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Friday, July 6, 2018

Mind Your Pees And Cues

Y'know... every time I see an image on digital media that purports to be a real photo showing a Japanese translation into English gone awry, I question it.

Messing with a photo is child's play nowadays.

That's my cue to present you with this query... do you think the above photo is untouched or touched?

Personally, I would like to believe that the English translation is just wildly incorrect. I like a chuckle as much as the next chuckling bastard.

However... the majority of the writing here is in katakana, rather than kanji.

If the sign is in place to warn both Japanese men and foreign men to please try and pee into the toilet and to try and NOT pee on the floor... surely there are a lot of kanji that could have been used to say "please", "urinate", "precision", and "elegance". I'm sure kanji exists for these words. I'm sure they are no alien to the Japanese language. Why use katakana?

There are a total of two kanji symbols in the entire sentence.

Generally speaking, the katakana alphabet is use to write foreign words when there are no similar Japanese words.

And that's why I think it's a fake.


It would have been mildly amusing if it was real... but now it's just sad.

Who wastes their time trying to make one culture look ignorant?

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Japan Cleans Up At World Cup 2018

There have been many instances of Japanese politeness globally, but Japan's National soccer team took things to yet another level.

Earlier this week after losing a heartbreaking game to Belgium 3-2 to bow OUT of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Japanese national soccer team, aka the Blue Samurai cleaned up their dressing room, leaving it spotless and writing a note in Russian simply saying "thanks".

An all class move.

Banzai, Blue Samurai, banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourth Of July In Japan

Happy Fourth of July to all the Americans. It's the 242nd anniversary of the commemoration of the declaration of independence from Great Britain.

Of course, the actual Declaration of Independence was voted on and agreed to on July 2, 1776... so I guess I should have said something two days ago.

Most of my friends are American. Most of the people I met outside of the Japanese in Japan were also American. My best friend in Japan was American. The first woman I ever slept with was American... and yes, that was in Japan. Heck, the guy I talk to most these days is also an American.

Personally, I think they are all closet-Canadians, so I'll just leave the door open a crack in case they ever want to leave the closet.

As such, I have a lot to be thankful for... thanks, America.

I'm pretty emotionally burned out these days. These past weeks... work and stuff... my muscles ache in my shoulders, my body and brain are tired from being unable to sleep...

I'm just anxious, I suppose.

I was like this when I realized back in July of 1990 that I was going to Japan as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme... and I suppose many of you may feel the same way as you embark upon the same journey I did 28 years ago this month. Don't worry... Japan will be a fun learning experience for you as long as you go in with an open mind about everything.

You can NOT go with the idea that whatever you see the Japanese do is dumb relative to however your country does something. It's a different way of doing things, and they do them that way because they have determined that that is the best way of doing it.

No matter how hard you try and convince them (Japanese) otherwise, they have their reasons. You learn that little lesson and keep it tucked away in your brain and you'll have a less stressful time and will be able to fill your soul with awe and wonderment.

"You're sick of hangin' around and you'd like to travel,
Get tired of travelin' and you want to settle down.
I guess they can't revoke your soul for tryin',
Get out of the door and light out and look all around."

One month from now, this blog - Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife will be celebrating it's 10th anniversary... which is pretty cool.

Much like my trek to Japan, I figured I was one and done in a year. I certainly did not expect I would be writing about Japan 28 years later, nor doing so for 10 years let alone writing every single damn day since February of 2011.

It's been a cathartic thing for me... it helps me clear my brain, while 99 percent of the time allowing me to learn something new about the country or something new about myself.

To quote The Grateful Dead, "lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip its been."

Andrew Joseph
PS: At the very top we have an ukiyo-e entitled Ikenohata Hanabi (Fireworks at Ikenohata Pond), by artist Kobayashi Kiyochika (1870-1917).
PPS: Video above my signature is Truckin' by The Grateful Dead in 1972. And that bit that's all in italics up above... it's also from this song.
PPPS: What's interesting is that I was only going to use that long, strange trip line... but when I examined the lyrics to the song in greater detail, that italicized paragraph said what I wanted to say. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Japan Out Of 2018 World Cup Of Soccer

I was watching Japan play Belgium on Monday afternoon (it was a holiday in Canada). Japan lost 3-2.

Through the first half of the game, it was like watching young boys try to keep up against fit men... with Japan being the boys.

Belgium simply dominated them... and was impressed enough by the Japanese defense as much as I was disappointed in Belgium's lack of finish in scoring. Still... it was 0-0 at half-time.

And then something weird happened... Japan on a counter-attack (that's where you have been defending your ow goal and get to bring the ball out of your end quickly)... a beautiful play and presto, Japan was up 1-0.

I was still stunned when minutes later Japan did it again, scoring from just outside the box  - a distance most players won't shoot from... though I have no idea why... because when I played, it was a viable opportunity... and obviously Japan thought the same in this instance. Anyhow... 2-0 Japan after about 50 minutes...

And then I switched channels because I was trying to see the score of a baseball game... and when I came back a minute later it was 2-1. I went away again a few minutes after that to check on the baseball score... and when I came back it was 2-2.

It wasn't unexpected, as Belgium had clearly been the dominant team, aside from a few excellent runs by Japan that netted them the two goals.

With the score tied 2-2, and the 90 minutes having expired, the game goes into what is know as "injury time"... where the referee can decide just how many minutes should be added on because someone was lying and rolling on the ground from some phantom menace... or perhaps there was a minute-long celebration after a goal... and in this game there were four goals... and four minutes of injury time added on.

With 2-1/2 minutes gone in injury time, Japan had a corner kick... and wasted 320 seconds setting it up... and to better its odds, sent most of its half-backs forward to try and help the forwards score.

But that's when we all got to see that as good as Japan's counter-attack was, Belgium had one, too.

Breaking down with an odd man advantage, Belgium scored with about 30 seconds left in injury time, absolutely crushing the soul of every Japanese soccer fan.

It was a very nice goal, and to be honest... Belgium was full marks for the victory... indeed, the better team won.

Even if the score had remained tied, the teams would have to play an additional 30 minutes of soccer... and I would have been okay with that, because that second half was some of the best soccer I've seen this tournament... and it was clean... nothing dirty... nothing fake. Just good soccer.

During this extra time, regardless if someone scores... it is played out to its entirety... in other words, no sudden death overtime. 

Had the score remained tied after the extra time, it would have gone to penalty kicks. While I understand the necessity of having a winner, and realize the players are already dead tired after 120+ minutes... I still hate penalty kicks being used to decide a winner.

It's like in NHL regular season hockey... you play a complete team game for whatever length of time, and then the game is decided on individual skill. I DO find it exciting, but having gone through this in soccer, I hated it when we won by penalty kicks (I scored on my one and only attempt)... and I'm sure I would have hated it even more had I lost that way.

Oh well... Japan lost a fantastic soccer game against Belgium who were/are the better team. No shame in that.

While I gave Japan's team the cold shoulder for its honor-lacking display in a 1-0 loss against Belgium that made them play safe, penalty-free boring soccer in that loss to advance to this game of Final 16... the Belgium match was great.

No shame in this loss, lads. Your honor has been restored.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, July 2, 2018

Felice Beato - Photographer of Edo-era Japan

So… I was looking through my e-mail when Pinterest said – here’s some pins you might like, and up pooped a hand-colored image of a Japanese guy hefting a large bundle of stuff in a photograph taken in the 1860s by Italian-British photographer Felice Beato.

Beato was born in Venice, then part of what was known as the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in 1832. He died in Florence on January 29, 1909 in what was know was known as the Kingdom of Italy.

Beato moved to Yokohama Japan in 1863 - a time when travel to and from Japan was still restricted, but did so anyway, joining English cartoonist and artist Charles Wirgman there, a gentleman with whom he had previously traveled with from India to Hong Kong.

There in Yokohama, they formed the business known as Beato & Wirgman, Artists and Photographers, working there between 1864-1867.

The partnership created one of Japan's earliest commercial photographic studios, with Beato creating portraits, landscapes as well as a series of photographs that documented the scenery and sites along the Tokaido Road - something that both renowned Japanese artists Hiroshige and Hokusai did in ukiyo-e form.

Wirgman would produce drawings based on Beato's photographs, and Beato would photograph some of Wirgman's original art. As well, some of Beato's photos were used to create engravings for Aimé Humbert's Le Japon illustré and other works.

Because Beato would accompany foreign delegations in their tours of Japan, Beato was allowed access to parts of Japan commonly off-limits to the usual traveler, even photographing decapitated heads of those who had displeased the shogun or daimyo in some fashion.

Besides the high quality of his work, Beato's photography is highly prized for its peak at the Edo-era ruled by the shogun.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Once There Was A Way...

So… last week, I gave my two week’s notice at the magazine where I have worked for the past 13+ years.

I am going to go to another magazine, where I will be the lead editor on it. I’m not going to say what or where until the day I start, but suffice to say that leaving my old job for this was difficult.

When I left Toronto in July of 1990, boarding a plane to travel to Japan to teach English on a one-year contract in a small rural city known as Ohtawara-shi (Big-Rice Field-Field City) in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), I was leaving behind the only home I had ostensibly know. I was born in London, England, but left when I was three.

No… my current job move isn’t like that, however. I always knew I could go back to Toronto at the end of my one-year contract on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Mid-way through my first year in Ohtawara, my Board of Education boss, Hanazaki-san (Mr., Hanazaki) asked me if I had given any thought to staying or going back home when my contract was up.

Considering that I didn’t really want to go to Japan in the first place, I surprised myself by smiling and telling him how much I loved Japan and how I would love to stay another year.

It was all true. I had a girlfriend (an American) I was sleeping with whenever we weren’t arguing and being broken up… so every other week… I had made new friends, such as Matthew, Kristine and Jeff, and countless others on the JET program, and the scores of Japanese people I had met in Ohtawara… oh… and the kids… wow… what a fun place Japan was. Heck… I even had the nicest apartment (three-bedroom LDK with two balconies, and a western washroom area, A/C and heating, and a queen-sized bed…

Besides… there was nothing for me back in Toronto except friends and family. The journalism industry had taken it up the poop chute when the North American economy faltered weeks after I left Toronto.

So I stayed.

Mid-way through my second year, Hanzaki-san asked me again if I wanted to stay. He wasn’t so sure if I would, considering I was officially broken up with my American girlfriend, though we remained friends with benefits. At that time, he had no idea I was dating a Japanese university student who was interested in having as much sex with me as possible.

The fact that she also looked like an AV (adult video) superstar only added to constant bloodloss to my brain. The only hitch was that she didn’t want anyone to know about us…

Anyhow, I immediately said “Yes” to Hanazaki-san, telling him again just how much I loved Japan, and how I would love to stay forever if I could. See… bloodloss to the brain…

What I didn’t know, was that my Japanese girlfriend was a stalker. She was following me everywhere… she stopped going to school… would be outside my schools watching for a glimpse of me… and here’s the best part… I mean the worst part… along with teaching me how to tie her up and screw her brains out, she wanted us to have sex from the moment we were together until the moment I had to leave to go to work at one of the schools I taught at.

After constant abuse, one’s penis because painful to the touch… and trust me… there was constant abuse of my penis… but dammit… it was sex… raunchy, wet, holy crap I can’t believe I’ve been going for 12 hours straight sex. I learned how to achieve orgasm without ejaculation… so I could go forever, as long as I had a lot of orange juice and ice cream as fuel.

Anyhow… after days, and then a week or more of actually NOT getting any sleep thanks to the constant demands for sex… I had to ask for help… because I was feeling quite bad about her quitting school and about how I was now feeling dangerously ill from sleep deprivation… actually… a teacher noticed I was in some difficulty… and when I told him, he told my board of education… and then they proceeded to wait for her to talk, and try and get her to leave me alone, taking her to her parents place… and then—they assured me—making sure she got some help for what was obviously some sort of mental health issue.

Yes… I actually had too much sex. No one ever has too much sex. But I did. 

Still, the fates were kind to me, as my third year was spent teaching the kids, working teaching adults in night for extra coin, and in complete debauchery the rest of the time.

And then I met Noboko. A teacher of English at one of my schools... and it was the best six months of my life at that time.

I wasn't asked again by Hanazaki-san if I wanted to stay a fourth year, because at that time, the JET Programme only allowed a maximum of three years... I had to go home.

I had to leave the only home I had for the past three years... the woman I loved and who loved me... my friend Matthew who was getting married... and a pretty damn easy and cool job in a pretty damn cool pace in Japan... to go back to Toronto, Canada to see my friends and family again... my sick mother... but really to a future of complete uncertainty.

No job. No idea what I wanted to do. Journalism? Heck... the industry was still feeling the after affects of the economy... no... I would have to look elsewhere.

I would be losing my independence... my own home where I was the shogun of the castle... to go and live back in my parent's house...

I didn't realize it either, but my three-years in Japan had completely changed me... would my friends still accept me... and would I accept my friends?

Fortunately, I still maintained some things, like my love of comic books, so at least I had one friend I could see weekly to visit the comic store... but the rest... it was difficult.

No one wanted to hear the endless (not quite) tales and adventures I partook in in Japan... not really. How could anyone relate if they had no interest in Japan's oddities and sameness that I found quirky and interesting? 

No... it's ultimately why I had to create this blog. In 2009. Sixteen years after I left.

So... leaving my magazine after 13 years... difficult, sure... but at least while there are a few unknowns, at least it wasn't as stressful as the exit I had to do from Japan.

For all of the JETs who are leaving Japan later this month... I feel for ya... but know that at least the future is wide open to you.

Don't fug it up.

Banzai and Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Happy birthday Canada!
PPS: Photo at top - yup... that's me... sitting ON my west balcony where I used to sit dangerously on the ledge of my third floor apartment catching the sun while reading a book. I did that every weekend through the summer in Ohtawara. Man... that was some great hair. I miss it all... hair included. Photo by Matthew leaning out from my north balcony. On the plus side, since this photo, 27 years ago, my legs have become far more muscular. The rest of me, too - bigger and wider in the right spots... though aside from the legs, I also got heavier and wider in all the wrong spots as I got older. Sigh.
PPPS: Title for this blog taken from The Beatles song, Golden Slumbers - a medley from the Abbey Road album that goes into the song Carry That Weight, concluding with The End:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Understanding Japan Through Television

Hi…  was flicking through the news on-line and came across a neat article from that provides us with seven Netflix shows to better understand Japan.

The shows are: The Birth Of Sake; Tokyo Idols; Know Your Enemy: Japan; Terrace House: Opening New Doors; Chef’s Table Season 1: Niki Nakayama; Japanese Style Originator; and REA(L)OVE.

For a better understanding of what these shows, are please click HERE to visit the Savvy Tokyo website.   

Am I being lazy with my blog today? Yes. Yes, I am.

I have a lot of things on the go this weekend, and am feeling a bit pressed for time.

I’ll explain why tomorrow, and how I can relate it to Japan.

Andrew Joseph