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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nishi Honganji In Kyoto - Amended

I have no idea why I only have one image from Nishi Honganji, but I suspect it was because it was late in the evening and the place was closing… or because we had already seen Higashi Honganji… and so… big whoop. 

That latter type of thinking, however, is dangerous.

For one thing… Nishi Honganji is much older than Higashi Honganji, with more original buildings… which works two ways… yes, original wooden architectural constructs… and boring non-colorful original wooden architectural constructs.

Pick your poison.

Background:

Nishi Hongan-ji (西本願寺)  is, in English, the Western Temple of the Original Vow.

I wonder if people in Asia hear the names of western churches and think they are as cool as how we think the Asian ones are, like Nishi Honganji? Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Perpetucal Motion… I went to school at Our Lady of Peace and Our Lady of the Airways which I’m pretty sure wasn’t covered in any Bible I ever read…  

So… for those of you following along, Trish and I are on vacation in Kyoto in 1992, and have already visited Higashi Honganji (the Easten Temple of the Original Vow).

These are the two temples of Jōdo Shinshū in Kyoto, Japan.

Jōdo Shinshū (浄土真宗) is a school of Pure Land Buddhism… or Shin Buddhism.  The name means The True Essence of the Pure Land Teaching…

Anyhow… with Higashi Honganji known affectionately as Mr. east, our current locale is known as Mr. West.

As mentioned in a previous blog, when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu was more or less in complete charge of Japan, he was smart enough to try and weaken the church, which has long been a source of power amongst every community around the world (Pope, witch doctors, shaman, Joe Smith - as examples only and not meant to disrespect anyone).

Even though Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion—we all get that, right?—it still wielded considerable “religious” might in its ability to sway the devout masses.

As such, the shogun split the original Honganji temple in Kyoto into two separate entities.

The very impressive gate that leads into Nishi Honganji is typically called a Karamon (唐門), and was designated as a National Treasure of Japan… 

The photo is of a detail taken from the side of a bell placed on display.

It shows a komainu (a guardian “Korean” lion dog. The image in the photo is only about 4-inches long, but you can see I think such detail is awesome.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Matthew

Let’s take a break from seeing the travels of Trish and myself to Kyoto all those many years ago when we were on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, and instead take a look at my buddy Matthew who celebrates his… well… celebrates his birthday today.

Without a doubt, Matthew is genuinely one of the nicest people on the planet.

I met him in very late July of 1990 as we both were in Tokyo as part of the JET orientation for newbies. He was from a small place in New York state, and I came from the suburbs of Toronto.

Right away, he and I hit it off.

This gangling strawberry blond damn Yankee and by-chance Canucklehead of Indian decent struck up an immediate bond that lasts to this day and for what I assume will be a long time after.

While big brother Tom wanted me to really rub in his continued age accumulation, I can’t really do that here on-line. Sorry.

We have come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him.

That first evening in Tokyo, Matthew, myself, Californian Jeff and unbeknownst to myself Georgian Ashley sat down in a Japanese restaurant and were in awe at ourselves for actually being where we were.

We laughed our butts off as a drunk Jeff staggered off to use the washroom, and instead stepped in the porcelain bowl planted down within the floor… yeah, I don’t if Matthew would have done that, but thank goodness Jeff took that one giant leap for mankind and Andrew… luckily I have the bladder of an elephant.

It’s also true that I had no idea what Ashley’s name was that evening despite us making out like drunk bandits in Roppongi - Tokyo’s club district. I also admit that once Ashley took my hand to lead me into the place, I lost track of Jeff and Matthew. Sorry, guys… a real woman just showed interest in me.

After surviving the three days in Tokyo, we were taken to Utsunomiya, the capital city of Tochigi-ken, and were then divvied up and taken to our new homes in the prefecture by our bosses.

Arriving at my home in Ohtawara, and storing my stuff in my huge 3-bedroom apartment, with western amenities spread over the LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen), including the westernized bathroom and laundry area, my bosses took me downstairs to grab a bite to eat.

Sitting in the restaurant looking with intent at this strange language called Japanese printed on the menu, I hear a voice from behind me:

“Hey gaijin (outsider/foreigner).”

I turned around to see who the rude Japanese person was, and caught the smiling visage of Matthew!

I had no idea, but Matthew did, that we would be living nearby each other in this rural city of Ohtawara-shi… and that while I would teach at the junior high schools (then only seven) in the city, Matthew would have the more rural ones outside the city.

Cool!

I know someone in my new hometown!

My joy soon turned to disgust as that bugger kept showing up at my place with beer, meaning I had to feed him. LOL!

It was a fair exchange.

Matthew already knew more Japanese than I did upon landing in the country, and it only got worse, I mean better with each ensuing day, as soon he was talking to me in Japanese phrases that he assumed I must have picked up.

Most often, that first three years, I would smile and nod my head like I knew exactly what he was saying. But I didn’t. Which is probably why he was always at my apartment or showing up at the local bar—The 4-C—when I was trying to get Ashley toasty drunk.

I’m kidding of course.

Matthew was always a welcome guest. He was the one who had the adventurous spirit (probably more than Ashley), and definitely more than me at (at least until my third year when I did try and do things like travel alone through Ohtawara).

(My initial experience involved a three-hour tour in the rice fields of Ohtawara, as I tried to fin Ashley’s apartment in the town next door. Keep in mind that there are no street signs, and even if there were, I’d have no concept of what they said. I was lost almost the minute I left my apartment, and only got lucky when a man stopped his truck to take me and my bicycle to the local police station where they called my parents, er Board of Education bosses to come and pick me up and take me home).

Matthew’s kindness at always trying to include me in things was legendary in my mind. I was a shy guy… and introvert pretending to be an extrovert… I know it doesn’t seem like it now (or then), but it’s true.

He hauled me out to local singing events, the Ohtawara International Friendship Society/Association, rode with me by train, bicycle and bus to area JET teaching gigs and speech contests, ordered food for me whenever I stumbled (pretty much usually)…

Strangely, we never traveled on a vacation together… probably because too much familiarity could bring contempt… or he was already aware that I snored like a jet plane with asthma… or he knew that whenever I traveled outside of Ohtawara, it rained. Always.

It was Matthew who named me Ame Otoko (Rain Man) and joked that JET should send me around Japan to places needing relief from a drought. I remember almost everything. 

Aside from the obvious AJ, that was the first nickname I ever had. AJ is hardly a nickname… it was a way for people to initially recall the order of my names. Probably. I don’t.

We dragged me out to celebrate Canada's birthday and America's day of independence, finding fireworks - setting them off and nearly having one shoot right at us... each of us swiping a flag from a park where they were celebrating some community event... at least I did... a Canadian flag that was too high for me to reach... but not Matthew. He enabled me.

He also got me into some Ohtawara cooking class that we would each teach... he explaining how to make Ice Cream Cake, and me my famous Chilli con carne... a dish that had helped keep the stomach's of Matthew, Ashley and myself sated.

I would cook it once a week... and somehow... word got out... so he were paid to teach the local women of Ohtawara how to make our respective dishes.

We got paid. That makes us professional chefs. Semi-professional cooks at any rate.

If there's one great thing you can say about Matthew when he came over for a free meal—he always brought beer. I got other things from Ashley.

Speaking of women and alcohol...

Matthew... most importantly, picked me up when I was down. Which I’m not proud to say, was often. The one thing that ever got me down while I was in Japan, were women.

Women.

Women.

Women.

I was so unsure of my own self, filled with doubt and self-loathing, that every time Ashley and I broke up or had a fight, Matthew was right there to make sure I didn’t fall into that pit of despair.

I would never have done anything to myself, mind you—but Matthew didn’t know that.

He looked after me.

This guy younger than myself, was like the big brother I never had… a true friend.

And so… I just wanted to say… thank-you (again) Matthew for being my friend all these years.

Oh… and for almost killing me by introducing me to the most intoxicating alcoholic drink I have ever had: the Flaming Blue Lamborghini.

A Flaming Blue Lamborghini was the drink of choice whenever I wanted to get blitzed. One drink would get you drunk. Two drinks will get me really hammered. And three - well, according to New Zealand dude Mark the bartender - no one has ever had three.

Challenge accepted I had three in one evening after working my way up to it for the weeks previous. It was messy. I was fall-down drunk… probably should have eaten that evening.

Here's a recipe for the drink: Flaming Blue Lamborghini- please note that there are many different recipes for this drink (I spotted several)...
Ingredients: 

1/2 ounce of Kahlua;
1/2 ounce of Blue Caracao;
1/2 ounce of Galliano;
1/2 ounce of white Sambuca;
Cinnamon,
Cream 

Layer the Kahlua and Galliano in a martini glass. Pour the Sambuca into a shot glass and light it on fire. Pour the flaming Sambuca into the drink (ooooohhh ahhhhh pretty blue fire. Yay!) and throw a pinch of cinnamon over it for the crackling fireball effect. Douse the flames with cream and drink.

This is just one of several recipes on the Internet. I believe that Mark would use ice and Cream, puree it with the Kaluha and Galliano and then pour it with the Sambuca into a martini glass.

Instead of setting the Sambuca on fire, Mark used Spiritus vodka - a Polish vodka that is 95% proof - this was atop the other alcohol in the drink and it was all set on fire. While Mark them poured in the Blue Caracao, I would would be sucking the drink back with a straw - while the drink was still on fire. Many a time I recall searing my throat with fire, but the discomfort went away quickly as the alcoholic affects quickly hit me.

Oh... no cinnamon was harmed in the making of my drink... meaning none was used.

Anyhow… there was Matthew helping - practically carry my drunken a$$ back the five minute walk (now a 47-minute stagger) back to my condo.

As for women… that bugger lucked out… or is it lucked in? I don’t know how that stupid saying goes.

While I had the girlfriend first, Matthew got himself a Japanese girlfriend first (and second and third) and then got married.

Matthew was my gold standard… I wanted to be like him… to find that true love and trap it and force it to marry you. I’m kidding about the choice of words, but not the sentiment.

What Matthew had with Takako, that’s what I wanted with Noboko.

While it was never a contest between us—at least none that he knew existed , I always felt that I lost and Matthew won.

Nowadays, I just feel like Matthew won.

So yeah, baby… thanks for making me feel inferior for those three years, ya bastich.

Happy Hawaii XX, Matthew!

See… I could have said how old he is, but I didn’t.

For the record... after knowing Matthew for almost 27 years now, I’m still older. I guess I win.

D’oh!
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kyoto-gosho Imperial Palace

Next up on the adventures of Trish and Andrew in Kyoto, is us visiting the Kyoto-gosho (the Kyoto Imperial Palace, 京都御所).

This is where the emperors of Japan used to live... until the Meiji Restoration of 1867, and when the emperors moved to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 1869.

This was when the official power of the emperor was shifted from Kyoto to Tokyo.

When was the Kyoto-gosho first built? Your guess is as good as mine. The closest I can determine is sometime in the Heian-jidai (Heian era) of 794-1185AD. It was supposedly constructed on the same design as the palace located in the previous seat of power in Nara. 

When the first Kyoto-gosho was destroyed in the 1100s, it was rebuilt... destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed... but always moving to new locales around Kyoto... until this one was built in 1855... then the emperor left and forgot to take it with him. 

Located within what is now Kyoto Imperial Park (京都御苑, Kyōto Gyoen), a park pretty much in the middle of Tokyo, the two effervescent travelers from Tochigi-ken took in the sights.

I'm pretty sure that the past few years of my life have been less than effervescent, but back in 1992 when I took this trip, I was pretty genki (energetic)... more so because I was with Trish who was the same.

Although, if she were to allow me to sleep in until noon, I would, because I can be incredibly lazy or fully functional on a little sleep.

The current Kyoto-gosho was only built in 1855, reconstructed after a fire had burned it down. Even then, it had moved from place to place over the centuries, even previously being in a place called Nara.


Despite the emperor moving to Tokyo (formerly Edo in the pre-1868 era) , when it came time for the  coronation of the next two emperors (Taisho and Showa), they held the enthronement ceremonies back in Kyoto... though with ascension of the current emperor in 1990, and all future coronations, the Tokyo Imperial Palace is the place.

While once tourists could only visit the Kyoto-gosho on guided tours and with advance reservations, people can now just show up and take a look around the grounds - though no one is allowed to enter any of the building.

Yeah, English tours are available, and though I was loathe to ever think such things, the fluent-in-Japanese Trish was my tour guide.

I have to admit that while I am a huge fan of Japanese architecture, the Kyoto-gosho was underwhelming...

Sure they were fantastically old compared to anything I had seen in Toronto (but not Quebec City), knowing that the buildings were only 130+years-old was a bit of a let-down.

Even in my tiny, rural hometown of Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken, I visited the home of my Board of Education superintendent... a lovely 450-year-old place that was as clean and neat as a museum, but used everyday by my boss and family.

Anyhow... to me, the faded vermilion-like color of the buildings made me think it resembled Chinese temples too much - not that there's anything wrong with that in China... but this was Japan. I wanted red.

As such, when I looked at the architecture, all I saw was red, as in China and vermilion.

Then again, my own knowledge of colors while decent, was off. The architecture at the Kyoto-gosho was orange-y. Not vermilion. Hey... that's what I thought 25 years ago... and the fact that I still thought that way until I actually looked vermilion up on-line will tell you how my thinking had been skewed all these years.

I'll be honest... when I was taking photos, I didn't know exactly what was the main thing I should be shooting... so the main image at the top of this blog is one from wiki samurai archives. Yeah, I know it looks like it was going to rain in that above shot... but Trish and I had sunny skies to match our nauseatingly sunny dispositions.

So... here's some photos of the Kyoto-gosho grounds and architecture. We probably should have taken that tour...

Trish still found time to have some fun at this lonely set of swings on the palace grounds... I assume it was put in for the tourists and not for the emperor... though that would have been pretty cool, too.
I really like Japanese roofs... I know that sounds weird... but it's true.
A tour group of Japanese high school students.
Roofs... one above where I was shooting from, and the one I was shooting at.
Look at all the very different roofs! Fantastic! Eight different levels in this one shot!
The last shot of roof architecture for a while... but don't worry - there's more!
 
Roofs, sure! But look at that blue sky! Ame otoko (Rain man) no more!
Okay... I can see how I may have gone overboard with the roof-thing... no I can't! Exciting!
Hmm... Trish is doing her best "My Name Is Earl" routine with the camera. Eyes closed, that is. It was a very funny TV show. Every time Earl had his picture taken - he managed to have his eyes closed.
A boring shot? Naw. This is Kyoto... city of 1,000 temples... even though this is Kyoto-gosho, you are going to see the architecture. This shot incorporates my little trick of using a foreground overhang to frame the background image I am really shooting. Get used to it... I do it often.
Just some boring trees over a gate? Maybe... but that Japanese silver maple has brilliant red leaves... but do you see the rounded bridge in the background? I don't know if I saw it when I took the photo, but it surprised me just now.
Tomorrow... Nijo-jo. Plenty more shots of roofs and vegetation!


Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, May 22, 2017

Higashi Hongangi In Kyoto

In keeping up with the fine tradition of being the ame otoko (rain man), it rained that first day Trish and I spend in Kyoto back on November 19, 1992.

It was autumn, I had just turned 28, and I was traveling across the country of Japan from about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo to some 500 kilometers west of it with Trish, a woman I really liked, but was smart enough to just be friends with me.

Although only her first year on the JET Programme relative to my third, she spoke fluently in Japanese (unlike my oft botched writing attempts here in English) as a CIR (Coordinator of International Relations). Traveling with Trish, it was the first time I had ever traveled in the country and knew exactly where I was and what I was seeing.

You think I jest, but it was the truth.

These were the days just before the Internet became a thing - back when people used guide books and maps and redheads.

Kyoto-shi (Kyoto City) in Kyoto-ken (Prefecture of Kyoto) has over 1,000 temples on the tourist tour trail, and because I was a smart guy, I was smart enough to let the smarter Trish plan our itinerary.

That freed me up to just concentrate on being the muscle... so that she wouldn't be hassled by guys (foreign and Japanese) from trying to get in her pants. She had a boyfriend back home which prevented me from doing the same.

Muscle... ha... it was just security... and I hope companionship...

Our first stop was Higashi Hongangi (東本願寺), the Eastern Temple of the Original Vow.

What a great name. For a proper idea of just how large it is, over by the far right bottom corner, two  people can be seen. The place is friggin' huge.
Okay... Trish (on the right) is blurry and over-exposed (in the wrong way) by my flash... but she's sticking her tongue out mimicking the dragon water fountain. Don't worry, there are far more fun and in focus photos of Trish to come. I do have a far better photo of the same dragon that is actually one of my favorite photos, taken on a previous trip here with Ashley.
It is home to one of the two main sects of Shin Buddhism in Japan, with the other being Nishi Honganji (the Western Temple of the Original Vow), which is also located in Kyoto.
Yup... sometimes I can take a good photo. Not only was I born in the year of the dragon, but my kanji-fied Japanese name was An-do-ryu... peaceful-leader-dragon... so I like dragons.
Higashi Hongangi was originally constructed in 1602 by the very new warlord in charge of a unified Japan, the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. This shogun seized power officially in 1600AD, but was not actually named a shogun (military ruler) until 1603. He only officially ruled until 1605 when he abdicated, but was still actually the go-to man in power until his death in 1616.

In 1602, as a means to establish his power over even the religion/philosophy of Shin Buddhism, he split up the Shin Buddhist sect in two - the west and the east. It worked.

The thing is... before Tokugawa took over, Oda Nobunaga - powerful warrior who fought alongside Tokugawa - had actually burned down the original head Shin Buddhist temple Ishiyama Honganji in Osaka due to that temple's interference in politics.

It was the fourth and last time the buildings had been burned down... the previous three owing to just bad luck, while the last one in 1864 was done on purpose owing to the Buddhist sect's political interference.
This coil of rope was actually made from human hair, donated by local Kyoto women back in the 16th century.
General Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who fought under Nobunaga was later put in charge of rebuilding the Nishi (west) Honganji temple in 1591, with the temple Trish and I visited, the Higashi (Eastern) Honganji temple built in 1602, 11 years later.


Anyhow, what Trish and I saw, however, was a cluster of buildings - known as Ohigashisan (お東さん, Honorable Mr. East) that were built in 1895 after a fire had taken out the main complex. 

I am pretty sure the current design followed the original design, but don't quote me on that.

A look from inside Higashi Honganji out to the main entrance gate.
Although our trip had started off cold and damp, as the late afternoon wore on (We did after all travel for about 5+ hours from Tochigi-ken to Kyoto that morning), the grey skies had a minor semblance of blue in them, but it was still pretty chilly.

In the days before digital cameras made darn near everyone able to take semi-professional photos, I was still using a 50mm camera, a flash, and unforgiving film. In those days, for you young un's, when you snapped a photograph, the non-professional often had no clue if he/she had a "good" photo or not. 

Trish and I snapped photos together just in case the other faltered. So what you see here and in subsequent blogs about this trip is our combined efforts. 

I was pleased with my framing, but not with my inability to use a flash. 
Hello, I must be going... that's me in front of the entrance way just before Trish and I left the Higashi Honganji temple complex. Hmm... I'm not wearing my purple, blue and black striped jeans implying I must have brought two pairs of pants on a four-day trip... just in case the thought of me being in one pair of pants grossed out Trish. I really did and do think about stuff like that.
Kanpai, 
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trish and I

I always had a thing for natural redheads.

Usually with pale white skin, sometimes freckly, other times pure as alabaster... a complete contrast to my own dark complexion and black hair.

I used to joke in my own head about finally sleeping with a redhead and playing connect the dots while naked under the sheets.

Or how my ideal woman was an Asian redhead with big boobs.

I could always find two out of three, which ain't bad, so I hear.

I know, I know... what an immature outlook. Looking for a hair color while ignoring other women who might actually be a better fit for me... but many guys are as stupid as I was.

Thing is... in truth I just truly admired intelligent women. Ignorant is fine, stupid is not.

Which is to say, that if I legitimately dated you or was interested in you, it was because on top of everything you think I liked, if you lacked intelligence I wouldn't have even tried to pursue or allowed myself to be pursued.

Enter Trisha Pepper... Trish.

A smart, sexy, funny redhead who arrived in Japan as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme while I was there beginning my third year as a junior high school English teacher on the same program.

She and I met when I went down to Tokyo to welcome in the new recruits in July of 1992. In truth, I was there to check out the female talent, to see if I could be that necessary comforting shoulder to lean on as big, bad old Japan could be rough and confusing and lonely.

The year before I had met and slept with four AETs that I met over those two or three days in Tokyo... not at that time, mind you, but over the next year.

This time... well, I might have tried to hit on a few of them, but I didn't end up sleeping with any of them... not even Trish.

She was smarter than smart. She appeared at the periphery of my suave self exuding its maleness... hearing my booming voice and girlish laugh... which isn't so much girlish - no one has ever accused me of that - but it certainly is a lot higher than my natural voice that could melt ice in the Arctic during a blizzard.

That's not my description of myself, by the way, but a paraphrased version by one of my former conquests.

Again... not Trish.

When she came over to talk to my drunk self, there was a twinkle in her eyes as she purred a hello at me, winked and watched as I began to salivate. She knew how to push this drunk guy's buttons.

She led me on and on, as I made her laugh and she made me laugh, and we tested each other with bits of useless fun facts about nothing... me finally getting the upper hand as I began to regale her with stories about all of the stupid stuff I had happen to me while I had been in Japan the past two years.

She knew the point wasn't to complain about Japan, just how naive I was about things and how not knowing about anything before arriving in Japan made the journey that much more fun.

That's when she said she agreed and wished she didn't know so much about Japan.

I put an arm around the 5'3" (I'm better at knowing cup-sizes than height, so that's now a 25-year-old guess) Trish's shoulders - she was warm like the sake in my belly - and smiled as she looked up at me like she knew she could kick me in the gonads before I even thought about squeezing a boob.

(By the way, I might have been very interested in getting laid all the time, but at no point in any interaction with a woman did I ever make the first move. Okay, maybe with Noboko... but I'm not even sure anymore as I write this. The point is, this guy needs to receive a real real invite.)

Yeah, I wanted to grab Trish and kiss her, but even drunk me isn't out of control... he just gets louder and (hopefully) funnier.

Anyhow, arm around her in a reassuring manner, I told her that regardless of what she thinks she knows about Japan, there's still plenty one doesn't know about it that is going to jump up and slap you in the face while stomping on your toes, and the best way to handle it is to smile and laugh about it later.

Obviously those weren't my exact words--I said I get louder and funnier, but that doesn't mean I have total recall.

I obviously said the right thing because she said "thank-you, Andrew", leaned in to give me a hug and then punched me in the arm as she pulled away and said good night.

A few days later when she had moved in to her tiny apartment in a tiny hamlet in Tochigi-ken, she gave me a call.

Being completely useless with names I had no idea who I was talking to for a few minutes... Trisha... Trisha... who the fug is that?

Perhaps sensing my reluctance to get personal, she made some comment about her curly red hair that was totally out of control in the humidity of August in Japan.

Good grief. The redheaded girl... I suppose that makes me Charlie Brown in more ways than one.

She immediately launched into talking about her boyfriend back home... meant to warn me off, which I got... but I was also smart enough to know that long-distance relationships don't work...

As such, I continued to flirt, let her flirt back, but let her keep her distance... content actually for her to be my friend.

Beginning my third term in Japan, I had just lost my ex-girlfriend with benefits who had gone back home after two years... and I was already in the mode of being bored with simply allowing myself to be picked up at a bar for sex... and wanted to feel like the real me mattered.

It's tough to explain.

It was the early 1990s, and I had never asked a woman out while in Japan... even though I had arrived in the country quite virginal, and not by choice.

But in Japan... I had women tripping over themselves to sleep with me... both foreign women, and Japanese... and aside from one woman of the two I dared call my girlfriend, none cared to know who I really was... I was that exotic curiosity... and trust me, I enjoyed every single moment of that... but deep down, I wanted to be loved, like I was a living in carnation of some Jefferson Airplane song.

Enter Trish. She wasn't interested in making love to me, but I love that she did want to get to know me... much like Ashley... or, come to think of it, like Kristine had done... and man, if she and I weren't separated by 500km while in Japan... well... probably best not to dwell on such things, as I know it worked out very well indeed for my special K.

But Trish... she was exactly what I needed. A good, strong, smart female friend that I still wanted to sleep with but knew I wouldn't.

Life with Trish was always a weekly phone call away... and while I know she and I liked each other, me more in THAT way than she for me, we did still manage to keep it hands-free. I was and I am still a gentleman - especially when she made her intentions clear.

It was weird how I, a third-year participant on the JET Programme needed the reassurances of a first-year, but that's the way it was. I never told her that, but she was probably smart enough to know it.

The Great Trisha Pepper... we remained good friends that whole year until I met Noboko in 1993. It's not that she and I stopped being friends, but my time began to be taken up by Noboko, and Trish somehow realized it without me telling her that.

However... before all that... and in early November of 1992, Trish asked me if I wanted to go on a vacation with her between November 19-23, I practically jumped out of my pants... she wanted to know if I would accompany her to Kyoto.

Sure... I had done that same trip with Ashley the previous year when it rained every day during Golden Week in 1991... but with Trish, she spoke such fluent Japanese that I knew I would learn so much about what I was seeing for once.

I am pretty sure Trish asking me to go with her served two purposes: she trusted me, even as a guy she knew wanted to sleep with her, to not make any moves on her, but also to act as both a companion and security.

Japan is a safe place, sure, but a single foreign woman doesn't need to be hassled... which I'm sure has and does happen.

I could respect that. In fact, another young first-year female JET asked me to be her dance companion and security for trips down to Roppongi in Tokyo. I did that two, maybe three times. And no... like I said earlier... I didn't sleep with any of the new crop of AETs I met on my third year on JET.

So... over the next few days, allow me to present in photos, my trip to Kyoto... sleeping in the same hotel room, with Trish... a very satisfying if not frustrating trip, if you know what I mean.

The photo at the top is one Trish took of me during the trip. Man I loved those purple, blue and black striped jeans. Don't worry, I snapped a lot of photos of Trish, too.

To be continued...

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Three Human Bullets

In 1932, about a year-and-a-half after Japan had decided to invade Manchuria as a step towards attacking China, a scene evolved that involved the accidental deaths of three Japanese soldiers that turned them into martyrs and a rallying point for Japan and its Imperial Army.

Looking to take out Chinese fortifications to allow Japanese soldiers to breach and advance, the Japanese Army concocted a plan whereby two sets of three (a total of six) soldiers from its engineering division would each carry a 12-foot long bamboo pole stuffed with explosives.

Let’s set the stage:

It’s February 22, 1932. Blocked by barbed wire halting the Japanese Army’s advance onto Chinese trenches, every previous attempt to remove the wire by the Japanese was met with volleys of rifle and machine gun fire by the Chinese 19th Route division.

Seemingly out gunned by the Chinese, the Japanese devised a plan whereby two groups of three men apiece would do a full-frontal attack run (not a suicide run, apparently) with the bamboo stick filled with explosives.

I'll give the Japanese credit...whenever there's a way to have military men kill themselves in the line of duty, they find a way.

The two groups ran at the barbed wire obstacle, set the fuse and blew two holes (or one big one) in it allowing the Japanese to attack.

However... one group was more successful (or unsuccessful depending on one's view of Japanese self-sacrifice), as they all lived.

The other group of three... our Three Human Bullets... they died when the bamboo explosive went off.

From what I understand, before the two groups took off on their run to the barbed wire, a fuse was lit on each.

The fuse was supposed to be long enough for the men to run to the front, stick the bamboo pole laced with explosives in the wire, and race back to their waiting comrades in arms.

But one of the two groups had a short fuse that was accidentally cut to just 50 centimeters rather than something much longer - like 150 centimeters, as it was supposed to be.

Someone who made the fuse heard 50 cm... and didn't hear the 100 number in front of it.

Privates (surnames first) Kitagawa Susumu, Sakue Inosuke and Eshita Taeji were the three unlucky men who died because of the unfortunate mistake.
From left: Private Kitagawa, Private Eshita, and Private Sakue, the Three Human Bullets... the dead ones, anyway.
However, because they were successful, word of their sacrifice was sent back to the newspapers and radio.

They were dubbed the Three Human Bullets.

Heroes of Japan.

Strangely, no one seems to recall the names of the three men who didn't die, but were still successful, in blowing a hole in the barbed wire.

Everybody loves a martyr... even more so when there's three of them.

The Three Human Bullets (Bakudan Sanyushi, / 爆弾三勇士) became a romantic notion of Japanese military self-sacrifice.

A song was written of their lucky exploit (that's sarcasm, by the way), magazine articles, were written on them, movies, stage plays, and even a comic strip was created and printed in Shonen Club manga (comic book) so the kiddies of Japan could grow up knowing that no sacrifice is too small.
Oh... and pottery, too. What is death by ineptness worth if they can't make a statuette of how you died?
Picture a 10-year-old reading this story in a manga back in 1932. Now picture that same kid in 1941-1945. It's okay to die in war if you are doing for the country of Japan.

You, too can be a war hero, like the Three Human Bullets... self-sacrifice provides a noble death.

Not like those three idiots who didn't die for the cause... whomever they were.

You can't tell me that propaganda doesn't work. 

Yeesh.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Ever heard that anti-Vietnam War song by Country Joe & The Fish? Well it's 1, 2, 3, what are fighting for? There's a bit of language, so NSFW. Otherwise, crank it up and sing along.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Chimney Man

On November 16, 1930, a Japanese man climbed to the top of the 40-meter tall smokestack at the Kawasaki factory of the Fuji Gas and Textile Company.

A strike had been going on at the company for more than 40 days, and the man wanted to show support for his fellow workers.

Kawasaki Hujibo (28) climbed the chimney, waved a red flag and gave a speech discussing the strike and urging the strikers to not give up hope.

Media immediately called him “Chimney Man” because the media is prone to a lack of imagination.

Thousands of people gathered to watch Chimney Man pretty much sit up on the chimney “landing” for 132 hours, who sat, ate and slept up there.

Enterprising merchants set up dozens of food stalls down below… perhaps waiting for the young rebel to do more.

Below, strike officials made food for Chimney Man: five rice balls, a pot of hot o-cha (green tea) and a procured bottle of wine… though I am unsure if that is grape wine or rice wine (o-sake). I would assume o-sake.

In 1930 Japan, the country was reeling economically. While the great financial disaster of the U.S. in 1929 (Wall Street Stock Market Crash) had not yet affected Japan, the country was reeling from unemployment, labor strikes and starvation.

There were poor crops, which meant that farmers made little and starved.

Even when the farmers had a good crop of rice, for example, it drove the prices down meaning farmers were unable to survive.

After his third day up on the chimney, the factory owners tried to smoke Kawasaki down by starting up the furnaces, but he defiantly yelled down that he wouldn’t quit because of a little smoke.

The embarrassed factory officials then thought they could spray him down with water, but the local fire department was unsuccessful in their attempt.

Kawasaki would taunt the officials calling their efforts “kid’s games” saying he would remain up there until they met his demands.

However… things on the ground began to take on a more serious tone—embarrassment.

Because the Emperor would arrive in the area to view some Army field maneuvers, the factory leaders concluded that if he saw Chimney Man up there it would bring shame and dishonor to the factory.

As such, the factory acquiesced to the strikers’ demands and Chimney Man came down from his perch, a local hero after 132 hours or six days in total.

There is no information on-line, as far as I can see, except for data in the book Media, Propaganda and Politics in 20th-Century Japan by The Asahi Shimbun Company.

I only learned of it from a manga graphic novel created by Mizui Shigeru (surname first) who created his four-part history books. The Chimney Man incident is from his first book Showa 1926-1939: A History Of Japan. The image above is artwork of the scene by Mizui.

Given to me by my buddy Vinnie, the manga is an easy to read historically accurate representation of the time period that should be required reading in Japanese elementary schools.

Thanks Vinnie.

As for Chimney Man… he lives on now in three places in the Internet.

Banzai!
Andrew Joseph