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Saturday, May 26, 2018

1934 Autographed Touring MLB Team Photo Sold For $42,000

As my regular readers are aware, I enjoy the game of baseball.

I enjoy watching it at home, watching it at the stadium, coaching my kid’s house league and Select teams, reading books on it, and basically anything to do with the history of it. I never played it in a league, except as an adult…

And this is me - a hockey first guy, even though I played and coached soccer as the main sport. I also did judo. Oh… and kyudo and kendo in Japan, and finally taekwondo a few years ago (blowing out my meniscus).

I'm a bad mutha- shut yo mouth.

But lest you think I’m just a dumb jock, I did teach piano and clarinet, and can play all woodwinds, brass and keyboards.

Anyhow… baseball… it’s May… when a Toronto Blue Jays baseball fan is already convinced the season is over.

But this is a blog about Japan.

I’ve written about baseball in Japan circa 1934 before: HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE

Why 1934? Well, that was when a Major League Baseball team of All-Stars toured Japan.

It featured, such players as:
  • Connie Mack, Manager;
  • Babe Ruth;
  • Jimmy Foxx;
  • Lou Gehrig;
  • Lefty Gomez;
  • Charlie Gehringer;
  • Earl Averill;
  • Bing Miller;
  • Moe Berg;
  • Earl Whitehill;
  • Frank Hayes;
  • Rabbit McNair;
  • Hal Warstler;
  • Joe Cascarella;
  • Clint Brown;
  • Lefty O'Doul, Coach;
  • John Quinn, Umpire.
Moe Berg was a catcher, who would later work as a spy for the U.S. against Japan. You can read his story at the 3rd HERE above.

Anyhow… what we have in the photo above is an original photo of that 1934 All-Star team, including a traveling umpire, which recently was sold at an auction for US $42,000.

What makes it even more special, is that the photo is signed by every person present.

The signatures all appear to be done in the same ink… which precludes the autograph hound (probably) from taking the pristine paper photograph with him from stadium to stadium to beg said player to sign the image.

I would imagine that the original photographer more than likely took the photo, developed it there in Japan, and printed a copy… probably just the one… and took it himself to be autographed by the still-touring ball players.

I don't know if this image was taken by Japanese photographer Fujita Mitsuhiko (surname first), who reportedly did go to the ball park and take photos, and return the next day with the photos to be signed by both the MLB and Japanese baseball players.

Fujita was the grandson of a famous Japanese businessman named Baron Denzaburo Fujita, who was the biggest, richest man in businessman in the country. Living from 1841-1912,  he traveled to Osaka in 1869 and soon started up the Fujita-Gumi Company. He became a buyer for the Government, as well as a mine operator, and made lots of money when Takamori Saigo revolted in Kagoshima in 1877. He was indicted for issuing counterfeit notes in 1879, but those charges were eventually dropped. He reorganized Fujita-Gumi into a partnership company and became its president.

As for his grandson, we do know that the Mitsuhiko visited alongside the traveling MLB team through Japan during this era.

Again... this is just a guess by me that the photo above was taken by Fujita Mitsuhiko.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 25, 2018

Japan Just-Discovered Parasite Flower

According to the recently released 2018, 11th annual list of newly discovered global flora and fauna, compiled by the International Institute of Species Exploration, a part of the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Japan has a new flower.

The list of Top 10 species, is actually based on some 18,000 new species named in the year before.

If you are thinking "Holy cow! 18,000 species discovered in just one year - that's great!", consider also that we believe that about 20,000 species go extinct every year, too. 

The list, revealed on May 23 every year, is done so to honor the birth date of Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus, born in 1707 and considered to be the father of modern taxonomy.

Taxonomy is the classification of all natural things, including organisms. 

The heterotrophic flower—Sciaphila sugimotoi—was actually discovered in October of 2016 by
Tatsuki Nishioka (surname first) of Kyoto University Faculty of Agriculture, near Mount Omoto on Ishigaki island, a part of the Okinawa chain of isles.

The flower lacks the cool name that makes it a public offering, and is still known by its scientific name Sciaphila sugimotoi.

It is named for for Sugimoto Takaomi (surname first), a collaborative partner with the Kyushu University, Graduate School of Bioresource and Bioenvironmental Sciences, who played an important role in the identification of the species by collecting specimens.

The rather pretty flower of the Sciaphila sugimotoi blooms in September and October, and lives in a symbiotic harmony with a fungus.

If you look at the very top and left image of the flower, you can see a top-down view of the plant growing out of a the ground, implying that just beneath the surface is a rich growth of fungus in the area.

Symbiosis is any type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms, be it mutualistic (working in harmony with each other - like those birds that pick food from crocodile teeth: the birds get a meal from the crocodile, and the crocodile gets its teeth cleaned - and no one is eating the other), commensalistic (where one organism obtains food or other benefits from the other without affecting it, such as a remora that attaches itself to a larger fish to gain food and locomotion), or parasitic (where one organism, the parasite, lives on or in another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life, such as lice that either eat hair and scalp or suck blood and use the host as a place to lay eggs).

In the case of the Sciaphila sugimotoi flower, it is a parasite, deriving nutrition from the roots of the fungus, without harming it.

Normally, plants will capture energy from the sun and grow via photosynthesis.

The plants have been found to grow between five to 10 centimeters (two to four inches) in height, have a wonderful violet colored flower that is about two millimeters (0.0787402 inches) in diameter.

There are about 50 of the plants discovered in two locations on Ishigaki Island. 

These plants, known as mycoheterotrophs that feed of spores and fungus, are only visible above ground during fruiting or, in the case of the Sciaphila sugimotoi, when flowering.

These types of flora are very difficult to discover and classify owing to their very short flowering periods—you kind of just have to to stumble upon them at that perfect moment in time.

So... in honor of a new flower discovered in Japan...

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Flying To Japan

After my third one-year contract with the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme expired, and I was forced to head back to Toronto, Canada, I almost immediately made plans to head back to Japan.

That was for Noboko.

I left Toronto for Japan almost one month after having left Japan the first time in 1993.

Even though I had gone back to Canada with about $10,000 in cash on me, thanks to doing some extra teaching of English on the side, I was determined to try and go the cheap route for my two-way ticket back to Canada.

After all, I figured, I would need to have money left over for Noboko's ticket, should I be able to convince her to come for a visit, and then spending money as I aimed to sweep her off her pretty little feet.

As such... when I booked my ticket, in order to save three hundred dollars, I flew from Toronto to Detroit Michigan (US) to Dallas Texas (US) to Nome Alaska (US) to Seoul (South Korea) to Chiba (which is where the Tokyo airport is)... and from there I would need to take a train to the actual city of Tokyo, and then take a shinkansen bullet train north to Nasushiobara and then take a local train up one stop to Kuroiso-shi... and finally a short taxi ride to my friend and fellow AET (assistant English teacher) and Canadian, Colin.

I was going to stay at his place for a month as I wooed Noboko.

Because I snore like a jet plane with asthma, my plan was to be considerate of all my fellow travelers and not fall asleep as I undertook the 36 hour journey.

And I didn't fall asleep. You're welcome.

Anyhow... 36 hours later, and $1400 for the ticket, I arrived in Kuroiso, had a great time with Colin, and a sex-filled time with Noboko, but ultimately failed to convince her that I was a better option than obeying her father.

Whatever. I get it now.

Yesterday, my friend Rob sent me an advertisement for an Air Canada promotion for flights to Japan.

The cost for a trip to Japan in 2018 is... $1400... one way.

And people wonder why I don't fly anywhere anymore.

Well... that and my penchant for watching the aviation disaster television show Mayday.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How To Fug Up A Japanese Person

I don’t know how weird this is, but 25 years after I left Japan, and 24 years after I was in contact with the Japanese woman I wanted to marry, but was ultimately rebuffed in favor of her relationship with her father - I think, I have come to a whole new understanding of the situation.

Thanks to my recent reading of the book, Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette by Boye Lafayette De Mente (revised by Geoff Botting) and published by Tuttle Publishing, I have come to realize that Noboko’s inability to choose me over a relationship with her father was not a weakness on her part, but rather simply her being Japanese, which for any Japanese would have to be considered a strength.

I have only recently come to learn that when the Japanese are being Japanese, it’s not a knock against the world—at least it’s not meant to be—rather it’s merely the Japanese being true to themselves.

Noboko, an awesome-looking babe of a woman regardless of her cultural birth, was essentially caught between a rock and hard place in her relationship with me.

Yes… I have no doubt whatsoever that she loved me as much as I loved her.

Not only was I quite willing to make her my wife, but if she had only agreed to come with me to Toronto for even the tiniest of vacations, I would have stayed in Japan for the rest of our life together.

That’s pretty damn honest, and even with 25 years’ hindsight, it remains a fact of life for me.

But what stopped us?

The Japanese, from as soon as they are able to learn, utilize various kata to create their Japanese identity.

The kata are everyday formalized rules for how a good Japanese should do everything… from greeting people of various class, what form of language to use; to how to use chopsticks; to the order in which food is eaten; to the types of foods that are eaten; to how one thinks about certain things—the reality; and how one speaks of certain things—the Japanese way.

It’s the private versus the public.

Now… I see it. In private, Noboko could speak her mind to me about what we shared… but in public, I was just the foreign friend… definitely not the lover or soul stealer.

It’s something foreigners learn too late.

For Noboko, there was also the need to please her parents… there’s a kata for that… and damn it all, she had already disappointed her parents previously by refusing an engagement to a Japanese guy her parents had approved off… something that happened before I appeared on the scene.

So yes… there was a streak of the rebel in her… something non-Japanese.

The nail that stands up gets hammered down.

It’s true that I discussed my love for Noboko with my coworkers at the Ohtawara Board of Education… because that’s the sort of thing a non-Japanese would do.

I broke every known way of dealing with my work colleagues that the Japanese know… and it was okay because I was just a dumb gaijin (outsider) who didn’t know the rules and etiquette for how to properly deal with my co-workers. I didn’t know that Japanese kata.

The few I told encouraged me - or at least exclaimed that she was very beautiful. I told them I wanted to marry her and stay in Japan.

They seemed happy on the outside, but then there’s that whole way of thinking on the inside that I could never learn. Hells, no one in Japan could actually learn what another Japanese person is really thinking.

Even for foreigners, I am an oddity.

How many other people will tell you exactly what’s in their head or heart? Close friends? Family?

A blogger?

In Japan, I had no problem telling anyone who asked, exactly what I thought… which in the Japanese way of thinking isn’t as appreciated as you might expect.

It makes me dangerous. I don’t follow the kata. I don’t act like a Japanese. Ergo they don’t know how I am going to act.

Crazy, but true. It’s not crazy, though. It’s just the Japanese being Japanese, and every one else merely being non-Japanese.

So… when Noboko eventually came to her Japanese senses, and was able to rebuff my advances... despite everything her heart and soul may have wanted, she gave up what she wanted for the community of the Japanese collective.

I get it now.

I also understand how any Japanese person who is willing to sacrifice their Japaneseness to be with a non-Japanese, is truly an extraordinary person.

By doing so, they give up their Japaneseness.

And, even though they themselves may feel as though their Japaneseness is intact, the rest of Japan tends to feel otherwise.

I have NO idea what my relationship with Noboko actually cost Noboko in the long run.

Did I completely screw up her life - no, not because she loves me, but rather because she may have given up her Japanese identity to date me… and me blabbing about it might have cost her her cultural identity.

Fug. I hope not.

I really didn’t understand just WHAT I was asking her to give up to even date me.

Trust me… there is a huge element of bravery involved in any Japanese person dating a non-Japanese. There’s a huge level of disobedience, involved.

It’s not prejudice or racism… it’s a shunning of the Japanese way that all Japanese are taught.

Now… don’t worry. For those of you who are considering a trip to Japan, or are considering working in Japan… don’t try and become Japanese… and certainly don’t fret over your inability to become Japanese.

Even for the Koreans or Chinese who are six generations living in Japan, who know all of the kata - the ways of Japan, who speak the language and eat the food, and dress the dress… even they are not considered by the Japanese to be Japanese.

Heck, even those Japanese who go away to live in a foreign country for a while, and then come back… they are often ostracized by the Japanese collective as no longer being Japanese-enough.

It’s a cultural superiority complex that the Japanese ingrain upon themselves.

It’s not a criticism. It’s Japan being Japanese.

If you would like to gain a better insight into what Japan is really all about… a book not about the Top 10 best places to visit; nor about the weirdest Japanese foods; or strangest restaurants…. I suggest you all pick up Japan: A Guide to Traditional Customs and Etiquette by Tuttle Publishing.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. If I knew then, what I knew now…

Aw heck… a guy’s gotta try, right?

Not so strangely, writing this blog has depressed the crap out of me.

Andrew Joseph

Wedding day photo of a Japanese woman by Riccardo Trimeloni on Unsplash

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Ōsumi satellite

I'm currently reading a book on the Saturn V rocket used to propel man onto Luna, our moon, for a book review on my other blog, Pioneers of Aviation.

Looking for a subject for today, I wondered just what the first Japanese satellite was to be successfully launched into space, or Earth orbit, if you will.

That turns out to be that little jewel in the photo above, the Ōsumi aka Ohsumi.

It was named after the old Ōsumi-ken (Ōsumi prefecture), a former province of Japan in the area that is now part of Kagoshima Prefecture.

The Ōsumi satellite was launched on February 11, 1970 via a Lambda 4S-5 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima by the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, University of Tokyo, which is now part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

By successfully entering Earth's orbit, Japan became the fourth nation after the USSR, United States and France to release an artificial satellite into orbit.

The 24 kilograms (52.9 pound) Ōsumi satellite remained in orbit until August 2, 2003 before its orbit decayed and it burned up as it fell back down to Earth (around the border between Libya and Egypt.

The satellite consisted of a small observatory, which carried five experiments designed to make ionospheric observations of temperature and density, measurements of solar emission, and measurements of energetic particles.

The satellite was a regular 26-sided polygonal prism with a circumscribed radius of 75 cm. The batteries were powered by 5184 solar cells mounted on the satellite body. Average power consumption was 10.3 W.
Image via
Despite it being in space that long... over 33 years, the satellite wasn't as successful as you might think.

Upon launch, the Ōsumi satellite was supposed to have achieved a 500-kilometer circular orbit, but instead, and elliptical orbit was what occurred.

From 15:56:10 to 16:06:54, about two and a half hours after the launch, a radio signal from Ōsumi was received at Uchinoura confirming its first orbit around Earth.

The radio signal level gradually fell and the next day, February 12, during its sixth revolution (orbit), faint.

By the seventh orbit, the signal was lost, meaning it was only working for one day... less than, actually.

It is believed that the signal was lost between 14 and 15 hours after launch. It is hypothesized that the failure of the satellite was due to rapid reduction of power capacity because of higher than expected temperatures. IE... that darn elliptical orbit.

Since then, Japanese space missions have been much more successful.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at the top via Wikipedia, per Rlandmann - Own work

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mug Of Beer

First off, let me apologize for the briefness of this blog. For the first time since I was in diapers, I took a nap in the afternoon on Sunday.

I don't know why... perhaps I was tired from coaching baseball in the hot sun, tired of watching my kid play Fortnite (a pox on the house of that video game creator), or perhaps it was the heavy lunch... or cripes, maybe I'm getting older and heading for that time when I need to wear diapers again as an old man.

I'm not there yet... but damn... a nap.

Above, what we have here is a matchbox label from Japan advertising a local beer establishment in Tokyo (I assume).

What little I could read of the Japanese language has evaporated with being nearly 25 years removed from the country I write about here.

I don't even drink beer anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I could if I wanted to, I just don't have the want.

Besides, being cash poor doesn't leave me with the options of getting drunk as a skunk like I used to while I was in Japan.

Back then, I only really drank in social situations that demanded I get as pissed as the Japanese I was with. It was a social thing... for us all to let down our hair and get to know each other away from the formal setting of the work environment.

It was and is a very important part of the Japanese social structure.

I suppose offices outside of Japan do the same thing, but at least here in Toronto where we live far away from the office, and far away from our co-workers, and like to drive to work, more often than not... getting hammered at an office party and then having to leave the car at work and take some alternative way home is something many people dislike... and so, we often refrain from getting hammered.

There's also the fact that unlike Japan where everyone gets stinking drunk at an office enkai (party), where things are said, and if embarrassing are never discussed again... outside of Japan that sort of behavior will get you fired.

I have been a pretty sociable guy. At work I will talk to anyone about anything they like... I listen, keep secrets, and provide thoughts or advice where I think it might be appreciated.

But at work socials... not so much.

I actually work best in social gatherings up to maybe five people at most... anymore, I shut down and just listen... and usually become bored and quietly leave after what is the shortest possible time to still be considered socially polite. Or I don't go at all.

Even I think my actions are weird.

I actually have very few friends... but that's okay. If I call you my friend, I mean it. But work... work friends have always been particularly difficult for me.

I'm a writer. That means I spend most of my time locked in my own mind trying to make sense of the thoughts I have heard and written down.

Its seems in complete contrast to the outward persona I show... that super-friendly, funny guy... or the baseball, hockey, soccer coach, or the piano, clarinet teacher, or the guy teaching English to junior high school teachers in Japan, or even the writer who doesn't mind spilling the beans on his most private thoughts while he was in Japan, or private thoughts about things he learns about Japan now.

I call it being on, when I'm around people. But lest a machine burn out, it needs to switch off every once in a while.

In Japan I would drink to excess to show that anything the Japanese could do, I could do several beers better.

In my mind, it was not only a means of showing the Japanese that they did not have a lock on being superior (this feeling IS actually a part of the Japanese identity that exists even  today - and I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing)... but it was also a means for me to cope being in Japan.

When us gaijin (foreigners/outsiders) go to Japan to work and live, we leave being the creature comforts of whatever country we are from... the most important being family, friends, and yes, language.

I had never been away from home until I went to Japan. I had done five years of university and two years of college, and managed to do so while living in my parent's basement, allowing me to continue playing D&D, watch Star Trek reruns - and to basically have never kissed a girl. Click HERE to see what I mean.

Drinking Japanese-style helped. But I was smart enough (in my opinion only) to only have drunk and been drunk when in social situations... IE, never alone.

I have long felt that alcohol, while tasty when in social situations, never tasted very good when alone.

Unfortunately... or fortunately... when it came to imbibing alcohol, I never met the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme participant who could out-drink me. Okay.. maybe there were two guys... one for sure... but we never competed... we just drank when with each other.

Anyhow... despite all those great stories I have told about the drinking exploits of myself in Japan... while I enjoyed them at the time, it was never who I was... just who I needed to be at that time.

Apparently, my opening statement was written before I finished writing this blog. I never know what the hell I am going to write before I do.

Hopefully, something more interesting tomorrow.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge

I'm the type of guy who likes to drive a car.

I'm not good as a passenger, as my brain races along deciding what the driver has done wrong, should have done or should do. I don't vocalize it, which is why I am still allowed to be a passenger.

But as a driver... there's just something about being able to get behind the wheel and drive.

It's a real effing pity I live in Toronto, which has grid lock worse than what is made fun of in movies about Los Angeles.

Actually, that's just incorrect.

Drivers in Los Angeles spent an average of 104 hours each driving in congestion during peak travel periods in 2016, beating Moscow at 91 hours, and New York City at 89 hours, according to a traffic scorecard compiled by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm.

Globally, Canada's worst places to drive were Montreal in 23rd place with 52 hours, 38th-ranked Toronto at 45 hours, and Vancouver at 30 hours.

I wish I knew what it really meant. I have to drive 33 kilometers to work, for a 66 kilometer round trip. I spend 2 hours a day. That's 10 hours a week. So... somewhere between 450 and 500 hours a year. Just for work.

Now, I drive on highways, where the limit is apparently 100 kph. Ergo, I should be able to get to and from work in about 30 minutes each... and yet I do double that. So... I'm at around 225 to 250 hours spent in traffic.

Oh... and that's on the good days... bad days... I've spent two hours just one way.

All of which means that time is only relative to the observer. Someone write that down... I have a feeling it's going to be relatively important one day.

Someone remind me why I like driving a car...

In Japan, there's a bit of driving awesomeness once you get out of the city gridlock and off the small-town streets doubling as goat paths that meander through the rice paddies.

In the photo above, you can see the Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge.

Although the speed limit is only 30 kilometers an hour, the 1.1 kilometer spiral bridge offers spectacular views.... I'm unsure what the driver can see other than the road in front of him/her, but looking at the photo it sure seems spectacular.

The Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge is a double spiral loop that takes cars up and down 45 meters (148 feet), as it bridges the different elevations of two mountains.

Finished in 1982, this is one of the most awesome bridges I have ever seen. It's on Route 414 south of Tokyo as one drives towards Izu peninsula.

The bridge is 80 meters wide, and only offers single-lane driving each way. Luckily it's not situated in a windy area.

I'm unsure if this bridge is something I could drive.

On two high altitude drives, one driving down from the Canadian Rockies into British Columbia, and the other driving down from Hoover Dam in Nevada, the sheer driving drop made me dizzy, and in both cases I had to relinquish the wheel, as I became ill. Probably an inner ear thing.

I have had my nose straightened and my deviated septum aligned, so my sinuses aren't affected... but since then I have become susceptible to headaches when thunderstorms come in... IE, a change in air pressure.

Strange but true.

But... I think I would like to take a run at the Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge. Can you imagine doing the Tokyo Drift around that sucker?

By the way, I recall an episode of Myth Busters that proved that drifting was NOT any faster than standard braking and speeding up around a corner... but a Tokyo Drift sure looks cooler.

Andrew Joseph