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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Mizuno Jinryū and Shinryū - The Divine Dragon I and II

Every so often, I come across a bit of Japanese historical info from WWII, that makes me wonder just why I hadn't heard of it before.

There are actually two aircraft given the designation of the "Divine Dragon", the Mizuno Jinryū and the Mizuno Shinryū II.

In both instances, both Jinryū and Shinryū are translated to "Divine Dragon", with Mizuno being the manufacturer.

In case you are wondering, THIS Mizuno is the very same as the Mizuno that makes excellent sporting goods. They also made sporting goods before the war, including gliders, which was why, during WWII, it was subverted to try and construct warplanes.

Whether it’s dragons, Mount Fuji (Fuji-yama) or effing cherry blossoms, the Japanese have a fascination for it… or maybe they have a fascination for it because everyone tells them they should have a fascination for it. Tail wagging the dog.

So, should it come as any surprise that there was a WWII plane you’ve never heard of that uses the name Dragon?

I’ve already written about one with the cherry moniker - HERE.


With Allied forces bombing Japan starting in June of 1944 with the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, it began to seek out ways to better protect itself.

The B-29’s were on bombing runs trying to target key Japanese cities to annihilate its infrastructure and industries.

Japan’s Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun Koukuu Hombu (海軍航空本部, Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service) came up with the need for the Mizuno Shinryū II.

Wait… the second one? What about the Mizuno Jinryū?

Initially, in November of 1944, when things were already bleak for Japan during the war, the Navy began to consider suicide flights… one-way flights.

Feeling that perhaps “silent but deadly” could be the solution, the Navy considered using a glider as the aircraft.

Now… a glider still needs to be towed up into the air… but the Navy said nu-uh, and said it wanted strap on some rocket boosters!

Yeah, man… and we can fire the gliders from hidden caves, and then the aircraft, which would be carrying a 100 kilogram (220 pound) explosive bomb, could be flown by a pilot right into Allied boats. Yeah. That’ll show’em not to mess with Japan.

Rocket powered gliders. Fug me. It sounds childish, doesn’t it… and then when you add in the part where it’s only a one-way trip… and we know the Japanese did use kamikaze (神風, divine wind) attacks somewhat successfully.

It was the duty of the Dai Ichi Kaigun Koku Gijutsu-shū at Yokosuka-shi (横須賀市, Yokosuka City) a city in Kanagawa Prefecture, to turn this Wile E. Coyote plan into something… because to me… a rocket propelled glider is something even the Acme Corporation might not want to sell, and they sold the Acme Bat-Suit glider… even they didn’t have rocket’s propelling it… just flapping.


Sakakibara Shigeki (surname first) was pressed to lead the various teams who would each be responsible for one part of the glider, for example, one team was to design the wings, another the fuselage, etc.

By this time in the war, Japan was reeling financially, and for that reason, the design team was told to build the glider using as much wood as possible, rather than the tougher to get ahold of metal.

Akita Yoshio (surname first) designed most of the glider by May of 1945, and by this time the Mizuno Corporation, which had experience in the construction of gliders, had nearly finished the prototype.

The initial concept was sent to the Imperial Navy who rejected it saying changes were needed. Luckily the design changes weren’t too bad, and the design was approved.

As of mid-June 1945, work began on the airplane now called Jinryū.

Because time was definitely of the essence, the finalized blueprints and work plans for the Jinryū were drawn up even as the components for the first prototype were being built.

Mizuno built two prototypes, finishing it and performing the Jinryū’s first test flight even before wind tunnel results had been presented.

That first flight was performed by test pilot Narabayashi Tashiichi (surname first), taking off from an airfield in Ishioka-shi, Ibaraki-ken.

The Jinryū was towed into the air by a Tachikawa Ki-9 (known to the Allies as Spruce) that was piloted by Fujikura Saburo, who (despite being the towing pilot) had flown gliders before the war.

Test 1 was to assess the Jinryū's handling, which was deemed by Narabayashi as stable with good handling characteristics.

Test 2 assessed the glider’s diving ability. From an altitude of 2,300 meters (7,545 feet), Narabayashi tried to release the tow rope from the Ki-9 - but it was stuck, forcing him to cut the rope to continue with the test.

During the dive, the Jinryū hit 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour), but the aircraft began to vibrate so violently that Narabayashi couldn’t read the other gauges, and so had to reduce speed (pulling up). The team later determined that the tail needed better reinforcing, and the vertical stabilizer was too small, and was rectified by adding a second stabilizer and strengthening to the tail.  

Test 3 - powered flight. The Jinryū was modified to accept a group of three Toku-Ro I Type I rocket engines that combined would produce 661pounds of thrust during a 10-second burn.

During the tests, the rockets were found wanting, with inconsistent burn times, or simply failing to ignite.

Narabayashi  felt that as constituted, the aircraft was a failure, and should be reconfigured, taking his concerns to Major Suganuma who was in charge of the Jinryū project

He suggested it use six engines capable of supplying a 30-second burn that could help the Jinryū reach a speed of 750 kilometers per hour (466 miles per hour).

He also thought that instead of the single 100 kilogram bomb, it could carry 10 explosive charges adapted from artillery shells, which would enable it to be used against tanks and ships, as well as its original design target, the B-29 bombers.

Major Suganuma took Narabayashi's ideas and had a new team redesign the Jinryū to be an actual interceptor aircraft, rather than as a rocket-propelled glider - all good considering Suganuma had access to rocket engines that promised 32 second burn times.

Two people from the Jinryū project were kept, with everyone else replaced: lead designer Sakakibara; and Tonsho Yoshio (surname first) to oversee construction of the prototype.

Murakami Yujiro (surname first) would work on testing the aerodynamics of the Shinryū II.

Sakakibara would use a canard design (that's what it's called when you have those extra sets of wings near the front of the aircraft), the second such Japanese airplane after the Kyushu J7W Shinden.

The main wings had what is known as cropped delta (not a perfect triangle), which combined with the canard design would provide more stability during flight, and provide easier handling for the pilot - even m,ore important since by this time in the war, the pilots remaining were hardly the most experienced. 

Since the average Japanese pilot had little experience with canard-equipped aircraft, the Shinryū II had spoilers fitted into the top of each main wing which could rotate and help control the aircraft if the mechanism for controlling the spoilers was damaged, automatically returning to the closed position.

The airplane's powerplant featured four Toku-Ro I Type 2 rocket engines located in the rear of the fuselage, each capable of providing a 30-second burn time and a combined 600 kilograms (1,322 pounds) of thrust.

Two of these rockets would be utilized to get the Shinryū II airborne, while the others woulkd be used during the attack.

Now when strapping rockets to one's butt, it's going to get hot, so the team came up with two options:

1) an air-cooled combustion chamber that would have required an air inlet using a bayonet mechanism in order to maintain air flow across the chamber. It needed specific positioning of the fuel injectors so as not to have the air flow disrupt the injection process.
2) use of injectors to spray a water and alcohol mixture onto the rocket nozzle to cool it.

The water/alcohol system was the simplest, and was chosen.

For take-off, skids were used - not wheels. Landing? Who cares? Skids were also good enough for the Wright Brothers. Besides, are we so sure that the pilot is coming back?

Well, just in case, a nose skid was provided with a basic spring suspension to absorb the landing forces.

Under each wing was a non-sprung skid arrangement supported by two struts.

For take-off the Shinryū II was to use two wheeled dolly similar to the one used by the Mitsubishi J8M Shūsui, which could be jettisoned when airborne.

Because the Shinryū II was still made to intercept B-29 bombers which could fly to 10,241 meters  (33,600 feet), the cockpit was going to be pressureized, or if that proved too expensive (or added too much weight), the pilot could wear a pressure suit.

The Shinryū II was to be armed with eight rockets: attached to the inside of the rear landing skid arrangement were four tubes, one on top of the other and angled downwards, which contained the rockets.

It is surmised that if all the rocket weapons were used, the pilot had the option of also utilizing the fused explosive warhead contained within the aircraft's nose, at which point the pilot should try and crash the Shinryū II into his target.

Shinryū II  Specifications
  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 7.60 meters (24.9 feet);
  • Wingspan: 7 meters (22.9 feet);
  • Height: 1.80 meters (5.9 feet);
  • Wing area: 11 square meters (118.4 square feet);
  • Empty weight: n/a;
  • Loaded weight: n/a (n/a);
  • Powerplant: four Toku-Ro I Type II, solid-fuel rockets, 330 pounds of force each;
  • Maximum speed: 300 kilometers per hour (186.4 miles per hour);
  • Cruise speed: 110 kilometers per hour (68.4 miles per hour);
  • Range: four kilometers (1.25 miles);
  • Service ceiling: 400 meters (1,312.34 feet);
  • Rockets: 8 x unguided rockets;
  • Bombs: 1 × 100 kilogram (220.46 pounds) explosive warhead in the nose;
  • Charges: 10 × charges adapted from 100mm artillery gun shells;
  • Guns: 4 × 30 mm Type 5 cannon  - this is just a guess.
The Mizuno Shinryū II was never completed, thanks to the surrender by Japan.

While there were five Jinryū gliders built, none were utilized in battle.

Because neither the Jinryū nor the Shinryū II were given military designation codes, the final name of the aircraft is subjective.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Modern Technology Vs The Semi-modern Man

Last week, I went back to work for the first time since late December - off burning off the plethora of vacation time I had left over from 2017.

Our magazine (and sister magazines) had moved into a new building that adds an additional 20 minutes to my commute on the way home, but only five on the way in. Toronto traffic is worse than LA traffic.

Anyhow, the lunch area has a sink and faucet... a faucet that confounded me.

It looks like this:

The handle looks like it is pulled down from an upright position to get the water going... only no water comes. It doesn't come when you push the handle upright.

There is a button on the faucet itself near where the water comes out. I push it, move it up - that works, but no water.

So I pull that handle down again... still no water.

I stared at it for 47 seconds and give up, figuring I can wash my Tupperware of the morning's cottage cheese out at home.

I slapped at the faucet handle in disgust as I prepared to leave, and the water came on.

Apparently you push the handle to the side to get it to come on, and forward to control the amount of water. Fawwwwk.

Later that afternoon, I went to use the washroom, and when done - being a righteous dude - I went to wash my hands. Now... I have been in this office for four days only (Monday-Thursday), and do know how to use the sensor-driven faucet there.

I got the hands wet, and throw my hand to the right to get some liquid soap from the dispenser, also motion sensitive. Except I moved my hand away too quickly and it dropped to the faux marble counter.

Still righteous, I grabbed a paper towel that automatically dispenses when you pull away the one that is there.

With a paper towel and swiped down at the dropped, frothy white soap on the counter wiping it up - except I triggered the automatic soap dispenser again causing another spoltch of soap to fall on the counter.

Bemused, I grabbed another paper towel, and swiped at the second glob of soap on the counter - this time quickly.

But not quick enough. Not only did I not get all of the soap I had spilled before, but now the pile was getting bigger.

So I grabbed another paper towel... those suckers get wet quickly, and that soap was quite frothy as it now covered my slick right hand.

I swiped again. I got it all, but another glob of soap dropped.

Doing my best Curly, and slapping my face and gyrating my hips and stamping my feet, I now had soap on my face, soap on my hand, and soap on the counter. Raving? I sure looked the part.

I grabbed another paper towel after disposing of that wet mess in my hand, wiped myself down, threw the paper away and grabbed another paper towel.

I swiped at that pile of soap on the the counter so quickly that the sensor didn't react. Faster than the speed of light, I guess. Call me the Flash.

Wrong Flash.
Thankfully, at the lunch room and in the washroom, I had my mechanical breakdown by myself... because I wouldn't want anyone else to know - you won't tell, right?

Modern World: 2 - Andrew: 0

It made me harken back to those early days in Japan when I arrived in my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in August of 1990.

If you think I'm mechanically inept now, imagine what I was like then? It's a good thing I was soooooo good looking. Riiiight.

Upon arrival, two men - Mr. Kanemaru and Mr. Hanazaki from the Ohtawara Board of Education office who were my de facto bosses - gave me a tour of my three bedroom place and tried to explain to me in their Japanese-heavy accented English what everything is.

The bedroom, couch, sliding doors, bathroom and washroom I understood... same for the fridge and the microwave (more or less).

The rest... uhhh... I had never lived on my own before, never done laundry, cooked, did know, the whole spoiled child syndrome and a mother who enabled me. On the plus side, it makes for better fodder here in this blog.

The microwave had weird settings on it... such as one button for warm milk, one for warm sake (it had separate settings for single, two and four cups of sake, but not for three)... things like that... and it also doubled as a convection oven. I didn't and probably still don't know what "convection" means in this case, but I did use it to make my own lasagna once a month for three years.

I'm not kidding about the sake buttons.

They showed me the gas heater which I had to turn on if I wanted hot water for the kitchen sink, a hot shower, and for the laundry machine that also acted as a dryer.

That thing scared the crap out of me. For a week after, until Matthew showed up and I asked, I noticed some tube dangling from it and was afraid to turn it on. Fortunately (??!!) it was 35C everyday and night, so a cool shower was fine.
The gas water heater (right), on the wall in my washroom area.

The stove and oven features were easy enough, as I had used those to make eggs and cook mini pizzas back in Toronto.

They then pulled out the cooking implements... and dammit all, but these Japanese men had no clue how to use them either. They could describe them and what they did, but they couldn't tell me how to use such things as the pressure cooker or rice cooker or even the tea thing. The kettle I knew, and used that to make tea... I think the other was to hold it and keep it warm.

Anyhow, they said they would have some women from the office come by the next day to show me how it all worked.

Sexist? Sure. But who was I to judge at that time.

The two women came over, one young and one older - and with very broken English attempted to show me how things worked.

The main problem was - and I bet it is for any newcomer to Japan - is that I had never heard Japanese or Japanese English before.

There is an accent and a way of pronouncing English words that made them sound quite foreign to me. Sorry, but it's true.

For example... my three bedroom apartment is called (in katakana Japanese) "apaa-to". Whatever they meant, there was no "ment" in that phrasing of the word.

Needless to say, I never did learn how to use the rice cooker or steamer. They tried, but I never understood enough of what they told me, and didn't know how to cook anyhow.

Keep in mind, this is 1990 - before the Internet as we know it came to be.

While I was the kind of guy who could take apart a VCR and put it back together again, technology and I were never on the best of terms.

It's why I hesitated until 2009 before getting into blogging. I had heard of it, knew what it was, but was afraid I wouldn't know how to get it to work for me. I now have nearly 3,900 blog posts here, another 200+ on my Pioneers of Aviation blog, and several hundred more on two other blogs I had created.

The point is... I don't know what the point is.

My 12-year-old son asked me why I didn't use two hands with the soap dispenser. One to wipe up, while the other stayed under the dispensing part to catch the soap.

Different strokes for different folks.

Japan can be a daunting place for those lacking the necessary survival skills.

We tend to focus on the communication aspect - no one to talk to - so lonely... and while that is huge, so too is the fact that we might not know how to use a train station ticket dispenser, or how to cook or do laundry, or even how to shop for food.

I once bought a container of what I thought was chocolate milk... because what else is sold in a container that looks like that? Turns out, that in Japan they sell various cold teas in that format. It ruined a perfectly good bowl of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.
Kellogg's Corn Frosty (aka Ko-n Fu-ro-su-tei). They're grrrrrr-8!
 Nearly 30 years later, sometimes technology continues to befuddle me. Don't even get me started on my iPhone... my first portable phone ever that I only got last February so I could be in contact with my baseball team in case something came up.

I can work it, but probably don't use it to its full capabilities... but I can play Sudoku on it while in the washroom at work.

Andrew Joseph
PS: The wrong Flash was Flash Gordon. I was, of course talking about The Flash.

Monday, January 22, 2018

I Predict The Future With A Look Into The Past

Sometimes, I am waaaaay ahead of the curve.

Back while I was in Japan between 1990-1993, I wrote a 200-page story in 1991 about Adam and Eve and their eternal punishment for having defiled the Garden of Eden, being forced to be reborn and die shortly after meeting one another throughout the annals of history and into the future until Earth destroys itself and creation, or recreation, begins anew with Adam and Eve getting a second chance.

The story was my epic Simon and Billie story, which I presented here in the blog beginning HERE called "The Adventures Of Simon And Billy"...

The story idea first arose while I was at the bicycle rack in front of my apartment building in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, and noticed a dead frog near my bike, and a squashed mouse close by.

My imagination conceived of a short story of just how the frog and mouse (that I named Simon and Billy) just happened to end up in front of my apartment complex - their life, if you will - and how they died.

When I came to the end of the story, I realized I hadn't come to the end of Simon and Billy - at least not really. So I wrote another short story, and another and another until it all came together as a 19-chapter story.

I think it's funny, sad, romantic and quite brilliant for something I wrote in a week after work and at work.

Anyhow, one of the stories involved Simon and Billy being reborn as neighboring villagers (this time as boy and girl) in an Incan society, whereby they were chosen to be sacrificed by a Shaman who had a recurring role throughout the story, essentially as The Devil, but better known as Mr. Nasta.

It's obviously Mr. Satan via an anagram (or Mr. Santa)... but since the heroes were named Simon and Billy and possessed the souls of Adam and Eve, well... I had only just begun writing short stories a mere six months earlier after arriving in Japan in August of 1990, so perhaps my youthful naivety can be excused... or perhaps it lends itself to the quaintness of the story. Whatever. I make no excuses... it's still a fun story.

Regarding the Incan chapter, you can and should re-read Chapter 13 of the story HERE. I've already given you the gist of the story above... something I don't really do in the actual story until a few chapters later.

I just discovered on Sunday morning after midnight, while traveling down through the rabbit hole that is the Internet, that back in 1999 (about eight years after I completed my story), scientists actually found something - a scene reminiscent of that Incan story arc.

The story tells of scientists finding three mummies of Incan children (read about it HERE or see it below):

Volcanoes are pretty frightening, but do you know what makes them even scarier? Finding 3 dead Incan children from 500 years ago frozen and intact, that’s what! In 1999, near the Argentinian volcano of Llullaillaco the discoveries were made. An autopsy indicated that the kids had eaten the raw form of cocaine from cacao leaves. Historians say that their deaths were actually sacrifices, and even go as far as saying that the eldest of the children may have led the others to their death.

Llullaillaco... the very same volcano I wrote about in the chapter, and also that the kids were drugged and then sacrificed to the gods. My story also takes place in 1525AD... 474 years previous... so pretty damn close that guesstimate of 500 years ago mentioned above. My story takes place in Peru, while reality of where the mummies were found on the volcano is on the other side, in Argentina. Hey! I picked the right volcano, didn't I?

The image above shows the preserved remains of one of the Incan children scientists found in 1999.

You all better hope I'm not right about what the future holds, because it's all going to hell in a handbasket around 20160AD... you know recreation. You can pronounce it however you wish: Recreation or re-creation.

That was God's point. As a writer, I am akin to a god in the way I make my characters act or not act, so it's my point.

Anyhow... re-read my old story, I think you'll enjoy the gags in it.

Yes, sometimes, I am waaaaay ahead of the curve. Then again, the scientist made this discovery in 1999, so even though I am waaaaay ahead of the curve, I'm actually waaaaay behind it.
Andrew Joseph
PS: Strangely enough the image at the very top was found on the Internet showing a sparrow eating a dead mouse.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Living On ¥300,000 A Month And Surviving And Thriving

My buddy Vinnie threw me yet another bone, pointing me to a fairly interesting blog HERE, that asks if one can survive on ¥100,000 yen a month in Japan.

The simple answer is no.

The more complex answer is no you can’t, silly gaijin.

The long answer is what follows.I should note that I was an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, and we had all kinds of perks, along with a decent salary, whereas the writer of the blog above was writing from the perspective of an AET NOT on the the Programme.

I highly recommend people looking to come to Japan to work as an English teacher do so on JET... if only because you have someone to help look after you, the money is good, and you don't have to worry about surviving Japan on ¥100,000 a month.

¥100,000 = US$899.53 = CDN$1,118.07.The rest of you, sorry.. try currency converter

Back in 1990 when I was in Japan, it was impossible then to survive on ¥100,000/month, but I’m sure there are some Bohemians out there who will say they have done it.

Look, one can survive on 0 yen a month in Japan. Go punch a policeman. Or maybe just go on a hunger strike.

But can you live in Japan on ¥100,000 a month? No. At least not on your own.

You could mooch off friends, stay at their place, eat their food, smoke their smokes, whatever… if you wanna be “that” guy.

Five people from Toronto came to visit me at various times. One other from the other end of Japan.

Each capably paid their way across the country. I never asked for money, but they were all staying a few days to a week - so what. Each bought me dinner or something. Fair trade… they should have saved their money for travel.

Using my place was just as a ways to save money on a hotel. I’m good with that.

So… as an AET (assistant English teacher) on the JET (Japan Exchange &Teaching) Programme, I made ¥3.6 million a year. That's right, in Japan I was a multi-millionaire. That’s ¥300,000 a month.

Back then, the equivalence was ¥300,000 = US$3,000… so I made US$36,000/year… which was and is decent coin for someone right out of school.

Now… unlike many an AET in Japan, I did not have any student loans that needed repayment. I lived at home through five years of university and two years of college. I had summer jobs to pay for tuition and books, and in my two years of college also taught piano and clarinet after school to pay for my incredible comic book habit.

Sadly, I’m not kidding about the comic books.

So… ¥300,000 a month. I was one of the very few AETs who survived without an issue - I had friends who might have needed a loan here or there, but that’s fine.

Me? I lived the life of Reilly.

My rent was ¥30,000 a month. (The LEGO diorama above is a fairly accurate depiction of my living space. Yes, I built the diorama.) That's $300 a month for a three bedroom LDK with two balconies, western facilities, washer-dryer, shower, toilet, stove, microwave, mini fridge, carpeting in all rooms except the linoleum bathroom area and the tatami mat main bedroom. Sofa, chair, kotatsu table, dining room set for two, writing desk and chair, cutlery, pots and pans, cooking implements.

The place needed AC/heat, which I had installed out of the JET allowance. No one was really sure back then about how much money each Board of Education/Prefectural board (for the high school teachers) could spent on an AET in a single year, but I believe it was up to ¥100,000 = $1,000.

So… if you really needed something, they could buy you a bilingual TV/VCR combo hoping you will use it to learn their language, or new tatami mats after you let the other ones rot because you were too dumb to air out your futon everyday like they told you to, or because of that issue with the tatami mats, they buy you a used Queen-sized bed with a new mattress to avoid the whole rotted tatami mat thing. Also, because you might be too stupid to use a kerosene heater with a door open that lets in as much cold icy wind as it purports to heat in your apartment, and by doing so you could die of kerosene poisoning… and that’s when they buy you the brand new central heating and AC unit and have someone cut a hole the wall for venting—just so that you don’t die of gas poisoning

All of those are true relevant to me. They love me. They really love me.

While I am sure there are some Japanese place with large fridges and possibly even a separate horizontal freezer, 99.9% of the people don't have them and will shop accordingly.

Japan is still kind of a throwback society in that people often simply purchase what they need from the grocer on a as-need basis. With a mini-fridge, however, that purchasing of food products still might be every day, up to once every three days - at least by my own personal reckoning.

How much one spends on food is up to the individual, of course.

At the beginning, with no idea how to shop (or cook), even though I was told to buy one week's food, I tended to purchase more than I needed.

When I saw apples and pears there, those suckers are bigger than a softball... and even though I only bought one each, I couldn't eat a whole one in one sitting. They were sweet and tasty, but dammit there was a lot of flesh.

They were about ¥900 apiece... $9... I don't know why I bought them... I didn't eat much fruit when I was in Canada, but what the heck... new surroundings means a new start.

I bought cereal I recognized, milk, orange juice, cans of beans (still there when I left), baked beans, eggs and bacon... so I had breakfast completely locked in, figuring I could eat bacon and eggs/beans for dinner too.

After that... I was screwed. I didn't know how to cook... but that changed when I discovered that one of the grocery stores had pre-cooked meals that were still warm and required little to know reheating. Sushi, pork kontatsu, and even smoked duck and a turkey leg. I even found some deli meat, peanut butter and raspberry jam and bread, and there was Coca-Cola - I live again.

But that was all I used to buy until such time that I tried to cook chilli... making it from then on once a week for three years, knowing that each huge pot I made could feed me three days, Ashley twice and Matthew once. So six meals... at least. Spaghetti and meatballs, was something Ashley made - not me. Chili and lasagna.

Anyhow... even if I spent ¥5,000 ($50 a shop)... maybe ¥10,000 a week... that's what I spent. That equates out to a maximum of ¥40,000/month on food and drink.

I didn't go out to bars much until Matthew hooked Ashley and I up at the 4C... and then it was ¥10,000+ for me and her (I paid)... maybe once a week. Later when we weren't a couple, I'd be at the place twice - maybe three times a week... and maybe I'd spend ¥10,000 in total. People would buy me drinks, or I'd be there sucking on one drink until some sexy young Ohtawara woman would come up to bravely strike a conversation... and sooner rather than later we were back at my place.

Guys... they would buy me a drink and I'd sit and we do English lessons or just talk crap like guys do... talking sports and women.

  • Rent: ¥30,000
  • Food: ¥40,000
  • Booze: ¥40,000
That's ¥110,000... now... not everyone is going spend ¥40,000 on booze... I did more, more than likely in my second and third years... first year, too...

Then there's Restaurants... fast food... on Wednesday night Ashley and I had kyudo (Japanese archery) lessons, so we'd eat a Mosburger... so maybe ¥8,000 a month. Matthew and I might hit a restaurant... maybe once or twice a month... so say ¥10,000...

I never shopped for Clothes - nothing would fit me in Japan. Not even a t-shirt.

Film and Film Development was a big cost, plus photo albums. I might spend about ¥5,000 a month on film and development ($50).

Entertainment: While I would receive VCR tapes from home with recorded American TV shows, and would pass them around to other AETs when done, there was no cost there. But eventually, Matthew hooked me onto a bookstore that would rent movies. I think it was ¥300 a flick, and I'd do three a night usually. I was up over 500 films by the time I left... so ¥150,000 - $1,500 in total.

I had a Newspaper delivered every morning... but I think that was paid by my Board of Education office. I had a yearly tax I paid for TV, as well as one for living in Ohtawara... no big deal... $50 here, $150 there...

Telephone... I had to pay a monthly charge for national and international calls... which was no biggie... this was before the Internet, e-mail, texting, IM, et al. So, talking to sexy women 500 kilometers away (Kristine) in Shiga-ken was almost as good as sex, and then calling home to Toronto to get the latest baseball and hockey scores. I frickin' missed the Toronto Blue Jays first World Series victory because I was in Japan. I would wear a Toronto Maple Leafs T-shirt under my suit and tie when they were playing in the play-offs.

Heating and Electrical was taken care of by the rent. By the way... my rent of only ¥30,000 was just a partial cost of what the actual rent was. I lived in the tallest apartment complex (at that time) in the heart of the rural city... a place so fancy they called it Zuiko Mansion, though it;s official name was Zuiko Haitsu... which might be a bastardization of Zuiko Heights. I'm not sure. Probably.

The place had three bedrooms... so it was generally speaking a place for a family of four - all for me. And Ashley or whomever came after her.

The real rent was, I think, ¥100,000 ($1,000) a month. Which was expensive, just not something I had to worry about.

You'll note that my expensive JET rent  - which was then amongst the highest of the JETs on the programme back then, was still pretty damn cheap. Compare that to what the guy in the blog column says he had to pay... ¥50,000. Yeesh. I guess he weren't no JET. Hee-haw!

While the Board of Education offices takes care of such things as Key Money - where one pays 3x to 5x the monthly rent just to be able to rent the place - others not in the JET Programme are going to have to pay for that privilege. It's not exactly legal, but it's not exactly illegal.

There was also the odd bit of Travel. Initially it was a once a month jaunt to Tokyo with Matthew (and Ashley sometimes), and then Ashley and I found Nikko, and I go there once a month to go antique shopping and sight-seeing.

The city of Nikko is in my prefecture, and while it's a 40-minute trip as the crows fly, I'm not a crow and neither is the train system. We'd have to ride our bikes to Nishinasuno-eki, catch a local train down to the capital city of Utsunomiya, transfer trains to head northwest to Nikko. It was 20-minutes biking +40 minutes to Utsunomiya, wait usually 30 minutes for a train, plus a 45 minute ride to Nikko.

That was about ¥2,000 ($20)- plus you have to buy a couple of Cokes and some lunch... it all adds up.
I had purchased a string of 100 ¥1 yen coins minted 400 years ago - but the rope finally disintegrated. As a coin collector, I bought a few oldies that interested me. You can see a price tag of ¥16,000 ($160) for the silver rectangle coin, with the gold one beside it costing  ¥10,000 ($100) - both purchased while I was on vacation in Kagoshima. Throwing money around, I was, which is why I could never have survived on ¥100,000 ($1,000)/month.
At Nikko, we'd usually shop at one store we knew and liked where I would purchase ukiyo-e art. I'd spend around ¥15,000 ($150) a shot there buying then-120-year-old pieces of art. But not every month.

There's also seeing the Sights and International Travel. When in Japan, you should probably travel around and see the place. I usually traveled around Japan with ¥50,000 or more in my wallet... plus a Visa credit card.

I didn't like the ryokan (traditional hotels), preferring the more international (American) ones... for which I might pay more, but I knew there was never going to be guess work about what sort of accommodations I would be getting. I hate futons.

Ashley wanted to do our trips about Japan on the cheap, using youth hostels... and while she was younger than me by a few years, I was a soft bugger who hates camping because why else would man have crawled out from the caves to build homes that have insulated walls and central effing heating?! I'm on vacation... why the fug do I want to rough it?

I know many people like camping and roughing it. More power to you. I like comfort. I'm already walking for hours looking at the sights, the sounds, the smells of a vacation spot.

I've been to dumps trying to save money, and not only were the travelers at hostels kindda stinky, but at crappy hotels I saw cockroaches sitting on the toilet, or large flying ones on the wall, and another time where the carpet was moving - until I realized it wasn't a carpet. No. Fug that. Give me a frickin' Hilton any day!

Ashley understood. She organized our trips (I love her for that), but dammit, I was always ready for an upgrade in my accommodations, and gladly payed for that myself. My treat.

I was on vacation while living in Japan... I wanted a bit of a vacation away from Japan even though I was traveling around Japan.

Along with hotel costs, and food, you also pay for entrance into places... temples and such... and then you have to buy tourist stuff, postcards, omiyage (presents for the bosses)... the latter I never did, but should have. But by the time you remember, you usually run out of money... and besides... who do you get stuff for? Individuals or groups? I never learned the correct protocol while I was there.

Then there's international travel. Japan can be a stepping stone towards other countries. I visited Saipan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and even traveled back to Toronto one summer.

Shipping... and when it's time to go home after your contract is up, the Board gives you money to purchase a plane ticket or buys you the plane ticket, but heck... I had to ship all my souvenirs home... so I hired packers, and paid for actually shipping via a ship's cargo containers... plus taxes.

If you stay longer than a year, you'll have to pay for a new visa, or like me a new passport... Yup... there's me... in Detroit trying to get back to Toronto... with hair almost to my waist, wearing blue, purple and black vertically striped jeans, a beard... and having a Brown complexion. I don't look like I could be an Andrew Joseph who was born in England and is a Canadian citizen with a passport issued in Japan... but there I was... going over there while border security checked me out.

It's cool. I have nothing to disclose or hide - and they couldn't believe that - but since I didn't, what the heck do I care if they check me out?

So... there are costs for traveling to the airport, for the tickets, and for whatever you are going to do when there. Lots of money. You ain't going to make it anywhere if you don't have money.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that yeah, you could easily survive Japan on ¥300,000 a month, but if you did cut out all the nonsense like I did you could survive on ¥100,000 a month... but you wouldn't have any fun.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I had actually written a lot more, but it was lost when the site froze, and I'll be damned if I try and write it all again. I'm the kindda guy who writes stream of consciousness and then has Vinnie correct my mistakes after it's published. So... generally speaking, when you read an article here and it's perfect - thank Vinnie. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

10 Facts About Samurai

Here's a video that purports to have 10 "horrifying" facts about samurai ... and while I can't state of its veracity, it certainly is entertaining.

And its voiced over by a British dude, so at the very least, it sounds classy!

Andrew Joseph

Friday, January 19, 2018

Japanese AV Star: Aoi Sora

Her name is pronounced Ow-wee… and while the diminutive Japanese woman named Aoi Sora (surname first) recently announced her engagement to be married this past January 1, 2018, her message on Chinese social medial platform Weibo garnered 830,000 Likes, and 170,000 Comments, or about 166,973 more than this blog has ever reached, in total, and that’s with me pretty much responding to every one…

How about that… I’m just not as popular as a Japanese porn star. I must be getting old.

The fact that Aoi’s engagement set the Chinese social media world afire is no small coincidence, considering she is considered to be the woman who taught the Chinese people all about sex.

Now, I’m sure that having a population of 1-billion plus probably means that the Chinese are already quite aware about sex… but in this case, I’m talking about that fun kind of sex that tries to avoid procreation.

getting her start in the Japanese AV (adult video) scene in the early 2000s, by 2003 through 2005 she was being published in a new flick every month, starring in over 90 films in her career. 

It’s a strange phenomenon considering that China considers pornography to be illegal, and yet there we be.

Aoi’s movies were being produced at a time when the Chinese Internet was growing, and because it’s the Internet, much of what was searched for was porn, though I don’t know anything about that. Ahem. 

Soon enough, Chinese consumers were able to find and share MP4 files containing her AV movies, much the same way I, as a teenager, was able to find hundreds of VCR copies of American (usually from Van Nuys, Californication) and Swedish Erotica flicks back in the late 1970s.

Someone had purchased a movie, and everyone copied it. It beats me how the heck the AV industry actually made any money. Ever. One sucker to pay for it, and everyone else to copy it. To me, back in the day, the real money would have been made in the sale of recordable VCR tapes.

While I would never state that pornography is the best or only way that fun sex should be performed, it is quite obvious that many men (and women) have taken their lessons in the activity from the porn industry.

Then again, I’m of the opinion that sex between two (or more) consenting adults - regardless of how it is enacted - is just dandy. Though it is good to note that not every act some deem sexual is deemed the same way by others.

One woman called me a freak. But then added: “But I’m your freak.”

In China, pornography was a way for the once staid culture to learn new things, as even the most basic concepts of sex are not discussed within Chinese culture.

A news article I read, more or less condemned Chinese families because they don’t talk about sex within their own family. Do people do that still?

Aside from a “be careful” or “wear a condom” or “make sure you want to”, do parents talk a lot about sex? I have no idea. I have a 12-year-old son.

I was never given “the talk”. We had sex ed classes in Phys Ed., but to be honest, that was all about reproduction rather than plain old fornication.

I learned a lot from watching AV, as well as from reading the articles in Penthouse, Playboy and other adult magazines of the day such as High Society (my favorite).

Yes… sometimes you do read the articles… with both hands.

I actually learned a lot from reading the Penthouse column Call Me Madam by Xavier Hollander, who had penned the marvelous book, The Happy Hooker.

Madam Hollander
While male readers would try and impress her with their stories of sex “A door-to-door Girl Scout tied me up and forced me to eat her cookies”, Ms. Hollander would politely describe in detail ways in which a man could please a woman, rather than how he got off in 47 seconds.

Personally, the news that China learned something about sex from watching porno movies isn’t that big a deal. Ya gotta learn it from someone or something or somewhere.

Peking University had conducted a study in 2009, sent  to some 22,000 people in China aged 15-24.

The study contained a total of three questions on reproductive health.

The researchers found that 4.4% of the respondents were able to correctly answer all three of the questions.

In China’s case, for many people, the sexual exploits of Aoi served as a catalyst for hopefully hours upon hours of satisfying sex for all parties involved.

Hey… as long as they weren’t learning everything from BDSM or scat movies and only that, though whatever yanks your crank, I suppose.

But is it good to get all your information from the world of Adult Video?

The smart answer says “no”.

Just as women everywhere who read beauty magazines, or see images of so-called beautiful women in advertisements or movies or TV, there is a chance that they begin to compare their own view of beauty to those so-called models or actresses.

Should all women have to look like a Victoria Secret’s model?

The non-smartass answer is “no”.

The same holds true in comparing one’s self to the “actors” in AV. Not everyone is blessed with a missile, and not every women needs to have a D-cup.

AV could distort the social norms… and in fact may already have done so.

Perhaps the best way of looking at AV, is merely to consider it as one of many (no pun intended) tools one can use in learning about sex and sexuality.

But look… I’m not even going to pretend to stand upon an Ivory Snow soapbox and preach to anyone.

That comment in the sentence above is in relation to the fact that the woman who was on the cover of the old Ivory Snow boxes was American porn star Marilyn Chambers.

Back to Aoi… when first opened her Twitter account on April 11, 2010, the news quickly spread to China… where Twitter is banned because it’s a good way to prevent its people from learning too much about the world.

World be damned, the Chinese folk who knew and loved Aoi began to penetrate the great firewall of China by using VPNs to follow her… the night is known as "the night of Sora Aoi" by Chinese fans.

In respect to her Chinese fans, Aoi opened up her own Weibo account (China’s answer to Twitter), which now accounts for 18 million followers, which is about 1.8% of the population of China - so well done!

After retiring in 2011, Aoi is trying to make it as a singer/actress.

Her ability to cash in on the large Chinese audience - and perhaps her genuine skill and looks - and helped her gain roles in on-line videos and movies, but nothing mainstream yet. 

She appears to have put a lot of effort into familiarizing herself with Chinese culture. Every post on her Weibo site is written in Chinese by herself.

Apart from the language, she also started learning Chinese calligraphy. In 2013, a piece of her calligraphy was said to have been sold at 600,000 yuan (US$92,000), which is more than she would have made doing a porno movie, by far.

Lastly, it is important to note that Aoi, a Japanese woman, is much adored in China… a country with whom Japan has had increasing political tensions with over the past several decades.

Whether it was about Japan pounding on China without consent in the pre WWII and WWII days, or China declaring so-and-so islands are theirs, while Japan says its theirs (He said-she said), or China continuing to wave its private parts in the face of Japan who just wants to be left alone without someone trying to break with international custom, the fact remains that when it comes to something both nations can agree on, Aoi certainly has the nicest smile I’ve ever come across.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Wear A Manhole Shirt!

We all know what manhole covers are... big metallic discs that cover up entrance ways into sewer systems or waterways throughout cities the world over.

But some countries, such as Japan and The Netherlands, for example, have taken the humble manhole cover to an artistic new level.

I'm going to let Alicia Quintard take over here... she's working with 47 Regions, a small company looking to have people involved in their Kickstarter program that involves manhole cover artwork and t-shirts. I know... exciting!

Japanese Manholes: Art Under Your Feet

There is so much to see in Japan. You can look up at the skyscrapers of Tokyo, look in the distance to see the peak of Mount Fuji, look on every side of Kyoto's ancient cobble streets. But did you know that there is a whole lot to see right under your feet? 

Japanese manhole covers aren't everyone's idea of typical Japanese art, but they're certainly worth discovering. Creative and unique sewer covers can be found in most of Japan's 809 cities. Each manhole design has been chosen to represent a certain aspect of the area in which it's located, whether that be the environment, the history and traditions, or the people. Some towns even have several different designs in the same city; you can go on your own art tour from street to street! 
From Sapporo
The most elaborate manhole covers are finely details and even colored. The process of decorating them goes back to decades ago, in an effort to make the sewage system more appealing. That's truly an example of finding beauty in even the dirtiest of places! In their essence, Japanese manholes reflect some core values of Japanese culture; cleanliness, attention to details and presentation, and bringing opposing elements together. If you walk around the streets of Tokyo, it is not uncommon to see an old shrine lodged in between big modern buildings. These contradictions are what a lot of today's Japan looks like, and it reflects the rich history of the country. The traditional and the modern coexist, and it's probably one of the reasons why Japan is such an interesting country to visit (and why there is an endless list of things to see).

Along the same lines, Japanese manholes are bringing beauty and dirty together. Tourist and Japanese people alike love to discover the many designs while visiting various regions. The idea of collecting manhole cover pictures is so popular that the Gesuido Koho Platform Group even released manhole cards, not unlike sports cards. Each card contains a picture of the cover design, the geographic coordinates, and an explanation of the design. Since the project launched in April 2016, more than 220 designs from 46 different prefectures in Japan are available for collecting, and more than 1 million cards have been issued to date. The cards are handed out by local city offices.

From Kawaguchiko.
The manhole craze doesn't stop there. People online are dedicating entire blogs to collecting manhole cover pictures, some having gathered around 6,000 pictures! Furthermore, some tour companies even offer bus tours that take people around to see several manhole covers (and collect the cards of course), and there is even a yearly manhole summit open to the public. If these activities aren't your style, don't worry; you won't have any problems encountering your fair share of manhole covers wherever you end up going.

So as you embark on your Japanese adventure, don't forget to look down once in a while. You might see some street art worth seeing and capturing with a picture or two!
Have you fallen in love with Japanese manholes? If so, you are like Kevin and Steven, two Irishmen who have lived in Japan for years. Just recently, they've started their own screen printing company with the motivation of putting the beautiful Japanese manhole covers on t-shirts for the world to see. 

Another manhole cover from Kawaguchiko.
If you're looking to wear your love of Japanese manholes on your chest, 47Regions has got just the project for you. There are currently five (5) designs to choose from, and the t-shirts are available in a wide selection of colors and sizes. If you're interested, please check out the project here: You can also check out @47Regions on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.


There ya go! I am not being paid for this or being gifted in anything in trade, even though I am an "American" XL. I present this to you because it actually looks like a cool thing, and maybe some of you who like wearing t-shirts would be interested in.

Andrew Joseph
PS: All images courtesy of 47Regions
PPS: The name 47Regions is, I am sure, derived from the fact that there are 47 prefectures in Japan. Actually, the name is MORE correct, as there are actually 43 prefectures (県 ken) proper, two urban prefectures (府 fu, Osaka and Kyoto), one "circuit" or "territory" (道 , Hokkaido) and one "metropolis" (都 to, Tokyo).