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Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kit Kat Celebrates 45 Years In Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Monday, November 19, 2018

Japan Animation Stamps: Heroes Heroines Volume 2

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Japan Animation Stamps: Heroes Heroines Volume 1

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

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

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

Apparently, I was quite animated. Segue... 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I Had A Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Back To The Future

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

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

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

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

Hopefully I am welcomed back to Toronto today.

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

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

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

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

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

Soon... or is it later?
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 15, 2018

After All, Tomorrow Is Another Day

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Samurai Battle In Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

2018 List Of Japanese Buzzwords

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

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

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


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

That’s it.

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

Shrine Changes Name To Help Foreigners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Japan’s Sterilization Victims Want Apology

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

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

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

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

Hitler was into that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes… this one is meant to protect people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 70s?

The 80s?

The 90s?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Teeth Found In McDonald’s McMuffin

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

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

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

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

So… there always more!

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review - The Buddhist Swastika And Hitler's Cross

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

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

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

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

Take a look at the cover image above.

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

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

Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

So to did an American Coca-Cola badge.

The swastika was considered a "good luck" symbol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote back!

Here’s what he had to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Japan - The Gateway Drug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you tomorrow. 

Andrew Joseph 
PS: Photo by Federica Galli on Unsplash

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dashi Floats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Japan’s Six Days Of Repetitious Superstition

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

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

These days are:

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

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

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

仏滅 – Butsumetsu = Unlucky all day

大安 – Taian = Lucky all day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stupid? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph  
PS: Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Optics Of Illusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the winning 2018 entry:

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

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

Have a look!:

Mind blown?

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

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

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Japanese Kingfisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, November 3, 2018

Japanese Cherry Salmon - Amended With More Sex

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

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

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

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

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

But what makes this fish interesting is its lifecycle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they will need the strength.

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

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

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

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

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

But the sex scene is interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Korean Court Rules Japanese Company Owes WWII Reparation Payments

Apparently it is still soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The payments began in 1953, and ended in 1977.

Korea… reparations payments were made and completed in 1965.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Joseph  

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Osaka-jo Castle - How Did They Build That?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did they move such large stones around?

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

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

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

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