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Monday, September 25, 2017

Japan's WWII Clay Coin

Building upon what I discussed two days ago (HERE), here is another example of a country affected hard by metal shortages during WWII.

Japan - yeah, one of the bad guys in WWII, was struggling late in the war to continue its efforts to build warplanes and ships and other war weapons thanks to a lack of metal.

In an effort to avoid "waste" the Japanese government okayed the pressing of coins made of a red clay.

Yup. Clay. Heck... if you go to that blog I wrote two days ago, you'll see how, for one of its occupied territories in China, it created coins made of corrugated... the real term for what is generally known as cardboard.

Now... to be fair, the red clay coin pictured above - a 1 Sen coin - was never actually released to the public. Although, there is a report that it was "unofficially" circulated a few days before the war's end.

It was due out in 1945, things were looking bad for Japan... and it simply wasn't released.

The coins were created by the Kyowa Shinko Pottery Co., Ltd. in Arita Town, Saga-ken (Saga Prefecture) and by Kyoto Seto Manufacturing.

The coin is made up of:
  • Sanemasaka clay - 60%;
  • Izumiyama stone - 15%;
  • Red-eye clay - 15%;
  • Other material - 10%.
It's actually a nice looking coin, with an image of Mt. Fuji (akak Fuji-san) one one side of the coin.

And... because it's fun, there is also a brown clay version of the 1 Sen coin - also never circulated:

Both coins (regardless of clay color) weigh 0.8grams and are 15mm across.

Prices asked at various auction sites are anywhere from US $28 - $200.

Don't take any wooden nickels... or should you?
Andrew Joseph

Here's a few examples of wooden nickels from the U.S. Canada also had wooden nickels and are simply souvenir tokens given away at fairs and as promotional retail giveaways. This set is asking US$9 for the lot. A dime is placed beside for a sizing. They look to be "quarter" sized.

And, yeah... there is such a thing as a $3 bill. Above is mine, picked up in 1984, I believe when I visited there. Ain't nothing crooked about it. It's worth about US$20, and are generally picked from Bahamian circulation by curious tourists like myself.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tomioka-eki (富岡駅, Tomioka train station) in Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture) is going to re-open on October 21, 2017.

The key is re-open.

On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake, causing a massive tsunami that crashed onto the northeastern coast of the country killing about 20,000 people.

In the prefecture of Fukushima, the tsunami also knocked out power to the Daiichi nuclear electricity power generating facility there causing multiple near meltdowns, releasing fairly substantial amounts of radioactive materials into the surrounding air, water and ground... and also causing the evacuation of the area of a very large swathe of people in at first a 30 kilometer-wide range, later reduced to 20 kilometers. 

We all know about that... and if you want, you can do a search under "Fukushima" to see the many multiples of blogs I have written on damn near everything on the events.

Anyhow... back on March 11, the tsunami also destroyed the Tomioka Station (富岡駅 Tomioka-eki) railway station owned by East Japan Railway Company that was first built in 1898.
This is Tomioka Train Station on March of 2012 - nothing left. You can compare it with the image above by looking at the lines on the roadway. Yeah. Image credit HERE.
While the train station had been in a state of closure these past six-and-a-half years, a year or so back, JR East began the arduous task of building a new station... because... well, if people are going to eventually get back to a sense of normality, they need normal things.

The station was part of the Jōban Line, and was located 247 kilometers from the official starting point of the line at Nippori Station, but after the nuclear reactor problem, operations on the Jōban Line between Tatsuta Station and Nittaki Station were suspended indefinitely.

That original Tomioka train station - seen at the top of the article in a 2009 photo (credit HERE) - was a simple single island platform, and one side platform, connected by a footbridge, and, of course, a staffed ticket office.

In January 2015, work started on dismantling the remains of the station building and footbridge. On 14 September 2017, a train arrived at the station for the first time in over six years - it was just a test run.

Officially, service to the station will commence on October 21, 2017.

Here's the thing that I wonder about: The whole city of Tomioka was part of the evacuation zone due to the nuclear disaster issue.

While people have been allowed to enter this part of the evacuation zone since August of 2012, people were not allowed to stay overnight owing to the high radiation levels.

But... on March 25, 2013 the nuclear evacuation zone was lifted by Japan... with the town of Tomioka rezoned into three areas defined by level of radiation. Low, medium and high. Uh-huh.

Tomioka's smart town government, however, was having none of that, and decided it would be best if the evacuation area was continued in its town for an additional four years.

Their thought process was: What's the point in allowing the people back into Tomioka if there's no proper infrastructure for them. That's why they wanted four more years.

In the zone with the highest radiation levels, no Tomioka resident could return home for at least five more years.

Only residents of Tomioka--and I mean registered residents--were even allow to go to Tomioka... with also else refused entry.

This is a small town in Japan. Everyone knows everyone... so that was actually fairly easy to police.

At the time of the disaster, the high-level radiation part of Tomioka (the northern section) had 4,500 residents. So they are screwed until 2018.

The central part of the town, which used to have 10,000 residents was designated as a residence restriction zone, in which the residents could return during daytime hours but have to leave at night.

The remaining zone of the southern part of Tomioka had about 1,500 residents, with restrictions lifted.

This is still as of 2013.

In a survey taken in 2013, some 40 percent of the Tomioka's residents said they would never return, while 43 percent were undecided.

While many people were concerned about the radiation, others were also worried that their livelihood was destroyed and what would they do now, and many also felt that if they did return to Tomioka, it would hurt their chances of receiving compensation from TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company) who owned the Daiichi nuclear facility and have been held accountable for not having proper safeguards in place to prevent the nuclear catastrophe.

The Daiichi safeguards issue prompted Japan to examine the rest of its nuclear power plants, eventually forcing the closure of all facilities until such time the safety features were upgraded - a process that continues to this day... though some nuclear plants have been restarted, while others are being delayed as local residents re-think the whole concept of "safe and clean" nuclear power stations to generate electricity.

On January 31, 2011, the town of Tomioka had a population of 15,839 people featuring 6,293 families.

Since the disaster, and since the lifting of the evacuation order, as of December 2014, it has a registered population of 14,141 people. That doesn't mean they are back... just that that many people are still officially registered as being part of Tomioka.

But it does show promise.

And now... upcoming in one months time... the town's Tomioka train station is open for business.

It's not just going to be a train stop... there will also be a place to get food and drink.

JR East announced the opening of Sakura Station Kinone (Kinnen) store with a retail shop and restaurant at the station. I wish I had an image of the new Tomioka Train Station, but I don't.

The shop and restaurant aspect are important.

There are still relatively few shops around the Tomioka train station--when the evacuation order was given on April 1, 2011... everyone left the town, except for one man who stayed to feed his animals. No... I don;t know what happened to him or his critters.

JR East figures that by adding more shops et al, it will provide residents with greater convenience and will help promote that the town of Tomioka is not only a viable place to live.... well... that's pretty much it.  

The store's name of "Sakura" means cherry... and was used "on purpose" to encourage people that Tomioka is a place to "put down roots."

The Sakura Station Kinone (Kinnen) convenience store will provide foods, beverages, tobacco, and something called a "newspaper", as well as hot foods such as noodles.

I assume that while most of the restrictions in the town have been lifted, some are still in place... but at least there's an attempt at bringing normalcy back for those brave enough to tray and rebuild their life.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A History Lesson About A Japanese Cardboard Coin

Let’s start at the beginning… well… in the middle of the beginning:

Manchukuo (満州国)—the State of Manchuria—was known by westerners as “Manchuria”, and was the designated official “homeland” of the Chinese ruling family’s ethnic group.

In 1931, Japan seized the territory of Manchiria following the Mukden Incident—a staged event by Japanese military personnel as a “reason” to invade Manchuria in northeastern China.

A year later, Japan installed its puppet government, naming Puyi, the last Qing emperor, as regent and emperor.

When Japan was defeated to close WWII in 1945, this Manchukuo's government was abolished in 1945, with territories formally claimed by the puppet state first seized in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945.

Of course, WWII’s end wasn’t officially signed until September of 1945, so that was just the USSR being a dink and trying to grab as much land as possible, knowing that since the war was still officially on, it could claim to own the Manchukuo territory, which could then be bargained back to China for some form of compensation.

If compensation to China did occur, I can’t say, but the territory was returned officially to China, by the USSR in 1946. Maybe they got free fried shrimp dumplings for a year or something… but I doubt it was done freely. 

Anyhow… while Japan occupied the Manchukuo territory, in my opinion, a great way to demoralize an invaded country’s people is to either blow up special landmarks or to replace its currency.

Replacing the currency is less violent, however, and Japan smartly used this tactic (as despicable as it was), in many of its invaded territories, including Manchukuo, the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, Netherlands Indies, and Oceania (used in British New Guinea, the Solomon and Gilbert Islands and other small island outposts).

Interesting enough, Manchukuo is NOT mentioned on the Wikipedia website about Japanese invasion money, officially known as Southern Development Bank Notes (Japanese: 大東亜戦争軍票 Dai Tō-A Sensō gunpyō, "Greater East Asia War military scrip") - HERE.

Of course, Japan’s aggression against China began nearly a decade before the official start of WWII… and China is often forgotten as being a victim of Imperial Japanese aggression because the country was occupied by Japan before WWII started…

Beginning in 19332, Japan minted coins for the puppet state of Manchukuo, featuring various coins of bronze and copper-nickel.

But, beginning in 1944, Japan realized that the whole war against Asia plus the U.S. wasn’t going as pleasantly as it had initially thought… and realized that it needed to get its hands on as much metal as possible to continue building airplanes and ships and other military items.

As such, coinage for territories outside of Japan were picked to have its metal replaced. No one gave a crap about Manchukuo, so it took the metal coins from circulation and replaced them with coins made of red fiber—a corrugated… cardboard, if you will.

1 Fen coin made of cardboard. No! It's corrugated!

These red fiber coins were issued in Manchukuo in 1944 and 1945, and are described within the Standard Catalog of World Coins as being “red or brown fiber.”

Only two denominations were produced: one (1) and five (5) fen coins.

5 Fen coin made of corrugated... the correct term for what people call cardboard.

I wish I could tell you how many of each coin was produced, but unfortunately, I can’t.

If those numbers exist, they are in Japanese, locked within a Japanese ministry archives, or more than likely destroyed by the peoples of Manchukuo after the country’s liberation from Japan (and the USSR).

The coins are not expensive to purchase, apparently… I saw a value for the 1 Fen coin at around US$3, and 5 Fen coin at US$7.50.

An interesting pair of curios to be sure.

The red ink stamp denotes it is part of Japanese occupation. I think. It makes sense. Unless the stamp was always there...

And… because sometimes I just don’t know when to stop writing, creating money out of a new “ingredient” during WWII is hardly limited to Japan. 

In Canada, we have a five-cent coin since 1921, made of nickel… and call it a nickel.

I won’t discuss the KA_CHING!!!! 1920 five-cent coin, but from 1919 and earlier, the five-cent coin was known as a five-cent silver, because that’s what it was made off. Canada switched to a less expensive metal because oft times there was more than five cents worth of silver in a five-cent coin.

It’s also why Canada stopped minting pennies (copper one-cent pieces) in 2012. Originally it did have copper in it: In 1858, it contained 95% copper, 4% tin, 1% zinc (bronze). The ingredients remained the same, but in different amounts until 1997-1999, when it contained: 98.4% zinc, 1.6% copper plating. Between 2000-2012, the coins were made of 94% steel, 1.5% nickel, and 4.5% copper plating.

The coins cost more than one cent to produce, so it was done away with. If a product costs $1.52, we round down to $1.50. If it’s $1.53, we round up to $1.55. This is for cash transactions only, however. For credit or debit card purchases, the actual amount is charged.        
Anyhow… Canada… the five-cent nickel coins from 1921-1942…

Because of materials shortages during WWII for war materials production, the coins metal was changed to brass… well, actually tombac, a type of brass, used in 1942 and 1943. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, it produced 8,000 tombac “nickels” in 1944—but apparently only one has ever come to light.

The 1942 brass tombac five-cent coin. Beaver on the reverse, King George VI on the obverse. The front/obverse is always the reigning monarch.

Actually, when the tombac five-cent coin was introduced in 1942, Canada also issued a standard “nickel” coin… perhaps to either not freak out the people, or because the tombac was only introduced later in the year… not sure.  I could ask the Mint, but I noticed on their site that they say the tombac coins were produced 1942-1946… and that’s simply not true. 

In 1944 and 1945, the Royal Canadian Mint went away from brass to produce a steel “nickel” coated with nickel and chrome plated. I’ve not seen one, but apparently there are also a small number of the steel/chrome nickels produced WITHOUT the chrome plating, but only in 1944.

The United States, of course, produced a steel penny in 1943 to replace the copper material needed for war materials… but the real money is if you find a bronze 1943 penny nowadays worth around $100,000 depending on condition. Ka-ching!

What’s the point of all this? Well, besides the fact that the war efforts of the U.S., Canada and Japan—just three examples—forced each to alter the way they produce coinage, but in the case of Canada and the U.S., you get a chance to see a wee bit of incompetence… which is the only such coins as mentioned above could have been released—even a single coin.

By the way… I’m not calling anyone at the various Mints ‘stupid’… just that they need(ed) to work on their quality assurance and/or security.

Canada, by the way… after releasing the tombac brass five-cent coin in 1942, received complaints from some of the populace that its round, usual “nickel” shape was too easy to confuse with the similar colored “penny” (one-cent coin). So… in 1943, it altered the shape of the formerly smooth-sided five-cent coin, designing it for 1943 and for a number of years afterwards with 12-sides. Now that’s customer service.

As an eight-years, after finding a 1943 Canadian silver quarter behind the floor quarter rounds (or whatever they are called) of the house we just moved in, I began to collect coins as a numismatic (coin collector)… made more frenetic by the family going to the Queen Elizabeth building at that year’s CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), where a dealer was selling individual coins. I even subscribed to the Canadian Coin News newspaper as a kid… later used to hide copies of Playboy and Penthouse magazine as I became a teenager.

I collected until the price of silver went through the rough raising prices to stupid levels, which never properly adjusted when the price of silver went down.

Anyhow… I just thought it interesting to note that during the war Japan—already struggling with diminished metals for its crazy WWII war efforts—wasn’t about to waste metal of any kind for coinage in a country it conquered.

Tune in tomorrow when I talk about one special Japanese war coin from its own country.

Can’t buy me love with a cardboard coin,
Andrew "Ain't worth a plug nickel" Joseph

Friday, September 22, 2017

Conveyor Belt Sushi Luggage

I’m sure the above photo is just a marketing ploy by some Japanese company selling overwraps for luggage that look like sushi.

It’s funny on multiple levels seeing as how Japan invented the conveyor belt sushi shop.

For the uninitiated, at such conveyor line sushi shops, the chefs place specific color quarter plates on the line, with a couple of pieces of sushi. The conveyor belt line winds around the establishment, and at any time the customer—who is eating directly behind the conveyor, can pull off a quarter dish of their favorite sushi and eat it.

At the end of the day, you take your empty quarter plate up, and are charged appropriately.

The quarter plates are actually color coded.

For example, a yellow rimmed quarter plate always contains shrimp sushi and krab sushi (not crab sushi).

A blue rimmed quarter plate might hold a more expensive eel sushi.

Green rimmed might be an expensive tuna…

The point is, when you were finished eating, you took you empty plates up to the cashier who counted out the different color plates, knowing that each plate has a certain ¥-value.

Yellows are ¥100 yen; Green ¥240; Blue ¥175… just as an example.

Which is why placing these sushi baggage wraps atop an airport luggage container is an amusing proposition.

Andrew Joseph
PS: The egg sushi, seen second from the lower right, is my favorite. That and eel.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Duke’s 1890 Trading Card: Flower Day, Japan

A long, time ago, in a country far away, a tobacco company created a set of cards to amuse its consumers.

In 1890, the Duke’s Cigarettes set of cards featuring the theme of “Holidays” was released, featuring 50 cards, each representing a “holiday” from somewhere around the planet.

While the art from this series is generally considered to be spectacular, holy crap does the data on the reverse leave a lot to be desired.

I collect tobacco cards—specifically the 17 sets (or so) based on the Wills’s 1910 Aviation series of 50 cards.

After the initial set of 50 cards in 1910, in 1911, different tobacco companies released variations of sets in both 75- and 85-card series, with some different cards, and some identical in every way except one has a black ink reverse, and the other a green ink reverse.

The Duke’s set… they only ever offered a particular series just the once… but it being some 20 years older than mine, it has a certain $ premium…

if you look at the reverse of the Holidays card below, you will note that at no point does it actually mention WHEN the holiday is. Even a general date… like the first Thursday of XX month. Or say when it approximately begins.

Maybe say that this is an ancient cultural aspect of Japan going back some 1500 years, and is now known as ‘hanami’ - flower blossom viewing, especially as the plum and cherry trees bloom.

That’s when people stroll about in their gay attire and sip a delicious tea and write lovely gut-wrenching poems about love and spring…

I do find it interesting that poems written (at least as of 1890), were hung “upon some friendly bough.”

Does that mean that others could come along and read your crappy haiku?

“I love’em in frills
I love’em in lace,
But I love’em the best
When they sit on my… never mind. You get the idea… people are going to judge you.

I would imagine it was the brave romantic poet who left his poetry hanging about for others to enjoy.

He stood before the judge that day
And picked his nose like fury
He rolled them into little balls
And flicked them at the jury.

or… the world’s shortest poem, entitled: “Fleas”

I’m here all week folks. Try the veal and don’t forget to tip your server.

No... I do not claim ownership as originator of those poems. I a mean Godzilla haiku creator, however... so I recommend you do a search above for "Godzilla haiku" and see what comes up... like one's lunch. 

Anyhow… the Duke’s Holiday Card could have used some better information.  

I suppose, however, since few people had any common knowledge of Japan, seeing this card and reading all about the gay attire (I know what it means!!!) in 1890, it must have been a step across the globe for people’s imagination.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

You ever heard the old song “Anything You Can Do”, written in 1946? I’m sure you know it or have heard snippets of it…

Here… have a listen:

The song is from the 1946 musical “Annie Get Your Gun”, and should you have deigned not to have a listen to the oldie but goodie, I'll tell you that it’s a song with a single male singer and a single female singer, who are basically having an argument about who’s the best.

The best what?  Ahhh, there’s the rub.    

As most people are aware, North Korea is being a real dick right now, testing its long-range missile program every few days or so by launching a missile, causing it to fly OVER Japan… to land in the ocean

What’s the big whoop?

Well, it not only flies OVER Japan—without approval… but what if the missile fails during the flight?

It’s called a missile test… sometimes it passes, sometimes it fails. So… whenever North Korea brazenly fires a missile over Japanese lands, Japan blasts out warning sirens for its populace to take shelter, in case it fails and plummets to the ground.

Why does North Korea do this? Is it angry at Japan?

Well, d’uh… yes… it is angry at Japan. Mainly because it’s not North Korea and a not a socialist state like it is, and therefore it is weak and beneath contempt.

Then there’s the fact that Japan is an ally to the United States of America. Say what you will about President Trump, he might be considered by some within his own country as a bully, and as such he sure hates it when others then he’s weak.

It’s actually nothing personal against president Trump. North Korea enjoys testing the mettle of each new president… seeing what it can get away with… what sort of response North Korea receives… its high-stakes politicking, and Japan is caught in the middle.

And yes, it is also North Korea showing the world not to fug with it, because it is developing nuclear-delivery missiles that can hit targets as far away as the U.S., should it want or need to.

North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un is a cagey bugger. The thing to know first, is that he is smart.

It is my firm belief that he’s not stupid enough to fire a nuclear weapon at US territory Guam, as it has threatened to do.

It has no desire to actually drop a missile onto Japan—though if one should actually fail and land on Japan—oops… we didn’t mean to do that.

No.. the name of the game is intimidation.

Like all bullies, you have to continue to put it out there that you are a bad dude. You have to do bad stuff.

But, instead of smacking around some bespectacled little kid with asthma, North Korea is flexing its nuclear might.

Surely supreme leader Kim Jong-un realizes that if it goes to war against anyone, it’s own country will be vaporized with counter nuclear attacks… and woe to all those poor dumb countries unlucky enough to be near it when it happens… like China or South Korea… we know it as MAD… mutual assured destruction… and it is a nuclear detente that the world has been forced to live with since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb or two on Japan and poached as many of Nazi Germany’s top scientists as it could ahead of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic), now for better or worse know just as Russia.

So… North Korea is flexing its muscles.

What can the rest of the world do?

Countries are busting North Korean acquaintance China to try and keep them under control. They are  begging China to stop feeding supplies to North Korea. China says it will—as far as the requested embargoes go, but it will continue to trade with North Korea… mostly because it needs to for its own economic continuance. Besides… it wasn’t on the embargo list.

What do you do with a bully?

You stand up to them. You flex back and hope like hell the bully doesn’t decide to lash out. Most of the time… in real life… they say that a bully is just as afraid of you as you are afraid of them. I don’t know about that.

But if you are a big country, with lots of friends, with lots of weapons… you can create an imaginary line and flex away to show the bully that you are unafraid.

So… after North Korea performed its sixth nuclear underground test on September 3, 2017, the United Nations imposed sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea said, WTF, and in a show of “we’re not afraid” launched its latest missile over Hokkaido, Japan this past weekend… where the missile (non-nuclear) landed far off in the sea to the east of Japan. 

America said WTF… and so on September 18, 2017—and with permission—the U.S. military flew 10 total aircraft featuring advanced bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula and near Japan in drills with South Korean and Japanese warplanes….

It was done by South Korea and Japan just to remind North Korea that it has weapons and isn’t afraid to use them… and it has a big buddy in the U.S…. so don’t start none, if ya don’t want none.

Really… that’s what’s going on. Posturing. Whipping out the old penis to see who has the bigger one, and then peeing all over the place to see who can pee farthest and longest.

The Fly-by by the U.S., South Korea and Japan featured:
  • two Rockwell B-1B Lancer bombers from the U.S.;
  • four Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIF-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) fighters  from the U.S;
  • four McDonnell Douglas F-15K Slam Eagle fighter jets from South Korea.
Hmm… so what the heck did Japan send? Well… keep in mind that after WWII, Japan was not allowed to develop a military… which is one reason why Japan allows the U.S. to maintain military bases on its islands.

During the South Korean flyovers, the U.S. and South Korean planes practiced attacks by releasing live weapons at a firing range in South Korea.

The U.S. warplanes also conducted formation training with Japanese fighter jets (these aircraft are part of Japan’s Self Defense Forces… and is a fun way of saying it’s a non-aggressive military that’s not a military) over waters near the southern island of Kyushu.

This past weekend, the official North Korean state media quoted supreme leader Kim Jong-un as saying his country’s goal “is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option” for the North.

What that means, is that North Korea wants to make sure it is strong enough to repel any possible attempts by the U.S. or other forces by having as much nuclear might as others do.

Take what you want from Kim Jong-un’s statement, but it sounds like he’s saying he just wants to be
left alone.

Well… I believe that he wants to unify Korea by annexing South Korea into the glorious totalitarian regime under one supreme leader Kim Jong-un… he just doesn’t want the U.S. to get involved in any war it starts, because otherwise he’ll attack the U.S.

The plan, as I see it:
  • North Korea attacks South Korea.
  • Anyone who tries to help South Korea, gets bombed by North Korea.
That’s the plan.

Of course, North Korea has not stated such grandiose plans officially, but I’d bet heavily that that’s the plan. 

The simplest option would be for South Korea to arm itself in a similar fashion… but do we need yet another country with nuclear capabilities? No… so it could ask ally U.S.A to bring back and park its nuclear weapons in the general vicinity in a visible act of hopeful deterrence towards North Korea.

What would happen then? North Korea would threaten back… telling the U.S. to gets is missiles away from the Korean (Cuban) Missile Crisis… only unlike the former Soviet Union which blinked and backed down in October of 1962, supreme leader Kim Jong-un wants everyone to believe he won’t blink.

We aren’t there yet… but that’s my best guess as to where we are heading.

Eventually,  even a bully that doesn’t want to fight might have to in order to try and save face. That’s where we’ll see if ego is more powerful than common sense.


How much do bomb shelters cost? And… what's the best way to kill a mutant? I better watch Beneath The Planet Of The Apes again. Man, that movie sucked.

Andrew Joseph
PS: For fun, read the political analysis written by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau, Toronto Star: HERE. In it, he says: "Experts believe Kim is rational, not mad, and that he wants to avoid nuclear war. But they have long feared that Kim might be provoked by loose Trump language into miscalculating, launching a strike..." Okay... maybe you don't have to click on the link now - but I would. Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Japanese Woman Now Oldest Person On Planet

It's kind of the suckiest title to own, because it means someone has to die ahead of you... but
Tajima Nabi (田島 ナビ, surname first) is now the oldest person on Earth at the age of 117 years of age after the recent passing of Jamaica's Violet Brown on September 15, 2017 (dying at the age of 117 years and 189 days).

Born August 4, 1900, in what was once Wan Village, but now part of Kikai Town in Kagoshima, Tijima is proof that the Japanese don't really move far from where they were born, now living in Kikai, Kagoshima-ken... the same place...

At 117-years of age (and I think 48 days), Tajima is now the oldest Japanese person ever (this means oldest officially recorded and documented person). Heck, she's the oldest Asian person ever... whatever that means.

The photo above is recent (relative to 117 years), with Tajima finding out in 2016 that she was now the second-oldest person on the planet Earth... or she's celebrating VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day)... or she's simply doing the Japanese penchant (since forever) for flashing the peace sign whenever anyone with a camera shows up.

Come one... I'm sure she has a sense of humor! I'm just having fun with her. I'm hoping to make it past half her age... and who knows.

Classic zen:
Which would you rather be? The dead butterfly or the live caterpillar.
The dead butterfly... it has achieved the next stage of metamorphosis... while the caterpillar may not make it to that level.

It doesn't mean you have to die... it just means that sometimes... when someone has reached a whole new level - like say reaching 100 years of age - well... they've made it... and despite all your own current potential, you may never get to their level... we could get hit by a bus on the way home tomorrow...

Tajima, bless her, has nine kids—seven sons and two daughters, 28 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren, and 35 great-great-grandchildren.

Wikipedia also says she has great-great-great grandkids, but does not provide a number, so I will discount at this time (or simply not include them).

I don't get this part... but maybe I do... it says that as of September 15, 2017, Tajima is the last surviving person born in the 19th century... so I guess the 20th century did not begin until January 1, 1901... which I guess is what Wikipedia is getting to.

It means that all other pretenders to Tajima's silver (hair) crown were born in 1901 and later.

And... since we all want to know what the secret to Tajima's success at achieving such an age could be due to... aside from genetics she says the key is sleeping well and eating delicious things... what... like Krispy Kreme glazed donuts?

No? Has she ever had one? Tajim may not know what delicious foods are, confusing them with the term "healthy."

Let's see... nope... she likes to eat ramen noodles and rice mackerel sushi. I'm not sure why the word "rice" needs to be in the phrase "rice mackerel sushi" as I suppose a sushi requires rice... and while I'm sure there's nothing wrong with mackerel, I prefer eel.

When she says ramen... I'm assuming she doesn't mean that cup of hot water ramen noodle stuff.

Tajima has been around for the birth of the aeroplane/airplane, WWI, WWII and the atomic age, Korea, Vietnam, the first flight to the moon, record players, radio, television, transistor radios, Walkmans, personal telephones, cell phones, smart phones, Dance Dance Revolution, Women getting the right to vote, the death of Beta and LaserDiscs, 8-Track, Cassettes, CDs, DVDs, pirating stuff, 100 years of Mitsubishi, rolling a barrel hoop for fun to mind-numbing brainless fun with video games.

What fun, Tajima-san! What fun! It doesn't matter if you ever experienced any or all of that crap and fun stuff... you were there... you have a unique story to tell... oh please let her have told her story!

Even a story about a common person is uncommon now. It's a unique perceptive into living in a time long... well... for Tajima, it's not lost...

The queen is dead! Long live the Queen.

Banzai, banzai, banzai!
Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 18, 2017

67,824 Centenarians In Japan

For the 47th year in a row, Japan sets a record for a growing number centenarians, now at 67,824 as of September 15, 2017.

I’m a little disappointed.

Mostly because I read the news and expected to be about centurions - as in Roman soldiers. My bad.

While I am of course happy to see such a large number of oldsters ambling about Japan, I’m sure the government of Japan is a bit nonplussed as the country continues to grow older, require more special services, while the younger population base continues to shrink where there is now a negative population increase IE, there are now fewer Japanese people in Japan than there were the previous year.

Anyhow… the centenarian figure from the year previous rose by a total of 2,132 people according to the Japan Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on a report issued on September 15, 2017.

Today, Monday, September 18, 2017, is the country’s Respect For The Aged Day.

Back in 1963, when the survey first began, there were only (?!) 153 centenarians in all of Japan.

By 1998 there were 10,000+ centenarians.

In 2007 there were 30,000+ centenarians for the first time ever… and, now… in just 10 relatively short  years, that centenarian population has more than doubled to its current official number of 67,824.

In the past year, 2,102 women joined the centenarian list, while only (?!) 88 men hit the big 1-0-0. Women, not surprisingly, make up approximately 88% of the total number of centenarians as of 2017.

I’m assuming the men simply just don’t want to live that long.

That’s a “husband” joke. I've used it here before.

If you are a new senior citizen, and would like to hit 100-years-of-age, there are a few places in Japan where the odds appear more in your favor.

  • 97.54 people out of 100,000 in Shimane-ken (Shimane Prefecture) make it to 100.
  • 92.11 people out of 100,000 in Tottori-ken (Tottori Prefecture) make it to 100.
  • 91.26 people out of 100,000 in Kochi-ken (Kochi Prefecture) make it to 100.
Worst odds in Japan for making it to 100 are:
  • Saitama-ken (Saitama Prefecture) at 32.09 people out of 100,000.
  • Aichi-ken (Aichi Prefecture) at 35.01 people out of 100,000.
  • Chiba-ken (Chiba Prefecture) at 37.83 people out of 100,000.
Somewhere having a bag of chips and a smoke,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Back in 1992, I purchased the telephone card celebrating the 100th birthday of twins Kin Narita (成田 きん) and Gin Kanie (蟹江 ぎん) who were born on August 1, 1892. They were the first known twins to have achieved the centenary mark. Gin, whose name means "Silver" is on the left. Kin's name means "Gold", so I would assume she was born first. You usually say Gold and Silver by reason of "value", but then there's that Christmas song about "silver and gold". Damn.   

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cuddle Bunny

I like rabbits.

Not just water-color Bugs or Roger, but real rabbits. I even had one as a kid that I named Happy. Did I mean Hoppy, and my parents heard Happy? I no longer recall.

He was a nice, common, black rabbit… and after having him for a year—he escaped outside twice—we gave him away to a rabbit farm… and was immediately hopped upon by other rabbits, which was when we realized Happy was a she.

This past year, my front yard wild garden (a wild garden is when things grow, you don’t know what they are, but it looks like you cared, but you didn’t) has been home to a light brown bunny… the back yard to a larger black rabbit with a splotch of white.

It makes me happy (not a pun) when I see rabbits bounding around my house.

And that’s the whole point of rabbit cafes—places where people can go, spend a few yen, and cuddle with a tame rabbit—in Tokyo.

Yeah… Japan… if there is a possibility that you can pet it, there’s a cafe for it: cats, birds… specifically an owl cafe, hostess clubs… plenty of things for the people of Japan to pet.

And rabbits.

Hell… I would go.

Over at the website, I noted their Top 5 Tokyo rabbit cafe list—implying that there are more than just five in Tokyo, and that there are probably more in the other megatropolis of Osaka, and in other cities across the country.

So… despite the link being from 2016, I’ll still provide it HERE.

I’ve never been a reptile or amphibian guy, but mammals, especially fairly normal mammals that can be considered pets—better.

I could see how the people of Japan—locked in that endless cycle of work-overtime-little sleep-work could use a break with a snuggle bunny.

Since there appears to be a decline in actual snuggle bunnies involving human beings (perhaps due to overwork, perhaps due to a feeling of “why bother?”), I can see why cafes of cats and birds and bunnies have become popular places to recharge one’s batteries.

Shave and a hare cut,
Andrew Joseph
PS: “Shave and a haircut” - is famously used in cartoons… I last saw it used to antagonize Roger Rabbit in the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” 
PPS: You ever wonder where “shave and a haircut - two bits” came from? Two bits implies 25 cents… a quarter, if you will.
Back in the olden days, a Spanish gold escudos and silver reales could be physically broken and divided into eight bits. Pieces o’ eight - as in pirates.
One quarter of eight bits are two bits. Shave and a hair cut - two bits. It’s just slang. Got it? Good. Never say I don’t teach you anything…   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Social Class And Japanese Fashion - Sort Of

This past July 15, 2017 in a Japan Times on-line article, on the Growing paper clothes trend in rural Japan (see HERE), there was a quote from a 77-year-old Japanese woman named Sato Fumiko (surname first) that caught my attention:

“We could only have stripes,” she says, showing a scrap of fabric woven by her mother. “The people on the bottom couldn’t wear anything else.”

Say what?

Was Sato implying that one’s fashion was wholly-dependent on one’s social class?

Was this some weird Japanese Star Trek phenomenon—operations, engineering and security wear red shirts; blue shirts for the sciences and medical; and gold for command and helm…

I searched the internet looking for context to her quote—and found none.

That doesn’t mean she isn’t correct, of course…. just that the internet doesn’t have that information widely available.

This article is taking a brief look at Japanese fashion—specifically the kimono (着物)—and its role in class distinction.

I don’t know how successful I’m going to be considering I can’t find any information—but what the heck, eh?

Sato states that she grew up poor as a rural farmer’s daughter … not being called poor per se, but realizing she was poor by the fashion her class-conscious parents had her wear.

And it wasn’t because of whether or not she wore silk or cotton, the discriminating factor were the patterns decorating the clothing.

Plain or stripes for the farmers… the so-called peasant class back in the very old days…

No flowers or seasonal motifs allowed for the rural farming families. Whether it was the Emperor, the Shogun, or The Rock, they all wanted you to know your damn role:

It’s not as damning as you might think… pretty much every society has a way of determining one’s social standing by viewing their clothing.

Wearing Keds instead of Nike? Poor versus Rich, or nerd versus cool.

Chanel’s haute couture versus Walmart’s affordable George fashions.

In Japan… stripes on a kimono no longer denote one’s social status—in fact, stripes are looked upon as being pretty damn cool (I think so, anyhow)

See that photo at the very top? You can’t tell me this striped kimono isn’t a good-looking fashion statement.

However… what still exists, are how the colors of the kimono, its weave, the way it is worn, the size and stiffness of the obi (sash), and accoutrements—all tend to accentuate the social rank of the wearer.

The kimono, as we all know, is a traditional Japanese garment—though in Japan, it literally means ‘something you wear’, and is defined as “clothing”. Every type of clothing.

Eventually, the word ‘kimono’ came to denote the full-length, robe held together by an obi (sash - not a belt).

Men and women—using the old definition—wear a kimono… but this is 2017…

Ever since Japan opened its borders to international “guests” in the 1850s, by the 1870s European fashion began to creep into the Japanese DNA.

Kimono robes were no longer the norm… dresses and suits became de rigueur. But I would assume that was pretty much relegated to those working in the cities and larger towns.

Nowadays, men will wear a kimono at fancy tea ceremonies and at weddings, but women… women will wear a kimono as a fashion statement—usually important events—but sometimes just to say “look at me”—even though there is no way a woman would be able to tie herself into a kimono by her solitary self. It’s complex enough that four hands are better.

The kimono, by the way, even in the modern sense, refers to the full ensemble—up to 12 pieces for the woman, and five for the men—NOT including socks or wooden geta (下駄) shoes.

Generally manufactured with silk, there are four types of kimono:

1) Kurotosude: the most formal kimono for MARRIED women. At a wedding, the mother of the bride or groom will wear a black kurotosude kimono. “Kuro” in this term means “black”;

2) Furisode: the most formal kimono for UN-married women, it comes with longer sleeves. I saw these at the “coming-of-age” ceremonies when I stopped by a temple, once;

3) Tomesode: less formal kimono for MARRIED women, and while it can be worn to a wedding, it’s for close relatives of the bride or groom;
4) Hakama: less kimono-like in what we westerners picture, it is worn by men, and depending on the pattern—aha!!!!!—it ranges from the formal to less formal. While the hakama looks like western pants, it is in fact a divided skirt. Yes, for men.  

But wait… there’s more. There’s the whole summer kimono known as the yukata.

The yukata is an unlined, light kimono made of hemp, cotton, linen… and is decorated with a single different color of flower or Japanese non-magical sigil.

Worn by men, women, boys and girls—without noted class distinction—the yukata is seen worn at Japanese matsuri (festivals)—heck, if you go to a festival, someone will give you a yukata to wear… maybe even to keep. I was given one at the first ever Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken matsuri I ever attended—an o-bon festival (festival of the dead)… I lost it in the house fire a few years ago… but gave others back because it seemed the right thing to do.  

While I still can’t determine social class distinctions via what patterns adorned old-school Japanese clothing—except that plain of striped meant “peasant”, I do know that for the rest, there are specific kimono decoration patterns worn according to whatever season it is.
  • Winter (mid-November to mid February): It’s winter, so you wear a liner (awase) kimono. Colors are rich and bright—colors I prefer—and patterns will consist of bamboo (take), pine (matsu), and plum blossom (ume). You can wear the plum blossom pattern, but never when the plum tree is blossoming. The feeling is that you don’t want to take away from the natural beauty of the blooming plum and/or cherry tree (see next entry).
  • Spring (mid-February to mid-May): butterflies, cherry blossoms, plum blossoms… but it depends. For example, you can wear cherry or plum blossom patterns—but not when they are in bloom. Light and fresh colors form the base of the lined (a liner in the clothing) kimono.
  • Summer (mid-May to mid-August): Sexy time. Or as sexy as it gets when the woman remains wrapped up in fabric.  Colors are cool, while patterns include rain, flowing water, and god help you, snowflakes. It’s hot and humid in Japan, you should at least look cool… or as cool as you can in a formal kimono. Other patterns are summer flowers and autumn grasses. Remember darlings… it is better to look good, than to feel good. By the way, summer kimono is known as usamono, and can offer such breathable fabrics as lace, sha, ro, and more things I can’t pretend to know. I certainly know what lace is, having torn off certain articles of it from enough women in my urgency after having finally unwrapped a women from her kimono in the quick time of 30-minutes.  Kidding, of course. Women traditionally do not wear underwear under a kimono—regardless of the weather.   
  • Autumn (mid-August to mid-November): unlined through September, it is lined afterwards when the temperature gets cooler. Base colors are autumn colors of red, orange, yellow and even purple. Hemp (asanoha), red or yellow maple leaves are popular patterns on the kimono.
In all instances, the obi (sash) worn to tie the kimono together is of a contrasting color to the base color of the kimono, but could—but doesn’t have to—match the secondary color of the kimono.

Of course… no one is going to give a damn if you wear a winter kimono in the summer, but you will give a darn because the liner within the winter kimono is gonna make you sweat, even if I'm not standing near you.

Wearing a winter kimono in the summer or vice-versa is like drinking red wine with your fillet-o-fish. You aren’t supposed to. People will have righteous indignation, but will ultimately chalk it up to you either not giving a sh!t or being socially inept.

Really… who gives a crap.

And before you judge, I prefer a merlot, but the last time I drank wine was maybe seven years ago. There’s no rule against me and alcohol, I just no longer do much drinking of wine, beer or spirits.

Anyhow… should anyone have any information on what Ms. Sato was talking about in her interview in the Japan Times article—namely what patterns different social classes wore on their (old school) kimono—please let me know.

And, because I’m not American, I’ll let former U.S. vice-president Al Gore have the last word:

“We all know the leopard can’t change his stripes.”

No dessert for you if you thought leopards have stripes.

Andrew “Still earning his stripes” Joseph
PS: One kimono, two kimono - never kimonos. There's no visible "plural" in Japanese...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Headline Makes Things Seem Worse Than They Are

According to an article in the September 12, 2017 Asahi Shimbun on-line newspaper, after a en electrical power failure halted service on one monorail track, passengers were forced to transfer to another monorail by using a ladder.

Monorail glitch forces travelers to switch trains using a ladder.

That headline made me want to read the article.

The accompanying photo didn’t show passengers crawling over a ladder to get from the dead train to the saving train…

but imagine… having to crawl over a ladder… or having to step on a ladder making sure your feet don’t slide past the rungs.

What did they do about their luggage - after all, this was a monorail taking 40_ passengers from Tokyo to Haneda Airport.

The thing is… look at the still I took from an accompanying video… does that look like a ladder?

It’s looks like a solid metal bridge.

The passengers could carry their luggage across themselves… 

Granted… I’m sure some people were worried… even scared. The monorail was perched several meters above chilly waters…

See… a deceptive headline.

Here’s the story:

A six-car monorail operated by Tokyo Monorail Co. experienced a transformer glitch at Showajima Station  causing a power outage as it traveled from JR Hamamatsucho Station, traveling to Haneda Airport on September 12, 2017.
Another six-car monorail on the adjacent monorail track moved its front car alongside the stuck front car, opened the door, and placed a large, solid, metal walkway between the two monorail cars allowing passengers to move one at a time to the working monorail.

No injuries or illnesses were reported. I’m not sure if anyone missed a flight at Haneda Airport.

Passengers were taken to Showajima Station and then bused to the airport (and other destinations).

Andrew Joseph
PS: Happy birthday N-chan.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Vandals Hit 1945 Okinawa Suicide Cave

I’m dying again.

After viewing the carnage left over after a vandal(s) ripped apart a memorial to a wartime mass suicide at an Okinawa cave, Buddhist monk Chibana Shoichi (surname first) exclaimed “(The cave) is not just a grave for people who have suffered a sense of guilt for years for surviving the tragedy. “It’s an act of killing the victims again and deriding the excruciating history of Okinawa.”

The infrequently visited cave’s vandalism was spotted on September 12, 2017 when Chibana of nearby Yomitan village in Okinawa-prefecture was leading foreign journalists to the spot.

On April 2, 1945, 83 local Yomitan villagers committed suicide rather than surrender to advancing U.S. forces—a sad fact borne out the Japanese insistence that death would be preferable to capture, telling its populace about made-up atrocities the Allied Forces would perpetrate upon them if alive.

The natural cave, known as Chibichiri, is located within a thick wooded area, and is where the suicide of all—or perhaps “mercy” killed by other Japanese locals—was a monument to their “sacrifice” to Japan.

Along with whatever articles they had with them when they died, their remains still exist in the cave.

Since then, junior and senior high school students who visited Chibichiri on peace programs have laid numerous origami paper cranes.

The vandalism includes shredding of the origami cranes, as well as smashing of the glass bottles and jars left behind by the villagers.

Recent visitors to the cave on September 5, 2017 to honor the dead during Japan’s Bon Matsuri (Festival) did not see anything amiss at that time.

In 1988, the site was vandalized when one year after it was installed as “the statue of peace connecting generations” near the cave’s entrance, the statue was destroyed by a right-wing politico.

In 1995 the statue was rebuilt and placed at the cave’s entrance, along with a sign containing a poem about the 1945 suicide.

During this most recent vandalism, the sign was placed atop the statue.
Buddhist monk Chibana Shoichi points out the jars and bottles smashed by vandals.
I hate seeing crap like this.

You can hate war. You can hate peace in the face of aggression. You can no give a flying fug.

But why destroy someone or something in the process of hate?

How does vandalizing a “memorial” to the dumb buggers of the town who were so indoctrinated by the Japanese government that they felt the need to kill themselves rather than surrender?

I wonder if this was done to send anyone a message? I don’t think so. 

I’ve always felt that vandalism is immaturity. It’s simple selfishness.

I know this goes both ways.

I’ve written about Japan being upset about a memorial to comfort women placed across the street from the Japanese embassy in South Korea.

Japan cries foul… wondering why the mistakes of 70-years ago should be brought up now.

The vandalism of the cave? That’s why. People care about what happened in the past.

As human beings, we have a tendency to honor the dead, and the living who have suffered.

To forget the past is the means to repeating them. It’s History 101.

I have no love affair for a memorial for a bunch of people who killed themselves. I think it’s tragic. I think it’s a stupid death. They didn’t need to die. But Japan made them die. They made themselves die.

I don’t have a problem with the villagers keeping the site as a place to honor the dead… because, as stupid as that mass suicide sounds to me in 2017, it was an acceptable solution in 1945 Japan. I try not to judge them too harshly… I blame the politics of pre- and WWII Japan.

But… what did these pour people of 1945 Yomitan Village do to the person or person who vandalized the site?


Even if we are talking about a son/daughter or grandson/granddaughter who lost someone in the cave in 1945, there’s no reason to vandalize. We’re talking about drug-addled or someone with a mental-health issue.

You can call it politics, if you want… but how does destroying a memorial to the dead and “not signing it” help your political cause? It doesn’t. My two reasons in the previous paragraph stand.

Personally, I think the souls of the dead in this case need to be repatriated into a local cemetery.

Honoring their sacrifice in the cave where they killed themselves may show honor… but it also highlights the stupidity and arrogance of 1945 Japan.

Why honor that at the cave?

Honor them at a cenotaph in front of the cave, but put their remains at the local cemetery… where their family’s remains are before them.

Maybe I’m wrong. What are your thoughts?

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

English: A Rose By Any Other Name - Commentary

I read an article in The Japan News on September 12, 2017 that decried how English used by Americans is different from that used by the Brits.

 Read the commentary HERE.

I have no idea WHY it was presented in The Japan Times, as it didn't really reference Japan.

But let's pretend it does.

English in Japan CAN be confusing for some owing to the wide range of slang or even how certain words mean different things to even native English speakers.

Heck... I have what is known as a neutral English accent, without accent. When I left Japan, my replacement was from Scotland. Can you imagine my students learning English from someone where the natural English has a Scottish accent and the "r's" are rolled.

There's no hard "r" sound in the Japanese language... as the alphabets: ra, ri, ru, re, ro and ryu sounds, for example, are softer and nothing like what an 'R' sounds like throughout North America.

In The Japan Times article, while the commentary itself is extremely weak in my opinion, offering such LOCALIZED terms as “skee-ball” from New Jersey, “funnel cake” from the eastern U.S. and Canada (Canada wasn’t mentioned, but I know of it), and even water ice, which is that Italian ice treat that I’ve never had, but I assume it’s like a Lola (flavored chunk of ice) that I used to have as a kid in Canada.
These are called by the brand name of "Icebergs". I suppose the Lola brand name is dead. Just like my friend's grandmother. See below.
Regarding skee-ball… I’m sure most people have played the game in North America, but have no idea what the game is even called, nor do they even care.

The only important thing to note when describing terms to the Japanese, is that there IS a big difference between water ice and ice water (water with ice in it).

Heck… water ice is actually a localized New Jersey term… not necessarily heard anywhere else.

I don’t see how water ice is flavored ice/Italian ice. Is it water or is it ice? I didn’t even take into account an Italian-American New Jersey accent when pronouncing water ice. Maybe the folks from New Jersey need to fuhgeddaboudit (forget about it).

Of course, “lola” is also what my Filipino buds growing up used to call their “grandma”.

Ehhh, yo! It's Ice, Flavored/Flavoured Ice, water ice or Italian Ice. This image is from, and is considered Nashville's favorite Italian ice. Take that "Joisey".
The article says that people in the UK would never know such North American terms. Sure.

I bet a lot of Americans and Canadians et al wouldn’t know some of those terms.

To be fair, the article also points to some British terminology such as “shore” or “seashore”, which d’uh means the “beach” for us colonials, and something called crazy golf… which is what we North Americans know as miniature golf.

Big frickin’ whoop.

How often are ANY of these terms going to come up in a classroom in Japan? Once? Ever?

The article also mentions UK candy floss - which is cotton candy… but I’m pretty sure us westerners know both meanings.

The point of the article, while not specific to Japan, was meant to show language differences between the US and UK, and not necessarily how it is presented in Japan… and so I am confused as to why it is presented in The Japan Times.

What the article FAILS to point out are classic word differences such as “chips” in the UK, which are what North Americans call French Fries.

Potato chips or chips in the west are known as “crisps” in the UK.

Crisps is nothing in particular in the West, but we do enjoy crispy foods.

That might be confusing… but the Japanese know what French Fries are… or certainly what fries are, owing to the proliferation of American fast food restaurants, and a decided lack of British fish and chips shops. That’s also why many people know that “chips” are UK “fries”.

American spelling of certain words is also different from the UK. Canada shares its spelling with the UK.

There’s the obvious UK inclusion of a “u” in such word as “humor”, “colour”, and “neighbourhood”. Then there’s weird spellings of the color grey/gray or theater/theatre and even defense/defence.

I believe that a long time ago, in order to save ink and space in newspapers and magazines, American printers got together and decided to omit the British “u” in words.

I don’t believe it was done maliciously after the American Revolution, but by doing so, the American English language became an entity unto itself.

I tend to use the “American spelling in this blog and others only because I have more American readers (and friends) than I do UK or Canadian.

In Japan, I am pretty sure that their English-language books use Americanized spellings et al (I thought I’d toss in some Latin there).

What does it mean for Japan (and why else, I repeat, is this commentary in The Japan News?

Not much.

It’s “much ado about nothing”… the title also of my favorite William Shakespeare play. Heck… we didn’t even talk about archaic English words or terms or spellings.

The fact that UK people were unaware of some North American terms is nothing to worry about.

It certainly doesn’t make one culture appear stupid relative to the other.

In fact… usage of the terms specifically listed in the article are quite banal.

Skee-ball? Yeah… it is something you pretty much only see at kiddie arcades or at fairs/exhibitions where it’s not all rides. I wonder if skee-ball is called by other terms relative to its location in North America?

I’d be curious to hear how and why ANY of terms used as points of confusion in the article were even uttered in Japan.

Heck... I think there's even a difference in the usage in North America and the UK with the terms "millions" and "billions", and just what the heck the "first floor" of a building really is. But I'm not going there.

In Japan, there are many instances where they use English terms to describe Japanese things… words that can confuse native English speakers.

I’m NOT talking about such katakana Japanese terms like “see-ta” or “aakeido”… go on think about it… those are “sweater” and “arcade”. For you Brits, a sweater isn’t just a portly guy in an un-airconditioned bar having his 10th pint without food… no… a sweater is a “jumper”.

Air-conditioning in Japan, by the way, IS known as "ea-kon". Even using "english" alphabets, it looks impossible to understand!

When I first heard those katakana words meant to SOUND like the English equivalent I had no idea what the heck the Japanese were talking about.

Rather, I am talking about such terms as “sea chicken”.

This IS my favorite Japanese term… pronounced as “shi-chikan”.

The Japanese said they loved to eat this food… something that until recently (as of 1990), they had not eaten much of before.

It was explained that when it comes to such cuisine as tuna, the Japanese only used to eat red meat of the fish.

The white meat was considered “garbage”.

For anyone NOT Japanese, red tuna meat was an expensive delicacy eaten by only the brave, as it was usually raw and placed within sushi or sashimi.

So… when the Japanese finally got into eating the white tuna meat, it was given the strange name of “sea chicken”.

Now… this is where the Brits et al might get confused, as I am unsure if you guys have ever come across this…

In North America (not necessarily including Mexico), we have a brand of canned/tinned white tuna fish called Chicken Of The Sea.

I can still recall the commercials from the 1970s: What’s the best tuna? Chicken of the sea!”

Chicken of the sea… sea chicken… shi-chikan. I'm not even sure if this is a widely-known term in Japan... but for one afternoon in 1990, it managed to kill an  entire English lesson. 

And... this is why the English language is screwy. Not because of skee-ball.

Andrew “ice water in his veins means something different” Joseph

PS: Happy birthday.
 PPS: Image at top of blog from

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Japanese Stray Cats Ride The Rails

I like cats.

I might be a dog person, but I’m sure I am now also a cat person.

Allergies and all.

My last two cats - Fred and Daphne - have been quite the pals. Fred (purchased after Daffy’s tragic accident a couple of years ago) is the last one I see before I go to bed, the first one I see upon waking up, and the first I see when coming home, meowing a greeting before anyone else musters a ‘hello’.

The cat we had before—Spek—she came with my wife, and I quickly became the go-to person  whenever she wanted/needed something. I suppose if you are always feeding and changing the litter box - they know.

All three were cats purchased from local animal shelters.

My first cat, Sam, who was strong enough to handle three Rottweilers, he was left in my dad’s tennis bag at a local tennis club, and was only discovered when he was driving home in the car when his tennis bag started to mysteriously meow… which nearly caused a car accident.  

Sam used to sit with us at the dinner table and so he had his own dinner mat… would accept one item of food - a shrimp or a piece of spaghetti, would eat it and then bugger off. Weirdest thing I ever saw with a cat and food. 

So yeah… cats.

Japan has a problem… it has too many stray cats, which has led to culling of the stray cat population.

I wrote about a group, The Japan Cat Network, HERE who has helped rescue cats. In fact, if you type in ‘cats” under the search parameters of this blog, you’ll find numerous articles on the feline subject.  

Anyhow, a local civic group called Kitten Cafe Sanctuary in Ōgaki-shi (大垣市, Ōgaki City) in Gifu-ken (Gifu Prefecture) has teamed up with Yoro Railway Co. Ltd… to allow 30 stray cats roam about the inner workings of the train to raise awareness in the culling of stray cats.

On September 10, 2017, passengers aboard a local train rode beside the cats, who were comfortable enough to share food with the human, or just mingle.

While an awesome event—I do question the angle.

A public train? What about people with allergies to cats?

Okay… they don’t have to get on the train… but that’s an inconvenience. Also… cats do shed… and the remaining cat fur and dander could pose an allergy threat to unsuspecting passengers either later that day after the cat/train event or the next day should a clean-up crew not done a good job.

I’m assuming there was a clean-up crew.

That’s my negative take on what is otherwise a great concept to bring people’s attention to.

I have cat allergies. But they are not severe. But others might be. I don’t know if the organizers thought about that or said screw it, let’s do it anyway.

While Japan has a cat population of about 9.8 million—beats me how they know—and is this a number based on a human survey on cats owned?

In 2016, the number of cats in “the pound” had decreased by 70% from numbers in 2004.
  • 2004: 237,246;
  • 2016: 72,624
Which is great!

Those numbers reflect a drop in cat culling from over 200,000 in 2004 to 45,574 in 2016.

Obviously, the cats-on-a-train event was meant to keep the culling of cats issue in people’s mind… hoping more people would adopt stray cats.

Heck… I even did my best when I was in Japan. See my stray cat back when I was on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in Japan HERE.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I stole the story news from but did re-write it a heck of a lot, and expanded it to make it personal.  


Monday, September 11, 2017

Japan's Fastest Man

While I believe some women have complained about their men being too fast, surely none would take issue with Kiryū Yoshihide (桐生 祥秀, surname first) who became the fastest Japanese sprinter ever with a 100-meter time of 9.98 seconds.

Shattering the Japanese record of 10.0 seconds set in 1998 by Ito Koji (surname first), Kiryu set his new record at an inter-collegiate race in Fukui-shi on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Of course, he is a long way from recently retired super-sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica's mark of 9.58 seconds - he of the best name for a sprinter, ever.

Still... Kiryu is young, born on December 15, 1995 - still only 21 and has time to improve on his mark... but I sincerely doubt he will approach the world record mark - ever - thanks to only standing 1.75 meters (5'-9") in height. What made Bolt special, was his 1.95 meters (6'-5") height and long legs that he was able to pump as quickly as a much shorter man, meaning every stride he took was greater in length.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Inflatable Godzilla Costume

I've just spent my Saturday doing baseball. Coaching a game as an assistant for my son's Peewee house league, and then helping another coach run a try-out for midget (16 & 17-year-olds)... and am mentally exhausted.

Realizing I need to come up with a hot topic for this blog, I of course found one in Godzilla.

I know... you saw the photo above... but what has this to do with baseball.

Absolutely nothing (say it again!).

Believe it or not... what we have here is an inflatable Godzilla costume.

Yup... an inflatable Godzilla costume you can wear... for under $100.

The good folks over at Hot Topic have this fully licensed costume that comes with an attached fan to inflate the costume while you are in it.

I guess it's kind of like those inane Sumo wrestler suits... except this is way cooler because it features Godzilla.

The only downer is that you need 4 AA batteries - which are not included.

It's also made of polyester... instead of muscle and lizard scales, but who cares... it's an inflatable Godzilla costume you can wear. 

I'm unsure if it is something one could utilize in the boudoir, but I'm sure a truly creative person could come up with a way.

To purchase your own inflatable Godzilla costume from Hot Topic - from whom I have purchased a butt-load of geeky, otaku tee shirts - click HERE. Maybe they deliver to your neck of the woods.

Somewhere with an idea,
Andrew Joseph