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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Miss Universe Japan Contestants - Updated Jan. 2017

Kojima Akiko - Japan, Miss Universe 1959
Submitted for your approval... Japan and the Miss Universe pageant - the women who represented Japan since 1990 - 2015.

Believe it or not, I just discovered this blog had been sitting in my "Draft" pile for three years... after I forgot to save it correctly.

I have now updated it so that it has links and write-ups on all the contestants between 2006 - 2014, with one coming on the latest 2015 Miss Universe Japan winner. There is a photo of Miss Universe Japan 2015 below, however.

 I am also working on a full scale blog depicting EVERY Miss Universe Japan through the years since Japan participated... but it's easier said than done.

Click on each link to discover more great photos and lots of interesting facts! See just after each photo down below in this blog for those links.

The current Miss Universe Japan was founded in 1998... it was done because prior to that, Japan simply wasn't getting much global recognition on the beauty stage. Japan had been participating in the Miss Universe competition since 1952, but between 1996 and 1997, no contestant was sent to participate... hence a new pageant order was created in Japan. 

The rest of the writing below is from 2012 and earlier..

Now... Some of you readers might have noticed that I like women. A lot. That's good. You have been paying attention. For the rest of you... let me bring you up to speed: I like women. A lot. There... now you are up to speed.

As such, I have been wondering for quite some time just who some of Japan's most beautiful women are.

The whole thing about beauty, of course is that it is subjective. It is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

I mean, when I was in Japan, my dream was to marry a Japanese redhead with big boobs. An impossible goal, but it really did always make for what I thought was a funny joke. I could always find two out of three...

Stupidity aside, rather than subject you to hundreds, if not thousands of photos of Japanese redheads with a large chest, let's look at some global opinions.

I didn't know who to ask, so I instead examined the Miss Universe pageant... and did a look back to 1990... when I first set foot down on the melting tarmac of Narita Airport in Japan.

From now on all names seen here will be written in Japanese-style - surname first.

Some background:
The Miss Universe contest was first started up in 1952 by the California, company Pacific Mills. Japan's Kojima Himeko was involved, but did not place.

Nowadays, some 600-million viewers tune in to see who will be crowned - and not all of the viewers are men.

Japan's Kojima Akiko was the 1959 Miss Universe. That's her in the photo up above. She was glorious, and probably still is, at age 76. You can read more about her here: 1959

Japan did have one other Miss Universe winner in 2007, Miss Mori Riyo... and holy crap! Wowzers! Photo below.

No other Japanese woman has won the event - but that's not a knock against their beauty, brains and talent, of course. They are all fantastic.

I would like to tell you all that I actually slept with a Japanese representative of a Miss Universe contest, but that would be wrong. I would never kiss and tell. Or would I?

Before you check out these candid photos of the contestants, you are also invited to check out my blog showing off the national Japan costumes of these contestants: HERE

Here, without much further ado, are the lovely ladies representing Japan at the Miss Universe pageants from 1990 on:
Miyoshi Hiroko - 49th after preliminary scores.

Yamamoto Atsuko - 61st after preliminary scores.

No picture: Just the crowning of her as Miss Universe Japan: CROWN - at the 2:30 mark - in blue dress.
Ando Akiko - 59th after preliminary scores.

No Photo: Video of Parade of nations: 1:25 mark: PARADE

Shiki Yukiko - 52nd after preliminary scores.

Kawahito Chiaki (left) Miss Canada Susanne Rothfoson on right. Chiaki  - 49th after preliminary scores.

No photo: but a Parade of Nations video... see 10:00 mark: JAPAN

Saeki Narumi - 53rd after preliminary scores.

No participant

No participant


Okumura Nana - Couldn't find preliminary score - but out after 1st round.


Ogawa Satomi - preliminary round and out.

Endo Mayu - preliminary round and out.

Arauchi Misao - preliminary round and out.

Chiba Mina - preliminary round and out.

Miyazaki Miyako - 4th runner-up.


Machimoto Eri preliminary round and out.
Kuzuya Yukari preliminary round and out.


Chibana Kurara - 1st runner up and winner of best national costume 2nd Photo. Lots more information on her in my blog here: 2006


Mori Riyo - Miss Universe. 
No kidding, eh! I need a towel.
Everything you wanted to know about this hot chick can be found in my blog about her here: 2007


Mima Hiroko - top 15.
There was also a scandal involving Hiroko as Miss Japan, but she was INNOCENT.
Read MY blog HERE for the full story! 


Miyasaka Emiri preliminary round and out.
Plus a news story on her scandalous costume: READ. Gorgeous! And so is the costume!
Here's my blog on her - the full story: HERE


Itai Maiko preliminary round and out.
Read the full story on her HERE


Kamiyama Maria

 I've written more about her here: 2011 , but she was out after the preliminary round.
She was 5th Runner-Up in the National Costume.

The 2011 Japanese representative is named Maria? Holy crap! Could she be part of some gaijin invasion force begun 21 years earlier? Alas - not THIS gajin. Maria is 24-years-old... I only arrived in Japan 21 years ago. Whew! I think...

Hara Ayako
Out in the preliminary round. She deserved better. She is HOT!

For your entertainment purposes,  please read THIS blog about a conspiracy and the 2012 Miss Universe Japan pageant.

Yumiki Matsuo 
Yumiki Matso is the 2013 representative of Japan at the upcoming Miss Universe competition.You can read my better late than never blog on her HERE. She was the 4th runner-up for Best National Costume, but out in the Preliminary Round. She is very pretty - look at that scrunched up smile!

Tsuji Keiko
You can read more about her: HERE. Still... she was out after the Preliminary Round.

Miyamoto Ariana- finished in 10th place over all!
Miss Universe Japan 2015 Evening Gown worn at the preliminaries. Or maybe she'll wear the one below...

Miyamoto Ariana in her official Miss Universe 2015 Evening Gown photograph. .

Miss Universe Japan 2015 Swimsuit - I'm not sure if this is what she will be wearing, but still.... va-va-va-voom!
Or maybe her swimsuit is the won she wore at the 2015 preliminaries in Las Vegas...

I haven't written anything about her yet - and that's my fault for not being aware of my writings. She is a bi-racial Japanese dreamboat... mom's Japanese and dad's a Black American... but she's all hot.

There was a bit of a backlash against her being chosen to represent Japan in the Miss Universe competition because of her bi-racial background, with many Japanese complaining she doesn't look Japanese.

First off... three cheers to the judges at Miss Universe Japan for putting racial profiling on the backburner and simply choosing a women they felt had the necessary charm, looks and intelligence to represent Japan on the world stage.

I hate to break it to you all, but one day, there won't be any pure Japanese or pure Indian or pure whatever... coco, beige, whatever... that will be the skin tone... and you can live in whatever country you want and be a representative of that country.

Thanks to the judges of Miss Universe Japan, Japan has joined the world stage - just this once, as part of a real global melting pot.

I'll do a write up on Ariana-chan soon enough. Better late than never, right? I know... I suck.

Nakazawa Sari

Nakazawa-san is a real looker.

Born on July 13, 1993 and from Otsu, Shiga-ken, she is 23-years-old.

She stands 171 centimeters (5-foot 7 1/2 inches) tall, and weighs none of your damn business. She has lovely black hair and dark brown eyes and a killer smile.

Nakazawa is a model in Japan, though we (me) assume she’ll soon be an international one.

At the 2016 Miss Universe pageant held in Manila, Philippines on January 30, 2017, she was unplaced… done after the 1st round.

Miss Universe Canada, Mexico and the United States of America placed Top 9 in the event won by the absolutely stunning Iris Mittenaere of France, who seems like the prototype of how God(s) should create the perfect looking human being. Miss France has plans to be a dental surgeon when she’s finished with her duties. You can read more about her HERE.

Compiled by Andrew Joseph
PS: What's the deal with no photographs on the Internet of Miss Universe Japan 1992, 1993 and 1995? And no participants in 1996 and 1997? Apparently Japan was upset that they never seemed to get a fair shake in the event, and stayed away until 1998 when Donald Trump purchased the pageant.
PPS: While it may indeed be true that I have "dated" Japanese women who could more than their own in the looks department against many a Miss Universe representative, they probably would never have won a pageant, as they lacked the type of talent judges are looking for. I, however, always enjoyed the talents each possessed.
PPPS: Yes... I did "sleep" with a Japanese representative of the Miss Universe contest... she was part of the entourage of one of the actual beauty queen's. That story will appear in a future blog. I still haven't written this one... I'll do that and post it sometime during the month of March 2012. Promise. Hmmm. I have already broken that promise... soon, my eager friends. Soon.
PPPPS: I still haven't revealed my sleeping near greatness story, and now it's 2013. Eventually? 

Pac-Man Pioneer Now A Ghost

Nakamura Masaya (surname first)… the gentleman whose company created Pac-Man, has died at the age of 91 on January 22, 2017, but only announced on January 30.

He founded video game legend Namco.

I’ll refrain the obvious jokes about running out of lives - except for the headline.

First released in 1980, in the video game Pac-Man (パックマン, Pakkuman), you try to gobble up the dots spread across the maze while avoiding for creatures that look like tribbles from Star Trek (Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde… a name grouping that is the reverse of the Beatles names of John, Paul, George and Ringo, or the Gilligan’s Island parody of the Mosquitoes: Bingo, Bango, Bongo and Irving… IE, silly name, silly name, silly name, real name).

After eating a power pellet, the four creatures would become blue - IE vulnerable - and Pac-Man could turn the tables and eat them and turn them into a ghost, sending them back to the central home to reform and come after him again.

Yes… I actually bought and still own the music record (pre-MP, pre-DVD, pre-CD) Pac-Man Fever.

Look at that: The Pac-Man Fever song is ahead of the Police, Journey, and Queen...
In my defense, the main reason I bought it because the liner notes consisted of patterns to BEAT various levels of the game.

Being completely honest, I never memorized them enough to actually use them.

I was one of those guys who would fish credits in arcade video game machines… using a string taped to a quarter to fish up and down in the slot to gain 99 credits (the maximum). I never played any game that much, and would give them to other kids after I was done.

I’m not alone in having done that, so it is safe to say that if every player had paid to play, it would have generated more than US$2.5 billion in quarters. I don’t even want to think about how many quarters I gave before becoming a juvenile delinquent.

Back to Nakamura… after graduating from a technical university in Yokohama, he founded Namco in 1955 as a company, with its first job providing an operating set of mechanical horses on the roof of a department store.

After Namco was merged with another Japanese games firm, Bandai, to form Namco-Bandai (later Bandai Namco) in 2005, Nakamura retained an honorary position.

He was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government for his services to industry.

Pac-Man, was actually created by Iwatani Toru… first as an arcade stand-up, table-top, home console, animated television series, theme parks and a film… and if memory serves me correctly (and it does), I believe Pac-Man was voted Time magazine’s “Man-Of-The Year”… mostly because I still have that issue somewhere in the basement.
Cover from Mad magazine #233, September 1983... that's WHY I still have it.
Okay... it was a Mad magazine parody, but it wasn't far off the truth.

Believe it or not, I’m not a hoarder… not a messy one, at any rate. You ever see an (Steven Spielberg) Amazing Stories episode entitled "Come Gather Ye Acorns"? All about a guy who seemed to be a messy bugger with loads of junk, but instead it was all treasure... unfortunately, I'm not in that category, but sorta...

Back in 1993, Namco bought Nikkatsu, which is Japan’s oldest film studio, which was famous for its pink-eiga (pink movies). Pink-eiga are soft-porn flicks.

Anyhow… Nakamura is gone, but not forgotten. Give him a one-handed clap… you know, because you have your hand on your joystick.

Andrew "I've got a pocket full of quarters and I'm heading to the arcade..." Joseph (For the past 35 years... it's been in my brain).
PS: Opening lines of Pac-Man Fever:
I got a pocket full of quarters, and I'm headed to the arcade.
I don't have a lot of money, but I'm bringing everything I made.
I've got a callus on my finger, and my shoulder's hurting too.
I'm gonna eat them all up, just as soon as they turn blue. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Matthew Hall's Look At Japan - A Newspaper Article From 1992

Ya think you know someone.

My buddy Matthew Hall - a guy I met on the Jet (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme has been holding out on me.

I have been hassling this guy over the past seven years to contribute something to this blog.

He lived in Ohtawara-shi, Toichigi-ken, a few blocks from my house. He taught at the junior high school just outside of the city while I taught at the junior high schools IN it.

Unlike me, Matthew wanted to go to Japan. Like me, he had a great experience there meeting good people who were entirely focused on us, while allowing us the individual freedom to grow as human beings.

We were lucky and as a result had an extremely positive three years (then the maximum) on the Programme.

Except Matthew stayed for a couple more years... mostly because he got married to a local woman and had his first of two kids there.

Matthew has always been (since I met him - I can't speak for before) a thoughtful, intelligent, funny and caring person, and is someone I have been proud to call my friend.

His wife Takako, too. She and I always had a fun relationship - she was so sarcastic that I could never be sure if she like me or not, but I know she did, because she was also thoughtful, kind and helpful to me.

Anyhow... Matthew... the guy was always there for me every time I was heartbroken over some woman (apparently, after re-reading my diary presented here in this blog, I was heartbroken a lot)... but Japan... Japan was always good to me.

Still... it turns out that Matthew, whenever I pestered him about writing something about Japan... not his experiences, per se, but about a subject matter he would like to broach... he would claim he didn't recall stuff... because well, it was nearly 27 years ago when when we first arrived in Japan.

I can relate... I re-read my diary and go... "I did that?" or "When the hell did that happen?" Or, worse yet "Who the heck is that person?"

Still... Matthew... he suddenly remembered he was part of a newspaper article back in New York...

I don't know how you forget something like that, but let's just chalk it up to old age. ;)-

From the Press & Sun-Bulletin, a part of the USA Today Network, comes this re-printed newspaper article written by recently passed columnist David Rossie.

Published in the February 10, 1992 edition of the newspaper, Mr. Rossie uses the help of Matthew to delve a little deeper into Japanese psyche re:... well... take a look yourself HERE.

Matthew, old chum... the offer still stands for you to write about something on Japan... like what a Japanese wedding ceremony is like... I never got to find that out - and you know how much that irks me.... no... not about you and yours, but on how things screwed up for me.

Or... what it was like for you after I left... and you not being on the JET Programme, but working nonetheless and driving that car... or what things were like for Takako and you and Michelle when you decided to leave Japan and head back to the U.S.

Stuff I can only guess at but will never have an inside knowledge at.

If you want, I'll send you some questions...

Regardless... for the rest of you readers... have a read at Matthew's press efforts above...

I'm still a bit miffed that he didn't tell me about this before  - it's GREAT!!!! - but just miffed. I'm already over it. LOL!

Matthew... thanks.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm C-3PO - Fly Me

When I heard back in 2015 that ANA (All Nippon Airways) Co. was going have three of its aircraft done up in skins for some Star Wars tie-in, I was all "hoo-hum".

Why would people want to fly in it? You can't see it from the inside...

To me, it's like people who spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars to make their front yard look beautiful where it is the envy of the neighborhood. You are either in the house, away from the house doing stuff, or in the backyard doing stuff.

Who spends time in the front yard? So why do people spend time making it sooooo beautiful?

In my mind, it's to make everyone think you are great.

I've seen guys blow a fortune to buy a Porsche, but live in a crappy one-bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood with no inside decorations... because they want the world to see them as successful.

So... why fly in an airplane done up in graphics of Star Wars characters... a good movie that first came to light 40 years ago?

It's Star Wars... you know... a story that is essentially (originally) about Knights in space.

The poor farmer kid destined to spend his life on a farm (Luke), goes off to rescue the princess (Leia) from the evil Duke (Darth Vader), while having to defeat the fire-breathing dragon (Death Star).

Classic story-telling. There are only seven original stories, and every writer since then has stolen or copied the idea.

It's okay... I appreciate the Star Wars story... while hardly original in concept, it's original in the way it was presented... though I suppose there was Buck Rogers before it.

Heck... even in the original Adventures of Indiana Smith story outline by George Lucas (in 1973) who also wrote Star Wars), he borrowed heavily from the classic 1930s movie serials that made kids go back to the theater every week to see the next episode... cliffhangers... it's where the term came from, I think.

Yes, Indy Jones was once Indiana Smith... Lucas, was also an Uncle Scrooge McDuck comic book fan... and that whole scene at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark... with the giant stone ball rolling down at Dr. Jones... that was taken from an Uncle Scrooge comic... something he talks about in the introduction of a hardcover repackaging of all the Duck comics by Carl Barks - see It was in Uncle Scrooge #7, "The Seven Cities of Cibola"... and yes, that movie scene in Raiders was an homage to my favorite writer-artist Carl Barks.

Those Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic book stories are what instilled a love of adventure for me BEFORE Star Wars and before Indian Jones.

Anyhow... why would anyone in Japan want to fly in one of these Star Wars-themed aircraft?

I don't know... just to say you did, I suppose.

I never saw the original movie until one year after it came out... but I had read 14 issues of the Marvel comic by then and because the first six issues were about the movie, I already knew how it ended.

Did you know that the first issue of Star Wars came out BEFORE the movie?

Did you know the book Star Wars (written by George Lucas) came out before the movie?

I have a copy of that book... not the real first edition, but a scholastic version... but it had photos of the movie being made... so I read it months before the movie came out.

As such... I suppose I would be one of those  people who would at the very least like to see the ANA aircraft and their Star Wars skins...

The three aircraft graphics depict: C-3PO, R2-D2, and recent Star Wars franchise cutie BB-8... all three are robots from the esteemed franchise. There's also a fourth aircraft with a general Star Wars design.

C-3PO will be taking to the air for the first time in March 21, 2017, flying domestic ANA routes between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and cities such as Kagoshima, Itami (Osaka) and Hiroshima.

The skinned airplanes are Boeing 777-200.

So... you could just go to the airport and watch for these airplanes, or you could pay to play...

The take-away from it isn't huge.

While the stewards/stewardess' will be wearing Star Wars C-3PO themed aprons, you the paying customer will get to have your drinks served to you in specially-designed paper cups (which you could keep), and headrest covers (which I am pretty sure you don't get to keep).

So... paper cups? Is that it?

Well, you do get a special boarding certificate for those jet-setters who are amongst the flyers taking the Star Wars jet within the first few days....

Yes... first few days... after that... paper cups, baby.

Now... this isn't the type of thing that caters to the customer... no, rather this is simply marketing by the George Lucas folk in charge of the Star Wars franchise.

It helps to continue to keep a 40-year-old movie franchise in the spotlight as it continues with its sub-movies and last two planned movies.

I had heard back in 1978 that George Lucas had originally planned for Star Wars to be three trilogies for a total of nine movies. And dammit, since the movie was released in 1977, he's been good to his word.

Just think... when Star Wars came out, man had first landed on the Moon a mere eight years earlier. And, 40 years before that, few people have ever flown in a passenger plane or plane of any kind... it was still a huge deal until the late 1960s.

Here... check out some luck Japanese Star Wars fans flying in the ANA R2-D2 passenger jet back in 2015...

Did you watch it? That would never fly in the U.S.... masks covering faces on a plane... where's the security? Some of those costumes have sharp metal parts! Passengers on regular jets get plastic forks and knives and spoons in case they try and kill someone on board nowadays...

Back in the 1960s, can you imagine, as a kid, getting to go up to the cockpit to meet the pilot, co-pilot and navigator... to see the sky from there... to receive toy airplanes as gifts from them as a thank-you for visiting?

It was a different time.

I can't imagine getting a paper cup as a souvenir...

However, I am a collector... so I can understand why that Star Wars paper cup would seem cool.

The graphics on the airplanes look fantastic, though there is very little of C-3PO other than his chest plate and some wires that identify him as being the annoying droid. And yet... too bad you can't see the graphics from inside the plane.


Andrew Joseph

PS... if you are wondering about the headline, well... back in 1971, America's National Airlines had an ad campaign that said:

National Airlines would also paint the names of some of the sexier (as advertised) stewardess on the airplane's nose, and have stewardesses (women) wear the suggestive "Fly Me" tag line.
Sure... if I was Oedipus Rex.
Sexist, yes... but all it did was advertise what airlines everywhere were doing anyways... sexy female stewardesses... it's cliche because it was true once. Now, regardless of sexiness, we have competent men and women providing customer service on the planes... but again... even as late as 1971, flying was still relatively a new and big deal for people.
PPS: Is it weird how I use this blog to talk about un-Japanese things like Star Wars, Indian Jones, Uncle Scrooge comic books, and sexy stewardesses and advertising campaigns?
PPPS: Okay, here's a photo of some of Japan Airlines stewardesses - a very modern photo. Japan has always been about 40 years behind in some things:
and one from Japan's Skymark Airline:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Japanese Pearls

I have given more than a few pearl necklaces to women whose company I’ve enjoyed, but never thought I would enjoy wearing on myself.

Okay - all you pervs out there hopefully had a good laugh…

Let’s talk about Japanese pearls, starting with the basics.

It is estimated that people - both men and women  - have been wearing pearls since 520BC.

It was a fashion trend that exhibited either sex’s power and wealth.

Nowadays, men don’t wear pearls… except they do… it’s a recent fashion trend that has men enjoying a pearl necklace (snicker) such as Steven Tyler, Pierce Brosnan, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pharrell Williams (pictured above).

Hmmm… while I’m not a Pharrell fan (I don’t dislike him, I just have never listened to his music), the rest of the guys on this list are pretty cool.

Pharrell looks like royalty here, but is that a tiara on his head? Wayta go overboard, dude.

Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean movie pirate role only seemed effeminate, and Areosmith's Stephen Tyler did scream out something about a “Dude Looks Like  A Lady”… but I’ve been a Pierce Brosnan fan from before his turn as James Bond, back before when he was Remington Steel (no one wears a leather dress jacket like that and makes it look elegant!)… and the fabulous fresh prince Will Smith (TV, movies, music star) and damn… that soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo dude who just might be the most handsome man on the planet…

Hey… I’m confident in my own heterosexuality to not have a problem complimenting another man’s appearance - everyone should be able to do that. Women do that all the time, and they aren’t all gay or bisexual… even if you want them to be.

Anyhow, to make a pearl necklace, there’s a lot of prying open of oysters (stop making me laugh)… and to create a 47-pearl 16-inch necklace, sorters have to fine pearls that match each other… meaning it could take searching through 10,000 pearls to find 47 identical ones.

For those of you marveling at the No. 47 - my semi-private joke about how often this number appears - the pearl fact is correct.

Pearls are not just found in oysters... rather you can find them in clams, mussels, and other bi-valve shelled mollusks - such as conch, quahog . I did not know that.

For those of you who wonder how pearls are formed, be prepared to be surprised.

From, I found this:

Natural pearls form when an irritant - usually a parasite and not the proverbial grain of sand - works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called 'nacre', is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed.

I knew it was an irritant, but usually a parasite? Hunh.

Pearl Shapes:

Depending on whom you ask, the pearl is supposed to have "significance".

For example, pearls symbolize innocence, love, perfection and purity.

Gold and black (Tahitian) pearls are symbolic of wealth and prosperity, while freshwater pearls are said to help open the heart to receiving love and to encourage self-love.

I'm pretty sure I don't need pearls to dig self-love. Oh... it doesn't mean what I was thinking...

Japan's pearl industry is reported to be more than US$5-billion a year.

Mikimoto Kokichi (御木本 幸吉 - surname first - March 10, 1858 – September 21, 1954) of Toba-shi (鳥羽市, Toba City) in Mie-ken (Mie Prefecture), Japan, successfully created the world's first cultured pearls.

Mikimoto Kokichi (standing) watching a worker prepare an Akoya oyster for future growth of a pearl.
Mikimoto-san was concerned about the pearl industry in Japan depleting the Akoya oysters from over harvesting by greedy pearl hunters, and decided he would try and grow cultured pearls in 1888. On July 11, 1893, he had his first success after numerous set-backs, including red algae blooms destroying his "farm".

The site of his success is on the island of Ojima near Toba, now known as Mikimoto Pearl Island.

So... what is known as Mikimoto Pearls, are essentially Akoya pearls - only grown or 'cultured' on a oyster pearl farm. It's why they don't get a listing here. But, check'em out at

Therefore, a cultured pearl is a pearl created by an oyster farmer under controlled conditions, and can be done with either freshwater or saltwater mollusk... namely freshwater river mussels, or saltwater clams... but... as mentioned above, any bivalve critter can make a pearl.

Anyhow… there are five varieties of Japanese pearl:
  • Abalone pearls;
  • Akoya pearls;
  • Biwa pearls;
  • Kasumi pearls
  • Kasumiga pearls;
  • Keshi pearls.
Abalone Pearls
Abalone pearls are found naturally in Japan, U.S.A. (California, Oregon, Alaska), Mexico, Korea(s), South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The key word in the above sentence is "naturally". The oyster that produces these pearls is a hemophiliac, meaning that when it is cut, the blood will not clot meaning it can bleed to death.
This means it can not be 'farmed', thus its pearls are found naturally.
But, there is a technique where human intervention will create a "farmed" abalone pearl, that supposedly will not cause it to bleed to death: attach a nucleus (no surgery required) to the inside of the shell... and because a half-spherical plastic bead is used, these resulting pearls normally turn out to be Mabe or blister pearls, which are hollowed out, filled in and backed with a hard back before mounting. But it's not as cool as the real, natural abalone pearl.
As you can see from the image, these pearls are gorgeous! They are the most colorful of all the pearls, and are found in rocky, coastal waters around the world.
These abalone are plentiful... however, they do not tend to get irritated a lot, and thus rarely produce pearls.
It is estimated that one would need to harvest 100,000 abalone to find one pearl that fits the ideal abalone pearl look. That "look" is gauged by its vibrant colors, should have a mirror-like metallic shine, have a symmetrical shape, not be hollow, and measure over 15mm in diameter.
The other issue is that the abalone pearls can grow into different shapes—ergo, no standard shape can be discovered.... it can look like a shark tooth, round, or baroque (see chart above for pearl shapes). Baroque-shaped abalone pearls, however, are the more common form - such as it is.
Colors are iridescent, and contain differing amounts of green, blue, pink, purple, silver, and sometimes creamy white, with the blue and pink hues being the most-prized.

Akoya Pearls
When those in the know think about Japanese pearls, the Akoya pearl is what they mean.
A saltwater cultured pearl from the Akoya oyster (Pinctada fucata martensii), it is the most abundant saltwater pearl, with the longest history.
They are the classic pearl, with perfect round shapes and bright mirror-like luster and neutral colors such as light pink, white, and yellow-ish. Sometimes, these pearls appear in baroque shape, but are not the ideal shape.
Japan is the biggest producer of Akoya pearls over 7mm in size, though they are also found in the Koreas, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, though for pearls under 7mm, China is the biggest supplier. Sizes of 10 to 11mm are rare.
As you would expect, one finds only one pearl in an oyster... except in this oyster's case, you might find two.
One pearl is a standard Akoya pearl, but the other is considered to be a keshi (ケシ - means "poppy"), a small non-nucleated pearl formed by left-over gunk when the real pearl is grown... and is a term for any pearl grown without a nucleus.
Did you know that freshwater oysters/clams can produce multiple pearls at the same time (not that uncommon), thanks to "farming", which is why saltwater pearls are more expensive.
Just because it sounds cool—freshwater—doesn't mean you are getting high quality.
Colors are usually white to grey featuring pink, green or silver overtones.
Rare is the blue Akoya pearl with silver and pink overtones.
Here's the thing... the pearls should look neutral in color... anything else and it means it has been color treated. I know... who knows what the heck you are buying! If you see a black Akoya pearl, for example, you know it was colored, wither with an organic dye or it was blasted with Cobalt-60 radiation. When your significant other says the pearls make you glow, now you know why.
These pearls are sometimes called Mikimoto pearls... but that's a brand name.

Biwa Pearls
Japan's largest lake is Lake Biwa, a freshwater lake in Shiga-ken (Shiga Prefecture)... and I only know that because of the major crush I had (?) on Kristine South who lived in that area some 500 kilometers west of me. The lake was so named because it supposedly was in the shape of the Japanese musical instrument, the biwa.
The lake was once a large producer of Biwi freshwater pearls... amongst the earliest of places where pearls where first cultured... only nowadays, man-made  pollution has made the abundance of these pearls fairly uncommon.
Still, we are talking about a freshwater pearl, right... so sometimes more than one pearl can be found in a mussel.
Lake Biwa's pearl industry began in 1914, and the term 'biwa pearl" was initially used to describe was any freshwater pearl.
Biwa Pearl farmers cut the shroud of a living mussel instead of introducing an external body into the mussel, causing it to produce nacre, which eventually leads to the formation of a pearl.
Production reached about 600 tons of Biwa pearls in 1971 but, as mentioned, thanks to pollution, Biwa Pearl production has virtually ceased.
But it's not just pollution, it was over-harvesting that has led to this Biwa mussel becoming almost extinct.
Fear not... though not the same, in other Japanese lakes, pearl farmers are breeding the Biwa mussel with a similar species from China.
Biwa pearls are often called "stick" pearls because of their shape, and are often flat and narrow.
They come in various colors, notably white, pink, silver-grey and cream. Because these pearls are un-nucleated, they seem to have a higher lustre and sheen.

Kasumi Pearls
Kasumi pearls are considered to be large, rare pearl produced in Japan's freshwater Lake Kasumi-ga-Ura.
This lake area used to be a big place for freshwater pearl production from the 1860s on--second to Lake Biwa (see Biwa Pearls above) in number of cultivators and production. But, pollution hit this lake, too during the 1980s... and for about 10 years, no pearl harvesting occurred, only returning in the early 1990s.
Where once there were hundreds of pearl "operators", there now only three.
Lake Kasumi is located north of Tokyo and the Kasumi pearl is cultivated via a hybrid mussel mixing Hyriopsis schlegelii and Hyriopsis cumingii. These pearls are a large baroque style of 9-13mm. If you look at the photo above, you can see why it is referred to as an 'oil slick' pearl color... but you can see more of one color than an other hence, colors variations of purple, pink, white and gold.
As you can see, owning a set of these pearls isn't about owning a strand of identical beads - no... this is about dazzling individuality. I, personally, have a thing for this type of look - like with the Abalone pearls.
With just three people making up the Kasumi pearl industry, you can bet your sweet bippy, that these pearls are considered rare.

Kasumiga Pearls
Kasumiga pearls are considered to be a rare pearl variant... because one guy (Sali Harue - surname first) works with them, and deals specifically with one dealer the BELPEARL Company), and thus we have the rarity.
Lake Kasumi (also known as Lake Kasumiga) is where these pearls are from.
From what I understand, Ayoka pearls are being used as the nucleus of the Kasimuga pearls. By nucleating pearls, the pearls end up rounder.
They are cultivated from the same mussel as the Kasumi pearl mussel... a hybrid mussel mixing Hyriopsis schlegelii and Hyriopsis cumingii.
The unique mussel that produces these naturally pink pearls, can produce pearls that range from approximately 9mm to 16+ mm in size.
In the world of western pearls, customers seem to think that rounder is better.
As you can see from the website, the pears are rounder than the Kasumi pearl counterpart, and lack that oil-spill look - usually. Colors appear to be silver, purple-grey, yellow-gold and pink, along with 'oil-slick' for lack of knowledge on my part.

Keshi Pearls
I talked about these types of pearls earlier... but a keshi (ケシ - means "poppy"), a small non-nucleated pearl formed by left-over gunk when the real pearl is grown... and is a term for any pearl grown without a nucleus.
Originally, the term "keshi pearls" referred to any pearl formed when a bead nucleus was rejected.
Because they have no nucleus, keshi pearls are composed entirely of nacre. And, because you read this far, nacre is what is known as 'mother-of-pearl'. I love that iridescent look.
As you can see from the image above, they come in various sizes, shapes and colors because they can occur in any type of mollusk.
They became popular after traders from India saw these keshi Akoya pearls and even though they were considered to be garbage/waste pearls, the traders though they could sell them to customers in India and to visiting Middle East traders. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

I don't see what the big deal is re: men wearing pearls. I might not want a necklace of the oyster puke, because I no longer wear necklaces... but as a jewelry ornament, why not.

Men wear earring now and they aren't even pirates, so what's the big deal.

I have a black star sapphire ring with five diamonds in a tasteful men's 18K gold ring. I own unset jewels such as topaz, and a star ruby... and if I was still wearing jewelry other than a watch, I think that as long as it looks chunky IE more masculine, then sure... no problems...

Since some women like to call men pigs, but for men and pearls, this is truly a case of pearls before swine.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, January 27, 2017

Overworked Woman Commits Suicide

I sat on this story for nearly a month after Matthew sent it to me…

Yet another Japanese junior salary man killing himself from overwork?

Then I realized it was by suicide… and not the more traditional way I had seen in the past involving the worker simply dropping dead from overwork.


Japan has long had a culture whereby everyone (Japanese) in a company is expected to put in hours and hours of unpaid overtime every day as means of showing the bosses that the company comes before everything else in this world.

I always left my school or board of education at the regular non-overtime period when I was a junior high school assistant English teacher because… WTF… I wasn’t Japanese, I don’t believe that work trumps all. Sorry for using that word.

I missed out on a few things, of course… as the company that works together, in long  unpaid overtime, would go out with each other to a local bar and get absolutely piss-faced drunk.

It didn’t matter if you were single, married, male or female… if you were part of the lowly salaryman/office worker at a Japanese company, that was your expected lot until such time that you graduated to middle or upper management… at which point you could still work the extra long unpaid hours every night, but at least you had an office with a door so you could shut it and get a few hours of sleep while those under you pretended to work extra hard.

Crap… I saw guys fall asleep during the day and make up time during the evening, so in my mind it all evened out… but really… just what sort of job demands one work all those extra hours simply because they have to?

Shouldn’t the work simply be done sooner?

What do they do when there’s nothing to do?

Do you carry stuff in your hand, walk around with a scowl on your face and answer people who ask how you are with a simple angry shake of the head and shrug of the shoulders?

On December 25, 2015, the very pretty Takahashi Matsuri (surname first)—that’s her in the framed photo at the top of this blog, with her parents—committed suicide after she had apparently racked up over 150 hours of unpaid overtime in the single month leading up to her death.

So… 150 hours divided by24 days (not including the day she killed herself), implying an average of 6.25 hours of unpaid overtime every single day for 24 days.

That does NOT include any time off for weekends… we’re talking 8 hour work day PLUS 6.25 hours OT  = 14.25 hours a day… for 24 days straight…

Keep in mind the average human being needs anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night… that leaves her with 2 to 4 hours a day to have dinner, relax… oh wait… those hours also include travel to and from work… and holy crap… what about that effing team bonding thing…

Look at that poor woman… she would have had to fend of drunk men and women continually.

There was no time to unwind… no time to decompress… it was work, work, work all the time.

Takahasi worked for Japanese advertising company Dentsu

The advertising field is already a crazy field, where the hours are long… and overtime is the norm… and I can only imagine how much more of that it would be in Japan.

For Takahashi… it wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing… it was a punishing and grueling workload… and rather than just quit the job, she chose to quit her life.

We can all say that was stupid… but, if one tries to play devil’s advocate… failing at one’s job in Japan can be a devastating experience.

What is this was the one job she had always wanted… and to quit… it could affect one’s psyche.

My former backyard neighbour… his kid was trying to get in to Dentist’s school, failed to… and he snapped. I was eight when that happened… and all i saw after that was a grinning, drooling poor dumb man who snapped. He never worked… ever… staying with his elderly parents until they died about 40 years later… and… no idea what happened to him.  

He couldn’t speak, except in nodding howls… and I know he could… he was very nice and stable…

As for Takahashi… death by overwork is known as karoshi…. and while her suicide was because of overwork, it’s not the same thing… seppuku… that’s the Japanese word for killing one’s self…  

We do not know the chemical-balanced state of Ms. Takahashi… was there a mental health issue?

Did her suicide really come about because of the anxiety from being overworked? It might not be a chemical imbalance, but it is a mental health issue brought on by her work environment… and that at least is something Japan can fix easier than a chemical imbalance.

I know many people who suffer from some sort of mental health issue, and no, I’m not one of them.

Dentsu president and chief executive officer Ishii Tadashi (surname first) agreed to resign in the wake of Takahashi’s suicide—but this was only after Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare declared that her suicide was caused by overwork.

In my opinion…  the fact that Japan has a federal ministry that covers “Health, Labour and Welfare”… well… that’s a problem right there.

Why should one government agency watch over labour (work) AND health?

Work and welfare… sure… but health?

Not when Japanese culture encourages unpaid overtime… and failure to perform as signs of weakness… of not caring about the work family… the most important family…

I know that Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo has tried to make such unpaid overtime practices illegal… but its still a work in progress… with labor reforms not yet finalized.

Andrew Joseph