-kun. I love how he insists on the proper honorific for his friend, Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones-hakase, but completely fails to show respect for Willie by calling her "Doll". She is, despite her messy hair in the photo... she's been sleeping in a 1934 cargo plane carrying livestock, and it is pilot-less and about to crash... though she does not yet know the latter two things.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

6 Things You Need To Know About Japan Before You Go - Part 3

This is the third part of my effort to better edumacate the person looking to go to Japan for a visit.

Part 1 is HERE
Part 2 is HERE

It’s NOT really designed for the vacationer, rather it is more for the person looking to work and live in Japan for an extended period of time, be it a month to years.

I have broken up my sage advice into three parts of six items, for a total of 18 items. I don’t plan on adding any more to this list, but neither does it mean that it’s the be-all and end-all.

The best piece of advice I can give anyone about Japan, is that after living there for three years and writing about for 10, I’m still no where close to know enough about the country to admit to being an expert.

I know a lot about Japan, and I continue to learn every day… it’s why I write the blog. To learn. Oh, and to share. The two reasons why I write this blog, are to learn and share… oh and ruthless efficiency… the three reasons I write this blog are to learn and share, and provide ruthless efficiency… and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope… My four…

That’s me going off on a tangent and beginning to paraphrase lines from Monty Python’s “Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition” skit.

Anyhow, here’s some more great tips - 6 Things You Need To Know About Japan Before You Go - Part 3

1) Appropriate Clothing. This is one of the few times when I actually suggest you do some research about where exactly you are going, and in the case of vacationers - when you are going, as clothing options can be important.
Japan is considered to be a sub-tropical country, but even where I called home, some 100 kilometers north of Tokyo, it’s cold come October, and windy and snowy, yet in the summer it was over 30C not including humidity. Aside from the approximate five to eight typhoons that strike the main island every year, it was just like Toronto, with four legitimate seasons. You will need winter clothing, gloves and hats - even a scarf if you are so inclined. Sunglasses couldn’t hurt. Running shoes for standard outdoor walking about. Slip-on dress shoes for teaching/work - you never wear your outdoor shoes indoors… it’s why I suggest slip-ons. A pair of runners for school, or a second pair of dress shoes for offices. Winter boots. Rain boots. Bring enough of what you need… and if you forget something, have someone mail it to you later.

2) More Clothing Advice. Size matters. If you have feet larger than a men’s size 8, you will have a very difficult time finding footware that fits. Same for clothing, I’m slightly above average size-wise relative to North American terms, but again, unless you are about 5’-8” for a man, and say 5’-4” for a woman, you will have difficulty finding clothing that fits. Also… bras… Japanese bra sizes are measured and sized in a manner completely different from anything you may have come across. Bring your own clothing! You’ll thank me for that advice. I actually paid extra to bring more clothing with me on the airplane. Even though I did my laundry every day, clothing will wear out… and as such, who knew my one year would turn into three! I did have dress-casual clothing made for me in Thailand over night and to my design. But I had to go to Thailand. 

3) Condoms. Again, size matters. Without sounding harsh, Japanese condoms will not fit the average westerner. I brought three boxes with me, hoping beyond hope I might get to use more than the first one I consider to be the practice one that you use to ensure you know how to put one one—virgin was I—and after running through them quickly enough, I asked my mother (MY MOTHER!!!) to send me a dozen more boxes. While I waited for that express delivery, I tried to purchase a box from my local pharmacist, Maniwa-san. I popped one on and watched it fly off me like a jet plane taking off from an aircraft carrier! Twang. I hit my girlfriend in the face with it… much laughter ensued, and I was then out of luck. Mostly. You could get condoms from an American military PX, and perhaps some shops in the bigger cities will be more accommodating, too. Failing that, bring what you can, and have the rest sent over later… gauge accordingly, and make sure you ask for them before you run out. Having said all this, as mentioned in Part 2 of this thread, sex and the gaijin isn’t a given anymore - unless you are in a relationship with other gaijin/foreigners.

4) Living Spaces. If you listen to most people who have been to Japan to live and work, there is a general consensus that the average living space is small enough to cause mice to be hunchbacked. IE, it’s small. Within those who live in the larger cities of Japan, it is true that the AMOUNT of living space is small, but it’s not always the case.
I lived in a small city in Tochigi-ken, and was lucky enough to have what was then the top-quality apartment in the prefecture… a three-bedroom, LDK (living-dining-kitchen) complete with a western toilet and shower, a washer-dryer, lots of carpeting - but only one tatami mat room, and two balconies. The place was designed for a Japanese family, and was more than adequate for a foreigner like myself. My girlfriend for the first year, she had a small Japanese-style apartment, complete with a wooden bathtub. And if not for my sparkling personality, I could assume that she spent so much time at my apartment because I had far better amenities. But… small size of a Tokyo/Osaka apartment aside… just how much room do you require? You work all day, you come home, there’s a small kitchen, a living room and TV, and then the bedroom where you sleep for seven hours or so. I may have kept my clothes in a closet in one of the bedrooms, and used the drawers in a dresser for undies et al, but otherwise the room was never used. The same with the other room. I just needed the bedroom to “sleep”. You’ll survive. By the way, while my girlfiend (I spelled that correctly) paid something like $80 a month on the apartment, I paid $330 a month. It was helped along by the various board of educations who paid from most of our rents while on the JET Programme. Those looking to travel to Japan and find work, rent is expensive in the big cities where the work is. You won’t be living in a huge place like I did. No… you’ll be sharing an apartment with at least two others in an effort to not go broke. I’m not even going to get into key money (where you pay sometimes five months rent in advance - because JET takes care of that, and if you are sharing with others, the constant in-out nature of the foreign worker negates the opportunity to charge key money) (Okay, I talked about it).

5) Futon bedding. When I arrived at my massive apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, I looked at that futon I was given, and grimaced. It sat on the tatami (grass) mat flooring, and looks so Japanese. Not only did I previously have a bad back, I would burn my knees on the tatami while having sex, immediately taking away any male dominate positions. It’s sounds stupid, but it’s 100% true. My bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education office told me that every day after I wake up, I should take my futon and roll it up and put it away, and once a week on the weekend, I should hang it over the balcony ledge to air it out. I did that exactly ZERO times. After a couple of months of me sweating on it, with other sexual juices applied, the bottom of my futon had caused the tatami under it to basically sprout a black mold. This caused many things to happen. a) My Japanese bosses realized I was dumb, because I couldn’t or chose not to follow a simple rule. b) They had to dig up and replace ALL of the tatami mats in my bedroom, which cost money from my allotted budget. Yes, it’s not talked about, but on the JET Programme, the various board of education offices are allotted a certain amount of money annually that they can spend on you to make your life in Japan more comfortable. c) realizing I was dumb, and not ant to spend more money to replace the tatami mats every few months, they decided to purchase a used Queen-sized bed, with a new mattress… just for dumb-ol’ me, my sometimes girlfriend, and later most of the women in the city, and still later a woman I wanted to marry. Yes, sometimes good things come to dumb gaijin. Apparently, I may have had the best ever board of education office in the history of the JET Programme. I never had to worry about giving myself tatami mat burns ever again. A Queen-sized bed!

6) HVAC. HVAC is heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. As mentioned, Japan has its extremes in temperatures, where it can be very hot and humid, or very cold. Or more of one than the other. In Japan during the stupidly cold winter, the Japanese like to open the windows (especially at the schools) to give the students fresh air. In the summer, they close the windows to avoid the humidity… actually… I don’t know why they close the windows in the summer. I don’t believe my apartment had insulation. I can recall the number of times my coldwater goldfish aquarium froze over night, and I had to break the ice in the morning so my fish could get some oxygen. To combat the heat, I was given a kerosene heater. Did you know that the Saturn V rocket that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon did so on a kerosene-based rocket fuel? Anyhow, in order to use the kerosene heater in my apartment, I was told that I had to keep a window open to allow the noxious gas fumes to dissipate, less I turn blue and die of gas poisoning. Now… in my apartment, there was a window over my bed… but who wants a cold wind blowing down over your head? The two other bedrooms had large metal sliding doors leading outside. The living room had a large sliding door facing north, where the cold winds would come down from the nearby mountains. Despite there being an active volcano 10 kilometers to the north, none of that came into play when the winds were blowing ice during the winter. So… I decide to keep the doors/window closed and use the kerosene heater one night. While I didn’t die or apparently nearly die, when I told my bosses at the Board of Education what I had done, they really realized just how dumb a non-Japanese I was. They made some calls, and later that afternoon while I was trying to watch sumo on tv, a worker came and poked a hole in my apartment wall leading outside. He then installed an AC/Heating unit… it was so powerful that I never sweat from Japan’s humidity in my apartment again, and could now offer women a warm place to stay through the rest of the year.





Obviously, I got amazing benefits, by being a stupid foreigner, thanks to my understanding bosses. Unknowingly, I was also now set-up to have one of the best, most comfortable westernized apartments in all of Japan. I’m not saying it helped me get ahold of multiple female sexual partners, but at least when I did, the creature comforts of luxurious western society made for a more relaxing environment. 

Now… it is important to note that I’m the only person in the history of Japan to have my experiences. Your own experiences will vary - perhaps even vary greatly.

It may be impossible, owing to circumstances for you to have a good time in Japan, but by at least knowing some of these thing presented in this and the other two past blogs, you can better prepare yourself and your expectations.

I would urge everyone to go to Japan with an open mind. Don’t read everything possible about Japan, because every situation is different.

Go… try new and different things. Have fun… oh, and for crying out loud… even though the rest of Japan may not smile at you, you can smile at them. It’s okay… you are an outsider.

A smile—actually, regardless of where you are even now—goes a long way. It shows you are non-threatening. I’m talking about normal smiles, and not the homicidal maniac ones.

That’s enough for now.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph


 

     

 

Monday, May 28, 2018

6 Things You Need To Know About Japan Before You Go - Part 2

I guess this actually makes it 12 things you need to know about Japan before you go, but I am only adding six more items with this article. Click HERE to see the first six.

7) Learn the language. While the JET Programme has been sending workers to Japan for close to 30 years, and private individuals have been living in Japan teaching English since the 1850s, Japan is still not anywhere close to being fluent in English. Despite your best attempts to teach Japan English, you will fail. You may teach a few people here and there some conversational English, heck you may even inspire a few kids to become English teachers, and you may even be able to encourage some people to travel outside of Japan and actually work and live, but truth be told, you are mostly going to help them pass their English as a second-language courses in junior, and senior high school. Nothing wrong with that. The problem, however, arises when these same people - all of whom have studied English as a second language from anywhere from seven to 12 years - don't get much of an opportunity to use it. As such, they lack practice, or simply lack the confidence to use it. I myself can get my face slapped by a women using the eight dirty little phrases I learned in French through my schooling. I won't always get my face slapped, and when that happens, it's a magical evening. Now... since you are going to Japan, it is only polite that you learn a few simple phrases. It could be as simple as "Hello, my name is XXX, and I am lost." "Where is the XXX?" "Please help me." As such, you should learn how to say "Thank-you." and "Please." If you are going to be a stranger in a strange land, at least be polite about it. Japanese people will do their best to help you if they can. It's in their blood. And, if you are going to stay longer in Japan to live and work, regardless of your situation, please learn the language. I didn't. I was a bum. I did have plenty of people around me, however, who helped make my stay agreeable. Not everyone will be as lucky as I was.

8) Dual-language dictionaries. I would recommend you purchase two books: one is an English to Japanese dictionary; the other a Japanese to English dictionary. You can find a word in English and point to it so the Japanese person knows what you are asking about, and you can hand the Japanese to English dictionary to them so they can find the Japanese word that answers your response so you can see what they mean. I actually had many a meaningful conversation with a Japanese co-worker, Mr. Kanemaru - aka Kanemaru-san - this way. In fact, the very first time we met, he used one of the books to slowly tell me a joke to help put me at ease about being in Japan. I miss him. These books are a must for any person going to Japan with limited or no Japanese language ability.

9) Proud Japanese. At first, it may seem like the Japanese are an overly proud people, pointing out such mundane things as Japanese chopsticks, Japanese rice, Japanese kimono, Japanese cars, and Japanese flowers, when to you they are simply chopsticks, rice, kimono, cars, and flowers. It is part of the Japanese make-up to ensure that you know that these things are more than what they seem... that they are indeed Japanese. Cripes... I didn't know that Korea had kimono, or that there were different types of rice and chopsticks. Don't worry about it, and please do not comment on it. Just give them what they want to hear: flattery. It sounds insincere, but it's part of the game. The Japanese have two ways of thinking... the group mentality of what everyone wants to hear; and the personal, individual thought that is never revealed to anyone. As such, your Japanese rice is delicious. It's a short-grained, sticky rice and if you realized it, it has a different flavor from other similar short-grained, sticky rices. Indian rice is long-grained and non-sticky, by the way. You might even be asked if you think the rice is delicious... and if you enjoy the flavor... and your initial thought is: "It's bloody rice! It's rice-flavored!" which merely shows one's ignorance. Don't be ignorant. Use the flattery approach.

10) Japanese women do not want to sleep with you. This one is a shocker. I slept with a lot of Japanese women, and I don't even think I'm close to good-looking. But that was also 25 years ago. In the interim, perceptions amongst the Japanese have flipped upside down. Maybe that's the gaijin (outsider) influence, but Japanese women are wanting to work, not get married, and thus keep working. In the past, they would work for a few years, get married, and have kids and never return to the workforce. Nowadays, Japanese women may still get married, but they are in no hurry to have kids, if they ever do. It has contributed to Japan having a negative population... which implies that it's population is shrinking. This is also due to a lack of immigration, but that's another issue. Now... if it appears I am placing the negative population thing or no-sex thing squarely at the feet of the Japanese women, I am not. Japanese men today are also not in a hurry to get married. Like the rest of the world, people are becoming more and more insular. People don't talk to each other. And in Japan, it's worse. If there is the need for sex, men have video games or soaplands (see my first set of 6 things to know) or escorts. The problem really is that the entire country seems to have become quite blaise about sex - generally speaking. They like it fine when they have it, but there's not that underlying seething of horniness that one would expect any first-world country to possess. I'm horny now, as I write this. What I'm trying to say is that if you are going to Japan to try and sleep your way through your work week like I did - that ship has long sailed. You might get lucky getting lucky, but you would then be extremely rare in your endeavors.

11) Japanese food. For crying out loud... if you are going to Japan, you gotta eat the food. My friend Jeff managed to survive three years on the JET Programme without ever eating Japanese, which is really weird considering her was able to marry a Japanese woman without getting her pregnant. I'm happy for Jeff, of course, but I have no idea how he pulled that entire thing off. Regarding Japanese food, the Japanese are very proud of what constitutes their food. I would recommend you go to Japan with a completely open mind. Even if the Japanese people tell you that you won't like XXX food because foreigners don't like, please... please blow the stereotype out of the water by at least trying it. Natto was was of those food - stinking, rotting fermented soy beans that were wet, covered in a cheeseloth and left to rot, before they are served to the Japanese. Now... those west of Tokyo will not eat it (generally speaking), while those to the north of it will. When someone told me that I won't like something because gaijin (outsiders) don't, it was my pleasure to blow things up and to try it. In the case of natto, even here in Toronto, I can order it at a restaurant and enjoy my meal. It blows their mind! All of a sudden, something as simple as that challenges what they know about gaijin. And, it challenges their superiority about what makes the Japanese Japanese - just a bit. Besides that... use the old adage about Rome... when i Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, when in Japan, do as the Japanese do. No one is saying you need to overwork yourself to death, but we're talking about food. Food is life. Enjoy your life.

12) Rail Passes. For the visitor to Japan, as opposed to the person looking to stay for a year, I would recommend you purchase a rail pass. Japan certainly has one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the world. It's a country that publicly apologizes when a train leaves the platform 20 seconds early, or Buddha help us, three seconds late. Still... you get what you pay for, implying that if you sat around and converted yen to whatever your currency is, you would realize that things in Japan are expensive. Get a rail pass, use it, and go and see the Japanese world. Personally, I would travel to Hokkaido, and all the way west to Kyushu... but note that it's a helluva distance, and you should take a shinkansen bullet train. It ain't cheap. Tokyo is great. It's like an Asian version of New York, where if you wanted to, you could find something to do there 24 hours a day. Most of it legal, some of it kinky. All of it fun. By the way, check out the 1988 movie Mondo New York. You'll really discover why New York is called the city that never sleeps. Rail passes will allow you to travel and see Japan, and save you a few coins. Oh... and please keep in mind that Japan is known for having festivals... you might actually want to book your hotel rooms in advance. I stayed at a Japanese-style hotel once or twice, and always hated it. That doesn't mean you will. My experiences need not be your own. They do have western hotels in Japan - especially in the larger cities. Keep that in mind. But book early.

Okay... that's it for now. I've been writing this blog since 2009, everyday since February of 2011. Obviously there are a lot of things to know about Japan that I could tell you, but heck, I have not even begun to scratch the surface with my 3,900+ blogs.

I'll be back to tell you a few more things you should know about Japan at a later date.

Kanpai (Cheers)
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 27, 2018

6 Things You Need To Know About Japan Before You Go - Part 1

No one has ever asked me this, which is why it probably needs to be stated.

Japan isn't so much an alien land, as it is quirky. In my opinion, every country has a certain amount of weirdness in it that travelers would find confusing.

As such, here is my list of:

Things You Need To Know About Japan Before You Go

1) They drive on the left side of the road. If you are from the UK, or other such islands, cars are driven on the opposite side of how they drive in the U.S. Now you might not think this such a big deal, but on my first foray out on the mean streets of Tokyo with a bunch of like-minded go-getter JET (Japan Exchange &Teaching) Programme participants to be stationed out west in Shiga-ken (I was to be sent north east to Tochigi-ken), I looked the typical North American way of to my left, seeing the path was clear and then stepped onto the road to cross. I was pulled back instantly by the pretty young woman named Kristine South, who not only saved my life, but still doesn't know why she did it. You can blame her for this blog. So... in Japan, look right before you jaywalk. Or better yet, don't jaywalk.

2) Soaplands are sex parlors, of a sort. They are everywhere in the cities of Japan, hidden away in smaller towns, and probably do not exist in villages and hamlets, but what do I know. I saw a Soapland in Tokyo, thinking I would purchase some nice scented Japanese soap, and was about to cross the road to get some, when I was... well... see point #1 above. Kristine also explained to me that Soaplands were essentially massage parlors where the woman soaped up the man's genitals before a happy ending was enjoyed. That girl sure knows a lot.

3) Japanese money is worth a different amount from what you might think. The next night in Japan, my new girlfriend and I... strangely enough, it wasn't Kristine (I screwed up there), but was Ashley, a new teacher who would live one town over from me in Tochigi-ken. After meeting and going dancing at a club down in Roppongi, it was 2AM and we figured we should go back to our hotel, and hailed a Japanese taxi. It pulled up to my frantic, drunk waving, and the back door automatically popped open. The driver can control the doors from the front. He drove us back to our hotel--Ashley and I couldn't recall exactly where we were staying, but I had a book of matches from the place--always a good thing to take, if you can find it--and showed it to the cab driver, who then understood our confused English. Arriving, I pulled out five 10,000 yen bills and shoved it into his hands, figuring it would comfortably take care of the fare and provide a solid tip. At that time, it turns out that five 10,000 bills equaled about US$500. My fare was only 4,000 yen. You have to check the number of zeroes in your bill in Japan, and do so as carefully as your horny, drunk eyes can manage.

4) There's no tipping in Japan. So I gave the cab driver 5,000 yen and smiled and bowed and tried to get out of the cab. "No, no, no!" he screamed, and handed me back one of the 1,000 yen bills. I said, "It's okay," and tried to put it back in my hand. "No, no, no!" he screamed yet again - man, this guy's English was great, and pushed the bill back into my hand and automatically opened the back door for Ash and I. We got out, drunk, hot and sweaty, a bit horny still, and very confused. I wasn't confused about why I was drunk, hot and sweaty, and still a bit horny, but that whole money exchange confused me. I tried to explain what happened the next night to someone who had been in Japan 365 days longer than I, and she said, "I have a boyfriend." I found that to be a polite way of her reminding me I had a new girlfriend, and then she explained that in Japan, tipping is frowned upon. They get paid for their goods and services, and as such, tipping is not only not required, it is taken as insulting... as if they have to be bribed to provide good service. I would imagine that if we, in the west, paid our servers better, we wouldn't have to resort to bribing them with tips. TIPS: To insure prompt service. That's what I was told it means, but dammit, I'm pretty sure "insure" should actually be "ensure", and thus it should be TEPS. Anyhow, here's a great tip for people traveling to Japan - never try and tip anyone.

5) Duck. While most modern hotels and restaurants and living quarters have doorways traversable by anyone under the height of a small forward basketball player, most doorways in older more traditional quarters of Japan have very low doorways.
You might think it's because the Japanese are very short people as a race - and while it is more or less true, the Japanese are, on average, shorter than many other peoples... supposedly having an average height equivalent to the French, according to an English text used by Japanese students through 1993... I believe that the lowered doorways also cause the person passing through the doorway to actually duck their head in such a fashion so as to resemble a bow. I think it is low so as to make people remember to bow their heads. And different example of this can also be found in entrance ways to Buddhist temples. At the gated doorways, there is a piece of wood across the base, that causes the person to left their leg to pass into the temple. You are meant to step over it, and to not sidle sideways in a manner that might have you show your but as you enter the temple. I was told that, but I think it would be easier to not have the wood to step over, as it might cause the shorter Japanese person to sidle sideways over it and this show their butt towards the holy ground of the temple. Anyhow, a good rule to remember, if you haven't concussed yourself too badly, is to always duck or bow your head to avoid smacking it on something.

6) Geisha, Ninja and Samurai. Of these three iconic figures of Japan known to anyone with even a remote interest in Japan, one of them no longer exists, and the other two are so rare, you might not see one unless a special effort is made. Samurai were outlawed over 150 years ago, after the Shogun-rule was given back to the Emperor-rule and a Prime Minister. Geisha still exist, and are found in the larger cities of Japan, and contrary to what you may have heard, are NOT prostitutes. They are artisans who are paid to entertain a man via their skills with the tea ceremony, singing, dancing and playing musical instruments such as the koto harp. While a geisha might indeed sleep with the man they are entertaining, it is frowned upon, and is not part of the "entertainment" package. Ninja... these black-clad assassins of the night... I've never seen one, but that's doesn't mean they don't exist, rather that they are simply very good at their job, or I am very good at evading their assassination attempts. There was a recreated ninja town that I visited in Tochigi-ken, but really it was a pre-1870 Japanese village, and showed off some of the weapons they used, and yes, you could buy non-sharp examples of the various ninja stars. I bought five - all of which I think were lost in a house fire years ago. Anyhow, I'm just saying that your likelihood of meeting a real ninja while in Japan are slim to none.

Obviously there are a lot more things you should know about Japan before you go... but since I post every day, tune in tomorrow for some more TEPS. 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 26, 2018

1934 Autographed Touring MLB Team Photo Sold For $42,000


As my regular readers are aware, I enjoy the game of baseball.

I enjoy watching it at home, watching it at the stadium, coaching my kid’s house league and Select teams, reading books on it, and basically anything to do with the history of it. I never played it in a league, except as an adult…

And this is me - a hockey first guy, even though I played and coached soccer as the main sport. I also did judo. Oh… and kyudo and kendo in Japan, and finally taekwondo a few years ago (blowing out my meniscus).

I'm a bad mutha- shut yo mouth.

But lest you think I’m just a dumb jock, I did teach piano and clarinet, and can play all woodwinds, brass and keyboards.

Anyhow… baseball… it’s May… when a Toronto Blue Jays baseball fan is already convinced the season is over.

But this is a blog about Japan.

I’ve written about baseball in Japan circa 1934 before: HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE

Why 1934? Well, that was when a Major League Baseball team of All-Stars toured Japan.

It featured, such players as:
  • Connie Mack, Manager;
  • Babe Ruth;
  • Jimmy Foxx;
  • Lou Gehrig;
  • Lefty Gomez;
  • Charlie Gehringer;
  • Earl Averill;
  • Bing Miller;
  • Moe Berg;
  • Earl Whitehill;
  • Frank Hayes;
  • Rabbit McNair;
  • Hal Warstler;
  • Joe Cascarella;
  • Clint Brown;
  • Lefty O'Doul, Coach;
  • John Quinn, Umpire.
Moe Berg was a catcher, who would later work as a spy for the U.S. against Japan. You can read his story at the 3rd HERE above.

Anyhow… what we have in the photo above is an original photo of that 1934 All-Star team, including a traveling umpire, which recently was sold at an auction for US $42,000.

What makes it even more special, is that the photo is signed by every person present.

The signatures all appear to be done in the same ink… which precludes the autograph hound (probably) from taking the pristine paper photograph with him from stadium to stadium to beg said player to sign the image.

I would imagine that the original photographer more than likely took the photo, developed it there in Japan, and printed a copy… probably just the one… and took it himself to be autographed by the still-touring ball players.

I don't know if this image was taken by Japanese photographer Fujita Mitsuhiko (surname first), who reportedly did go to the ball park and take photos, and return the next day with the photos to be signed by both the MLB and Japanese baseball players.

Fujita was the grandson of a famous Japanese businessman named Baron Denzaburo Fujita, who was the biggest, richest man in businessman in the country. Living from 1841-1912,  he traveled to Osaka in 1869 and soon started up the Fujita-Gumi Company. He became a buyer for the Government, as well as a mine operator, and made lots of money when Takamori Saigo revolted in Kagoshima in 1877. He was indicted for issuing counterfeit notes in 1879, but those charges were eventually dropped. He reorganized Fujita-Gumi into a partnership company and became its president.

As for his grandson, we do know that the Mitsuhiko visited alongside the traveling MLB team through Japan during this era.

Again... this is just a guess by me that the photo above was taken by Fujita Mitsuhiko.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 25, 2018

Japan Just-Discovered Parasite Flower


According to the recently released 2018, 11th annual list of newly discovered global flora and fauna, compiled by the International Institute of Species Exploration, a part of the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Japan has a new flower.

The list of Top 10 species, is actually based on some 18,000 new species named in the year before.

If you are thinking "Holy cow! 18,000 species discovered in just one year - that's great!", consider also that we believe that about 20,000 species go extinct every year, too. 


The list, revealed on May 23 every year, is done so to honor the birth date of Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus, born in 1707 and considered to be the father of modern taxonomy.

Taxonomy is the classification of all natural things, including organisms. 


The heterotrophic flower—Sciaphila sugimotoi—was actually discovered in October of 2016 by
Tatsuki Nishioka (surname first) of Kyoto University Faculty of Agriculture, near Mount Omoto on Ishigaki island, a part of the Okinawa chain of isles.

The flower lacks the cool name that makes it a public offering, and is still known by its scientific name Sciaphila sugimotoi.

It is named for for Sugimoto Takaomi (surname first), a collaborative partner with the Kyushu University, Graduate School of Bioresource and Bioenvironmental Sciences, who played an important role in the identification of the species by collecting specimens.

The rather pretty flower of the Sciaphila sugimotoi blooms in September and October, and lives in a symbiotic harmony with a fungus.

If you look at the very top and left image of the flower, you can see a top-down view of the plant growing out of a the ground, implying that just beneath the surface is a rich growth of fungus in the area.

Symbiosis is any type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms, be it mutualistic (working in harmony with each other - like those birds that pick food from crocodile teeth: the birds get a meal from the crocodile, and the crocodile gets its teeth cleaned - and no one is eating the other), commensalistic (where one organism obtains food or other benefits from the other without affecting it, such as a remora that attaches itself to a larger fish to gain food and locomotion), or parasitic (where one organism, the parasite, lives on or in another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life, such as lice that either eat hair and scalp or suck blood and use the host as a place to lay eggs).

In the case of the Sciaphila sugimotoi flower, it is a parasite, deriving nutrition from the roots of the fungus, without harming it.

Normally, plants will capture energy from the sun and grow via photosynthesis.

The plants have been found to grow between five to 10 centimeters (two to four inches) in height, have a wonderful violet colored flower that is about two millimeters (0.0787402 inches) in diameter.

There are about 50 of the plants discovered in two locations on Ishigaki Island. 


These plants, known as mycoheterotrophs that feed of spores and fungus, are only visible above ground during fruiting or, in the case of the Sciaphila sugimotoi, when flowering.

These types of flora are very difficult to discover and classify owing to their very short flowering periods—you kind of just have to to stumble upon them at that perfect moment in time.

So... in honor of a new flower discovered in Japan...

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Flying To Japan

After my third one-year contract with the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme expired, and I was forced to head back to Toronto, Canada, I almost immediately made plans to head back to Japan.

That was for Noboko.

I left Toronto for Japan almost one month after having left Japan the first time in 1993.

Even though I had gone back to Canada with about $10,000 in cash on me, thanks to doing some extra teaching of English on the side, I was determined to try and go the cheap route for my two-way ticket back to Canada.

After all, I figured, I would need to have money left over for Noboko's ticket, should I be able to convince her to come for a visit, and then spending money as I aimed to sweep her off her pretty little feet.

As such... when I booked my ticket, in order to save three hundred dollars, I flew from Toronto to Detroit Michigan (US) to Dallas Texas (US) to Nome Alaska (US) to Seoul (South Korea) to Chiba (which is where the Tokyo airport is)... and from there I would need to take a train to the actual city of Tokyo, and then take a shinkansen bullet train north to Nasushiobara and then take a local train up one stop to Kuroiso-shi... and finally a short taxi ride to my friend and fellow AET (assistant English teacher) and Canadian, Colin.

I was going to stay at his place for a month as I wooed Noboko.

Because I snore like a jet plane with asthma, my plan was to be considerate of all my fellow travelers and not fall asleep as I undertook the 36 hour journey.

And I didn't fall asleep. You're welcome.

Anyhow... 36 hours later, and $1400 for the ticket, I arrived in Kuroiso, had a great time with Colin, and a sex-filled time with Noboko, but ultimately failed to convince her that I was a better option than obeying her father.

Whatever. I get it now.

Yesterday, my friend Rob sent me an advertisement for an Air Canada promotion for flights to Japan.

The cost for a trip to Japan in 2018 is... $1400... one way.

And people wonder why I don't fly anywhere anymore.

Well... that and my penchant for watching the aviation disaster television show Mayday.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How To Fug Up A Japanese Person

I don’t know how weird this is, but 25 years after I left Japan, and 24 years after I was in contact with the Japanese woman I wanted to marry, but was ultimately rebuffed in favor of her relationship with her father - I think, I have come to a whole new understanding of the situation.

Thanks to my recent reading of the book, Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette by Boye Lafayette De Mente (revised by Geoff Botting) and published by Tuttle Publishing, I have come to realize that Noboko’s inability to choose me over a relationship with her father was not a weakness on her part, but rather simply her being Japanese, which for any Japanese would have to be considered a strength.

I have only recently come to learn that when the Japanese are being Japanese, it’s not a knock against the world—at least it’s not meant to be—rather it’s merely the Japanese being true to themselves.

Noboko, an awesome-looking babe of a woman regardless of her cultural birth, was essentially caught between a rock and hard place in her relationship with me.

Yes… I have no doubt whatsoever that she loved me as much as I loved her.

Not only was I quite willing to make her my wife, but if she had only agreed to come with me to Toronto for even the tiniest of vacations, I would have stayed in Japan for the rest of our life together.

That’s pretty damn honest, and even with 25 years’ hindsight, it remains a fact of life for me.

But what stopped us?

The Japanese, from as soon as they are able to learn, utilize various kata to create their Japanese identity.

The kata are everyday formalized rules for how a good Japanese should do everything… from greeting people of various class, what form of language to use; to how to use chopsticks; to the order in which food is eaten; to the types of foods that are eaten; to how one thinks about certain things—the reality; and how one speaks of certain things—the Japanese way.

It’s the private versus the public.

Now… I see it. In private, Noboko could speak her mind to me about what we shared… but in public, I was just the foreign friend… definitely not the lover or soul stealer.

It’s something foreigners learn too late.

For Noboko, there was also the need to please her parents… there’s a kata for that… and damn it all, she had already disappointed her parents previously by refusing an engagement to a Japanese guy her parents had approved off… something that happened before I appeared on the scene.

So yes… there was a streak of the rebel in her… something non-Japanese.

The nail that stands up gets hammered down.

It’s true that I discussed my love for Noboko with my coworkers at the Ohtawara Board of Education… because that’s the sort of thing a non-Japanese would do.

I broke every known way of dealing with my work colleagues that the Japanese know… and it was okay because I was just a dumb gaijin (outsider) who didn’t know the rules and etiquette for how to properly deal with my co-workers. I didn’t know that Japanese kata.

The few I told encouraged me - or at least exclaimed that she was very beautiful. I told them I wanted to marry her and stay in Japan.

They seemed happy on the outside, but then there’s that whole way of thinking on the inside that I could never learn. Hells, no one in Japan could actually learn what another Japanese person is really thinking.

Even for foreigners, I am an oddity.

How many other people will tell you exactly what’s in their head or heart? Close friends? Family?

A blogger?

In Japan, I had no problem telling anyone who asked, exactly what I thought… which in the Japanese way of thinking isn’t as appreciated as you might expect.

It makes me dangerous. I don’t follow the kata. I don’t act like a Japanese. Ergo they don’t know how I am going to act.

Crazy, but true. It’s not crazy, though. It’s just the Japanese being Japanese, and every one else merely being non-Japanese.

So… when Noboko eventually came to her Japanese senses, and was able to rebuff my advances... despite everything her heart and soul may have wanted, she gave up what she wanted for the community of the Japanese collective.

I get it now.

I also understand how any Japanese person who is willing to sacrifice their Japaneseness to be with a non-Japanese, is truly an extraordinary person.

By doing so, they give up their Japaneseness.

And, even though they themselves may feel as though their Japaneseness is intact, the rest of Japan tends to feel otherwise.

I have NO idea what my relationship with Noboko actually cost Noboko in the long run.

Did I completely screw up her life - no, not because she loves me, but rather because she may have given up her Japanese identity to date me… and me blabbing about it might have cost her her cultural identity.

Fug. I hope not.

I really didn’t understand just WHAT I was asking her to give up to even date me.

Trust me… there is a huge element of bravery involved in any Japanese person dating a non-Japanese. There’s a huge level of disobedience, involved.

It’s not prejudice or racism… it’s a shunning of the Japanese way that all Japanese are taught.

Now… don’t worry. For those of you who are considering a trip to Japan, or are considering working in Japan… don’t try and become Japanese… and certainly don’t fret over your inability to become Japanese.

Even for the Koreans or Chinese who are six generations living in Japan, who know all of the kata - the ways of Japan, who speak the language and eat the food, and dress the dress… even they are not considered by the Japanese to be Japanese.

Heck, even those Japanese who go away to live in a foreign country for a while, and then come back… they are often ostracized by the Japanese collective as no longer being Japanese-enough.

It’s a cultural superiority complex that the Japanese ingrain upon themselves.

It’s not a criticism. It’s Japan being Japanese.

If you would like to gain a better insight into what Japan is really all about… a book not about the Top 10 best places to visit; nor about the weirdest Japanese foods; or strangest restaurants…. I suggest you all pick up Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette by Tuttle Publishing.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. If I knew then, what I knew now…

Aw heck… a guy’s gotta try, right?

Not so strangely, writing this blog has depressed the crap out of me.

Andrew Joseph

Wedding day photo of a Japanese woman by Riccardo Trimeloni on Unsplash
 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Ōsumi satellite

I'm currently reading a book on the Saturn V rocket used to propel man onto Luna, our moon, for a book review on my other blog, Pioneers of Aviation.

Looking for a subject for today, I wondered just what the first Japanese satellite was to be successfully launched into space, or Earth orbit, if you will.

That turns out to be that little jewel in the photo above, the Ōsumi aka Ohsumi.

It was named after the old Ōsumi-ken (Ōsumi prefecture), a former province of Japan in the area that is now part of Kagoshima Prefecture.

The Ōsumi satellite was launched on February 11, 1970 via a Lambda 4S-5 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima by the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, University of Tokyo, which is now part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

By successfully entering Earth's orbit, Japan became the fourth nation after the USSR, United States and France to release an artificial satellite into orbit.

The 24 kilograms (52.9 pound) Ōsumi satellite remained in orbit until August 2, 2003 before its orbit decayed and it burned up as it fell back down to Earth (around the border between Libya and Egypt.

The satellite consisted of a small observatory, which carried five experiments designed to make ionospheric observations of temperature and density, measurements of solar emission, and measurements of energetic particles.

The satellite was a regular 26-sided polygonal prism with a circumscribed radius of 75 cm. The batteries were powered by 5184 solar cells mounted on the satellite body. Average power consumption was 10.3 W.
Image via www.isas.jaxa.jp/e
Despite it being in space that long... over 33 years, the satellite wasn't as successful as you might think.

Upon launch, the Ōsumi satellite was supposed to have achieved a 500-kilometer circular orbit, but instead, and elliptical orbit was what occurred.

From 15:56:10 to 16:06:54, about two and a half hours after the launch, a radio signal from Ōsumi was received at Uchinoura confirming its first orbit around Earth.

The radio signal level gradually fell and the next day, February 12, during its sixth revolution (orbit), faint.

By the seventh orbit, the signal was lost, meaning it was only working for one day... less than, actually.

It is believed that the signal was lost between 14 and 15 hours after launch. It is hypothesized that the failure of the satellite was due to rapid reduction of power capacity because of higher than expected temperatures. IE... that darn elliptical orbit.

Since then, Japanese space missions have been much more successful.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at the top via Wikipedia, per Rlandmann - Own work

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mug Of Beer

First off, let me apologize for the briefness of this blog. For the first time since I was in diapers, I took a nap in the afternoon on Sunday.

I don't know why... perhaps I was tired from coaching baseball in the hot sun, tired of watching my kid play Fortnite (a pox on the house of that video game creator), or perhaps it was the heavy lunch... or cripes, maybe I'm getting older and heading for that time when I need to wear diapers again as an old man.

I'm not there yet... but damn... a nap.

Above, what we have here is a matchbox label from Japan advertising a local beer establishment in Tokyo (I assume).

What little I could read of the Japanese language has evaporated with being nearly 25 years removed from the country I write about here.

I don't even drink beer anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I could if I wanted to, I just don't have the want.

Besides, being cash poor doesn't leave me with the options of getting drunk as a skunk like I used to while I was in Japan.

Back then, I only really drank in social situations that demanded I get as pissed as the Japanese I was with. It was a social thing... for us all to let down our hair and get to know each other away from the formal setting of the work environment.

It was and is a very important part of the Japanese social structure.

I suppose offices outside of Japan do the same thing, but at least here in Toronto where we live far away from the office, and far away from our co-workers, and like to drive to work, more often than not... getting hammered at an office party and then having to leave the car at work and take some alternative way home is something many people dislike... and so, we often refrain from getting hammered.

There's also the fact that unlike Japan where everyone gets stinking drunk at an office enkai (party), where things are said, and if embarrassing are never discussed again... outside of Japan that sort of behavior will get you fired.

I have been a pretty sociable guy. At work I will talk to anyone about anything they like... I listen, keep secrets, and provide thoughts or advice where I think it might be appreciated.

But at work socials... not so much.

I actually work best in social gatherings up to maybe five people at most... anymore, I shut down and just listen... and usually become bored and quietly leave after what is the shortest possible time to still be considered socially polite. Or I don't go at all.

Even I think my actions are weird.

I actually have very few friends... but that's okay. If I call you my friend, I mean it. But work... work friends have always been particularly difficult for me.

I'm a writer. That means I spend most of my time locked in my own mind trying to make sense of the thoughts I have heard and written down.

Its seems in complete contrast to the outward persona I show... that super-friendly, funny guy... or the baseball, hockey, soccer coach, or the piano, clarinet teacher, or the guy teaching English to junior high school teachers in Japan, or even the writer who doesn't mind spilling the beans on his most private thoughts while he was in Japan, or private thoughts about things he learns about Japan now.

I call it being on, when I'm around people. But lest a machine burn out, it needs to switch off every once in a while.

In Japan I would drink to excess to show that anything the Japanese could do, I could do several beers better.

In my mind, it was not only a means of showing the Japanese that they did not have a lock on being superior (this feeling IS actually a part of the Japanese identity that exists even  today - and I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing)... but it was also a means for me to cope being in Japan.

When us gaijin (foreigners/outsiders) go to Japan to work and live, we leave being the creature comforts of whatever country we are from... the most important being family, friends, and yes, language.

I had never been away from home until I went to Japan. I had done five years of university and two years of college, and managed to do so while living in my parent's basement, allowing me to continue playing D&D, watch Star Trek reruns - and to basically have never kissed a girl. Click HERE to see what I mean.

Drinking Japanese-style helped. But I was smart enough (in my opinion only) to only have drunk and been drunk when in social situations... IE, never alone.

I have long felt that alcohol, while tasty when in social situations, never tasted very good when alone.

Unfortunately... or fortunately... when it came to imbibing alcohol, I never met the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme participant who could out-drink me. Okay.. maybe there were two guys... one for sure... but we never competed... we just drank when with each other.

Anyhow... despite all those great stories I have told about the drinking exploits of myself in Japan... while I enjoyed them at the time, it was never who I was... just who I needed to be at that time.

Apparently, my opening statement was written before I finished writing this blog. I never know what the hell I am going to write before I do.

Hopefully, something more interesting tomorrow.

Cheers/Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge

I'm the type of guy who likes to drive a car.

I'm not good as a passenger, as my brain races along deciding what the driver has done wrong, should have done or should do. I don't vocalize it, which is why I am still allowed to be a passenger.

But as a driver... there's just something about being able to get behind the wheel and drive.

It's a real effing pity I live in Toronto, which has grid lock worse than what is made fun of in movies about Los Angeles.

Actually, that's just incorrect.

Drivers in Los Angeles spent an average of 104 hours each driving in congestion during peak travel periods in 2016, beating Moscow at 91 hours, and New York City at 89 hours, according to a traffic scorecard compiled by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm.

Globally, Canada's worst places to drive were Montreal in 23rd place with 52 hours, 38th-ranked Toronto at 45 hours, and Vancouver at 30 hours.

I wish I knew what it really meant. I have to drive 33 kilometers to work, for a 66 kilometer round trip. I spend 2 hours a day. That's 10 hours a week. So... somewhere between 450 and 500 hours a year. Just for work.

Now, I drive on highways, where the limit is apparently 100 kph. Ergo, I should be able to get to and from work in about 30 minutes each... and yet I do double that. So... I'm at around 225 to 250 hours spent in traffic.

Oh... and that's on the good days... bad days... I've spent two hours just one way.

All of which means that time is only relative to the observer. Someone write that down... I have a feeling it's going to be relatively important one day.

Someone remind me why I like driving a car...

In Japan, there's a bit of driving awesomeness once you get out of the city gridlock and off the small-town streets doubling as goat paths that meander through the rice paddies.

In the photo above, you can see the Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge.

Although the speed limit is only 30 kilometers an hour, the 1.1 kilometer spiral bridge offers spectacular views.... I'm unsure what the driver can see other than the road in front of him/her, but looking at the photo it sure seems spectacular.

The Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge is a double spiral loop that takes cars up and down 45 meters (148 feet), as it bridges the different elevations of two mountains.

Finished in 1982, this is one of the most awesome bridges I have ever seen. It's on Route 414 south of Tokyo as one drives towards Izu peninsula.

The bridge is 80 meters wide, and only offers single-lane driving each way. Luckily it's not situated in a windy area.

I'm unsure if this bridge is something I could drive.

On two high altitude drives, one driving down from the Canadian Rockies into British Columbia, and the other driving down from Hoover Dam in Nevada, the sheer driving drop made me dizzy, and in both cases I had to relinquish the wheel, as I became ill. Probably an inner ear thing.

I have had my nose straightened and my deviated septum aligned, so my sinuses aren't affected... but since then I have become susceptible to headaches when thunderstorms come in... IE, a change in air pressure.

Strange but true.

But... I think I would like to take a run at the Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge. Can you imagine doing the Tokyo Drift around that sucker?

By the way, I recall an episode of Myth Busters that proved that drifting was NOT any faster than standard braking and speeding up around a corner... but a Tokyo Drift sure looks cooler.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 19, 2018

98% Of Japanese Graduates Get Jobs

I was one of those guys who, after graduating college, was able to secure employment—not just one job, but rather two.

Heck, I didn’t even need to graduate college to get one of those jobs.

Although I did waste five years of my time prior to that getting a university degree in political science. Bor-rinnnnnng.

So, I suppose, since I went directly from university to journalism in college (do not pass go, do not collect $200), I wasn’t one of those school grads who went directly into the workforce in Canada.

I did leave journalism school at Humber College (in Toronto) two months early because I was the first community college journalism student to get into The Toronto Star Summer Internship Program—I guess the school figured if I could get into Canada's top newspaper internship, and proudly waving the flag for all of Canada’s college programs, then the least they could do was allow me to pass while skipping all that school. I did graduate, but I wasn't required to take the last two month's of courses or exams.

And then, because I also was accepted into the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Programme the day after accepting the Toronto Star internship, I was probably the first ever intern in the newspaper program to quit a month early.

I quit because I had to fly to Japan… but at least I ended up with three front-page top stories, as well as one for the Sports section, one in Entertainment, and one in the Food/Cooking section. The rest were all News pieces, but dammit, I am proud to have written about the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meeting Homer the then-Sky Dome mascot (the facility is now called The Rogers Centre), and a semi-local chili cook-off, that I covered via the telephone - mmm, that sounds like good chili.

Of course, I realize that me having one, let alone two jobs to enter immediately after finishing school was an incredible lucky thing.

In Japan, it’s pretty much expected... uh, graduating into a job, that is.

For the graduating classes of Japan’s high school and universities, some 98 percent managed to garner gainful employment.

That’s pretty impressive.

How many of those university grads studied political science? I bet they were the two percent who didn’t get a job.

The 98 percent employment rate for Japanese graduates is the highest rate since 1997, which was up by 0.4 percent in 2017.

“Companies have become increasingly eager to hire new graduates thanks to an economic recovery,” according to a Japan Education Ministry official.

Among the university graduates, the employment rate was up 0.6 point at 97.5 percent for men and up 0.2 point at 98.6 percent for women, both record highs.

The survey also showed 98.2 percent of university graduates who majored in humanities secured jobs, up 0.9 point.

By prefecture, the employment rate was the highest in Toyama-ken at 99.9 percent, followed by Fukui-ken at 99.8 percent, and Ishikawa-ken, at 99.7 percent.

Holy crap... those are awesome numbers...

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash

Friday, May 18, 2018

North Korea Newspaper Calls Japan Desperate

There are two ways to look at that headline: True or who the fug cares.

The Rodong Sinmun, a North Korean ruling party newspaper has called Japan out for being "desperate" as it also urges an end to its "hostile policy".

True, as in Japan is desperate to end hostilities with a country it doesn't trust.

Who gives a fug, because, well... whatever, man. Sticks and stones and all that.

While newspapers in Japan have that whole freedom of speech down pat, as in there's all the speech we are allowed to give that has been approved by powers higher than us... one has to realize that this is just politics.

What's interesting, is how everyone else will view the Rodong Sinmun's diatribe.

The Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary on May 16, 2018 that Japan’s “desperate efforts to escape from its situation (were) getting deplorable day by day.”

It added: “There is a way for it to evade the fate of being left out alone in the region ... It is to give up its hostile policy towards the DPRK.”

It's all based upon Japan's attempts to get the U.S. to talk about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs at the supposedly upcoming US-North Korea chats.

Of course Japan wants the US to ask North Korea bout its plans regarding nuclear weaponry. North Korea has repeatedly tested allegedly armed missiles over the Japanese islands.

D'uh.

It's actually quite silly for Japan to have vocalized its concerns, as the U.S. isn't stoopid, despite considerable attempts to prove otherwise.

There will be no peace in the Asia theater unless some accord can be struck where North Korea isn't waving its nuclear stick at everyone in the area. Again, d'uh.

Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) has been trying to get U.S. president Donald Trump to promise that he will push to get North Korea to give up its long-range ballistic missiles, along with its shirt-range and medium-ranged such missiles that still have the travel capacity to strike Japan.

Perhaps that's why the North Korean newspaper is upset... perhaps North Korea would have given up its long-range missile program as a conciliatory gesture to the U.S., hoping it would forget about the medium- and short-range weaponry.

The newspaper (and thus North Korea) is ticked off that Japan reminded big brother U.S.

Then there's also the fact tha Abe asked Trump to query about the Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korean spies in the 1970s and 1980s.

While North Korea has admitted it had, in the past, done such dire deeds, they claim that all of the people who were abducted (and not yet returned), are dead.

You can read about the abducted Japanese citizenry HERE.

Yup... Japan has been trying to get president Trump to promise it would ask about these things.

Unfortunately, even if Trump promises, there is no guarantee that he will.

For one, the topic may never get a chance to be brought up because other more important things could arise, such as the availability of golden shower-performing hot North Korean women.

Of course, I'm kidding. It would have to be a Stormy day in Hell for such inappropriate things to occur under the president's watch.

Japan truly fears that the U.S. might simply get a deal done with North Korea that only benefits the U.S., and not Japan.

Well, d'uh.

I'm sure the U.S. and North Korea could be in complete agreement when they think that if Japan wants something done, then maybe they should talk to North Korea themselves.

In the meantime, unless North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un actually calls Japan out himself, Japan should not read deeply into any criticism lobbed its way from a newspaper.

I'm not saying that newspapers are full of fake news... most aren't... but all newspapers these days (all media, actually), do provide a political leaning of their own.

Pick your battles accordingly.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo by Dan 7Kidz on Unsplash

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Overworked Buddhist Monk Sues Temple Over Heavy Workload

Yeah... I read that headline and thought... just what the fug does a monk do? And then I thought... monk-y business, which made me smile, because I love a bad pun.

Then I thought about all of those Brother Cadfael mystery novels I read by Ellis Peters (pseudonym for Edith Mary Pargeter), and realize that the life of a Christian monk is quite busy.

In fact... despite the Cadfael books being set in the 12th century, people don't enter the life of monk-dom because it's an easy life. It's because it's a calling. I'm sure it's a hard life. 



I'm unsure why people become Buddhist monks, but I assume it's not merely for the free haircuts and prayer beads.

It's to serve man. Go on... watch the video below... the blog will still be here. Probably.



Now... before I get too far ahead of myself, and beside myself in self-rightousness and comedic guffawdom, let's see what's going on with this Japanese monk.

Unnamed in any news article, the monk filed a suit on April 27, 2018 with the Wakayama District Court, seeking some ¥8.6 million ($78,000) in damages and unpaid wages.

He works at one of the World Heritage Site temples at Mount Koya, starting there in 2008.

His suit says he developed depression, and had to take a leave of absence because of his heavy workload.

Holy crap. If a Buddhist monk can claim he has a heavy workload and sue and win, what does that say for the REST OF JAPAN?! 

The monk says he began feeling depressed in and around December 2015, and was of work through March of 2016.

lest we think it was all in his head, a local labor standards supervision office had previously recognized his overwork, and noted that the monk had once worked for at least a month without a day off.

Ugh.

But just what are a temple monk's duties? Are they strenuous? Does it involve a lot of sweeping? Is there a lot of praying involved?

Well... since the year 2015 was the 1,200 anniversary of the founding of the head temple at Mount Koya, there was a large increase of guests, forcing him  to work 64 consecutive days between March and May, and 32 straight days between September and October.

That's crazy. But what did he have to do, work-wise 

The monk was responsible for ensuring preparations from before 5AM were made for guests at the temple’s shukubo—the lodging built for both monks and worshipers—to ensure that both could take part in morning prayers.

Then, he would sometimes work late into the night to ensure guests were looked after... plus he had his usual monkly duties around the temple.

The lawyer for the monk says working at temples is considered to be "training", and that part of the lawsuit is to reveal the difficult working conditions for monks in general, and their unpaid overtime.

Wait... monks get paid? They get a salary?

I get paid a salary. I knew that going in.

It doesn't matter how much work the bosses want to shovel at you, you have to keep finding ways to complete your tasks.

Obviously this monk did try, and suffered for it.

Still... I am intrigued to know just what the temple did when this monk was off on sick leave for his depression?

Someone else obviously did the job.

Did they suffer, as well, from the over work?

Could they simply NOT have got another monk to help out the first monk - problem solved.

These monks don't have a vow of silence or anything, do they? No.

As such, wouldn't a properly placed cry for help in completing the tasks gained him some physical aid? Are these Buddhist monks so blind that they can not hear a cry for help? I know what I wrote. Do they not care?

If they do not care, then there's something rotten in the state of Buddhism at Mount Koya.
   
Now... conversely, there are labor lawyers who say that since the monk receives wages for his services, his work should not be considered, as the monk claims, as training.

Was there ever an employment contract drawn up that the monk signed when he donned the robes?

What I would recommend for this monk is to just drop everything and try and get away from the hustle and the bustle... maybe go up to the mountains and find a retreat or something... oh... never mind.

Okay... I'm not without sympathy here.

Like the cannibal said to the priests trying to convert them: "Send more fryers."

Send more monks.

The poor guy just needs some help.

Remember what they always say: A happy monk is a monk who is happy.

Look I have no idea what they say about monks, let alone "happy monks", but I assume it would involve some sort of Zen Buddhist riddle.

It is an interesting case.

The monk has official confirmation that he was overworked.

He has medical leave confirmation for his depression - an illness he says he never had before he became a monk... or is that true? Did he have depression before he became a monk? Oh... some lawyer is going to have a field day with that nugget.

Quite often, depression and other major mental health issues seems to manifest itself in people at around the ages of 19-20. How old was the monk when he first encountered his illness? Is his depression clinical? Or was it the type brought on by his situation?

I'm sure both are quite awful—I personally do not suffer from depression, but certainly know enough people who have a chemical imbalance-caused depression and are on medication for it.   

I'm not doubting the monk suffers from depression. I'm not doubting he was overworked. I'm not doubting his bout of depression was caused by being overworked.

I am interested to know if the monk was prescribed any sort of anti-depressants for his bout of depression, or if he was prescribed anti-depressants to battle the full-time onslaught of depression.

Seriously (sorta), if the monk's depression was caused by a work overload, what is his immediate mental health cure?

He gets a leave of absence from work... and goes... where, exactly? Some place in Japan where he would not experience an overload of stress.

I joked about him taking time to go to a retreat up on a mountain, but I'm not really joking. 

Maybe he should go to the temple at Mount Koya, and be its guest.

It might be nice for him to receive a bit of pampering.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top by chrissie kremer on Unsplash

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette - A Book Review

This is the best book I have ever read about Japan and the Japanese.

The. Best.

Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette by Boye Lafayette De Mente (revised by Geoff Botting) and published by Tuttle Publishing is quite simply THE book anyone—and this case I mean non-Japanese—living in Japan right now, or contemplating going to Japan for work or vacation—must read.

My only gripe against the book is that I wish it had been around when I was in Japan back in 1990-1993.

It was first published in 2013, revised in 2017.

As the book says hidden away at the very top of the front cover, “Kata as the key to understanding the Japanese” is what the book is all about.

Kata is the form and order of things…. all the things that the Japanese say, and do, and act upon in their daily life… all the things that often confound the casual gaijin (outsider/foreigner) and create a profound awe of.

I can not even begin to tell you the number of times I was in Japan and simply wondered, “Why do they do that? Why don’t they do things “this” way because it’s easier?”

I had no idea that it was because of kata.

If I had read this book before I went to Japan (or even a few months into my stay in Japan on the JET ( Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I might have had an even more enjoyable time.

Yeah, yeah… I had a fun time in Japan regardless, but it might have helped me adjust my way of thinking about the Japanese and their culture so that I could have taken greater advantage of my situation.

I’m not saying it would enable me to get the upper hand on the Japanese—I’m not some competitive bastard who needs to win.

Rather I’m talking about simply getting a better handle on just what sort of a mindset I was encountering on a daily basis.

I had known that the Japanese have ways of doing everything… but I was, until now, just being flippant in using the word “everything”.

But the book Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette, has shown me that my flippancy was ill-advised, that the Japanese do have a way to do everything.

The kata-zation of Japan. Why didn’t I know about this?

Still… some 25 years after leaving Japan… and nine years after writing over 3,900 essays on Japan… I think I’ve got it. After reading this book, of course.

No… the book Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette will not help you become Japanese, rather it helps us all non-Japanese understand why the Japanese are so effing Japanese.

When I arrived in Japan on the JET Programme, and was separated by prefecture (province) into a bus and sent to the capital city of Utsunomiya-shi (Utsunomiya City) in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), we were quickly taught to say our name and a little Japanese saying (essentially that I am humbly in our care), followed by a bow.

Right there… we were shown the kata of how the Japanese introduce themselves.

Right there… we were taught how to bow.

But because we were all stupid gaijin, we didn’t realize the sheer importance of getting both things correct, because we were too worried about the words.

The words were important, of course, but so too was that bow. It was a bow of reverence… not merely respect for the older members of the Tochigi-ken prefectural board of education, but rather RESPECT to the people who were in such a high position as members of the Tochigi-ken prefectural board of education.

Hells… I don’t even know how long my bow was, or now if I even had my hands to the side… I think I did okay, but learning to bow is an integral part of being Japanese, and so I’m sure that after two minutes of instruction every single one of us newcomers meeting the bosses simply got it wrong.

You can’t just learn perfection. It takes a lifetime of being Japanese to be Japanese.

I was taught how to hold chopsticks by my Ohtawara-shi boss, Hanazaki-san, but because I found the correct Japanese way of doing so mildly inconvenient to my gaijin fingers and hand, I manipulated the chopsticks my own way.

For me, I was able to eat my food via chopsticks in a faster way, that enabled me to pick up round objects with ease… but stupid me… I failed to learn the proper kata of using Japanese chopsticks. I could never be Japanese with that sort of an attitude.

There’s a way to drink beer, drink ceremonial tea, to serve ceremonial tea, a way to entertain guests, a way to go to the toilet, there are slippers to wear in the toilet, slippers to wear in the home, a way to take care of your futon, a way to hang your laundry and take it in every day.

I recall asking one of my teachers at Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) why the Japanese did things “this way”—because it seemed wrong in my mind—and he simply said, he didn’t know, just that that’s the way they did things. And rather than say that my way was better, and that the Japanese way was wrong, he worded his thoughts to me in such a manner that he made me feel okay about the situation without actually taking my side.

After reading Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette from Tuttle Publishing, I now realize that the Japanese did things that way because that was the way they have been brought up to do things—in the Japanese way.

And then I learned that his way of acquiescing without acquiescing is also a Japanese kata… he didn’t want to disappoint me and lose face in front of me… so he kata-ed me.

There’s a way of letting people down without letting people down.

I can recall the numerous times I asked a Japanese person for something, and because they weren’t sure if they could do it (or maybe a boss needed to be consulted), I would receive multiple answers of tabun.

It means “maybe”. Or maybe it means “probably”. Or even possibly “perhaps.”

There would also be the sucking of air in through the teeth while it was said. It’s a kata.

I think now, that if you ask someone a question and they suck air in through their teeth while answering, you should no that they are trying to let you down gently.

There are kata for samurai (it was called bushido - the way of the warrior), a defense style now seen and practiced in the martial art of kendo.

There’s kata in kyudo—Japanese archery. I used to think just how easy it would be to pick up my bow and arrow, pull back the string and fire the damn thing at my target. I know I could hit the target if I could do things my way. Yes, I did kyudo. But I wasn’t allowed to do things my way, because there was a kata about how to shoot a Japanese bow and arrow.

Hitting the target was actually secondary until I was able to perform the kyudo kata first. I swear I practiced the kata for over a year before I even came close to hitting a target.

Page 31 of Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette has a passage that exactly sums of the Japanese way of thinking:

Westerners are fond of saying, “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done.”
Japanese tend to say, “Don’t do it unless you can do it right (the right way).”

That. Just Blew. My. Frickin’. Mind.

Even in my day job as a writer I try to do things the right way, but because everybody wants something done ASAP, I’m told, literally, “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done.”

It’s wrong, isn’t it? The Japanese have got it 100 percent correct.

“Don’t do it unless you can do it right.”

Despite the title, which sounds like it’s going to be a dull book, Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette is actually an easy-to-read book. And it's not dull, either! Win-win!

It’s written in a way that I would like to write a book.

It assumes you know nothing without pointing it out, and educates you with clear and simple words.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many books I have read on Japan where the author gets preachy, or uses big words to show that they know more than you—but Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette… well… its written as though the author is talking to you.

Does that sound familiar?

Yes… it’s how I try and write my blogs.

Keep it entertaining—which happens in this book—and keep it communicative in a two-way-street manner.

It seems weird, but it’s what I try and do.

I try and have a conversation with the reader, and that’s exactly what author Boye Lafayette De Mente appears to be doing in his absolutely fascinating book.

I was going to give it away to a friend of mine, but sorry… this appears to be a book that I can use and use again for however long I am able to continue writing my Japan—It’s A Wonderful Rife blog.

And so… containing 224 pages (which includes three pages of Index, a Forwards and Contents page et al, for a mere US$12.99 you, too, can learn just what it is for the Japanese to be so Japanese.

It really is a great book book, and I am very thankful to Tuttle Publishing for allowing me the opportunity to review it.

Yeah, there’s a few spots of editing (duplicate words, or a comma coming after a space, rather than the actual word), but whatever… Tuttle can get that next time. I will edit for you,  

In the mean time, Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette is a book anyone interested in Japan and the Japanese should read.

You can find it at www.tuttlepublishing.com or perhaps wherever finer books on Asia congregate at your local book store.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph