Saturday, January 26, 2008


"Gunners on tour" available on Amazon

Truth better than fiction, 26 Jan 2008
By Daniel Mckeown (Japan) - See all my reviews

Despite the title, nothing whatsoever to do with Arsenal FC, but rather an autobiography which covers the author's upbringing and war service, documenting some truly remarkable incidents.

To give some idea of what the reader has in store for them, by the time the author leaves school he has survived a near-death experience, been witness to an actual-death experience involving one of his classmates, his mother has been set upon by rioters and his brother has been run over by a Rolls Royce.

After all this, we still have his war service to look forward to: war service which includes being hauled out of the water at Dunkirk only to hear on the radio that the ship he has been rescued by has been sunk by the enemy (and for the third time this week, to boot.)

Those with an interest in military history will find themselves well rewarded by this book: the author chronicles the British and Allied movements throughout the war, spanning a number of campaigns, and includes detailed description of some of the equipment involved. For others, there is a wealth of incident drawn from the author's experiences, relayed in dry, unsensationalised fashion, which, intentionally or otherwise, invites us to consider on a wider scale the challenges faced by the war generation.


I neglected to mention that I have, at one time or another, heard pretty much all of the stories straight from the horse's mouth, the horse in question happening to be my grandfather.

Still highly recommend this book, so click here and broaden your horizons.

(Admirably broadened though said horizons already be by dint of reading these: my words.)

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Sumo: the sad case of Tokitaizan

Warning, the attached newspaper article contains a lot of violence and does not make cheery reading. My comment at the bottom.


NAGOYA--The Aichi prefectural police have decided to arrest the former stablemaster Tokitsukaze and three sumo wrestlers by early next month, after concluding that their beatings and assaults over two days on a 17-year-old junior wrestler led to his death in June, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Tokitsukaze stable wrestler Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi Saito, died after collapsing following a training session on June 26 in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture.

The former stablemaster's real name is Junichi Yamamoto.

Initially, the Inuyama Police Station determined his death was caused by disease. However, after Saito's parents requested that an autopsy be conducted, it was learned that his death was caused by traumatic shock as a consequence of multiple external wounds. The prefectural police are investigating the case on suspicion that his death was caused by the beatings.

The ensuing police investigation revealed that the assaults on Saito began early in the afternoon of June 25. Besides the three senior wrestlers, the police will soon consult with prosecutors about sending papers on four or five other wrestlers who joined in the beatings.

During dinner on June 25, Saito was believed to have been struck on his forehead with a beer bottle by the former stablemaster at the stable house in Inuyama. This was believed to have been followed by an apparent group hazing by senior wrestlers who severely beat Saito. Saito died after training the following day.

Saito, who was fed up with his severe training regimen, tried to flee the stable house on the morning of June 25. But he was caught by senior wrestlers at a convenience store about 700 meters away in Inu-yama.

Saito was taken back to the stable house and was apparently assaulted until dinnertime.

On June 26, during a training session incorporating butsukarigeiko, in which a wrestler pushes an inert counterpart across the sumo ring and is then thrown to the ground, some senior wrestlers beat Saito with metal baseball bats.

However, the prefectural police decided to establish their case as one based upon a series of assaults, due to the difficulty of proving precisely which action constituted the fatal blow.

The former stablemaster ordered Saito to sit in a kneeling position during the dinner on June 25 and beat the young wrestler with a beer bottle on the forehead while scolding him, then allegedly instructed the senior wrestlers to perpetrate further violence. Several senior wrestlers have told investigators they acted on the stablemaster's instruction.

Therefore, the prefectural police judged it possible to establish the case as one of inflicting bodily injuries resulting in death.

Meanwhile, Nagoya University, which has been examining tissue from Saito's body, detected a high level of potassium in the junior wrestler's blood--indications that are consistent with a body being severely bruised--to a degree that would lead to cardiac arrest.

Ex-stablemaster to be arrested over death
The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 26, 2008



Compare the date of the article to the date of the wrestler's death.

If the stablemaster hasn't made it over to Korea and had plastic surgery by now, then he certainly should have.

Nice of the police to give him a heads-up about his impending arrest in the nationals. Gives him a chance to clear his schedule and that sort of thing.


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Sunday, January 20, 2008


Good enough for him

In Hungary they burn effigies or a scapegoat known as "Jack Straw" which represented the evils and misfortunes of the past year to burn on New Year's Eve. Jack Straw is carried around the village before being burnt.

(Image nicked from IF..., The Guardian)

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Crossroads (Don MacLean)

I've got nothing on my mind
Nothing to remember
Nothing to forget
I've got nothing to regret
But I'm all tied up on the inside
No-one knows quite what I've got
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be - I'm not

You know I've heard about people like me
But I never made the connection
They walk one road to set them free
And find they've gone the wrong direction
But there's no need for turning back
'cause all roads lead to where I stand
And I believe I'll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned

Can you remember who I was
Can you still feel it
Can you find my pain
Can you heal it
And lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul
You alone can light my way
You alone can make me whole
Once again

We've walked both sides of ev'ry street
Through all kinds of windy weather
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together
So there's no need for turning back
'cause all roads lead to where we stand
And I believe we'll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned


It is to three men I owe my guitar playing(such as it is): my father, my friend Saul Bradford, and Don MacLean (he of American Pie.) Would love to wax misty on the subject, but its time for me to go and watch the sumo in a different store.



Say what?

According to Dan's reading of this morning's Asahi Shinbun (Communist rag), increasing numbers of high schools are making students sit through a listening passage on the Japanese section of their entrance examinations. These are Japanese high schools, by the way.

I mean, honestly.

(Apparently, the imo hicks in Aomori were doing this as long ago as 1979, but its been taking the rest of Japan a bit of a while to catch up.)



Sumo- week one digest

Greetings fans, and welcome to the New Year Grand Sumo tournament, brought to you courtesy of Softmap and Yamada Denki, the two electronics retailers who do for my TV access what the Apple store does for my internet access.

And to those of you who say "WTF, Dan: when are you going to sort your life out?" I say: the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. And by "blowing", I mean "twisting".

Anywell, Dan is happy because he has Sumo to look forward to every day. For those of you who don't follow the sport, it is the comeback for Asashoryu, who was suspended for two tournies by the antiquated collection of pant-pissers on the Sumo council for the heinous crime of participating in a charity football tournament when he took some time off from Sumo on the pretext of recovering from a back injury.

Damning though the evidence is, I don't think falling over on some grass is quite as damaging as being bashed around the ring by the likes of Chiyotaikai.

After beating the snot out of fellow Yokozuna Hakuho in front of the Yokozuna Deliberation Beards prior to the tournament, Asa looked odds on to be the least popular comeback champion since Tyson beat up Frankie Dettori Bruno for the second time.

However, Asa blotted his copybook on day two of the tournament: losing to pouty Jon Kunimura-lookalike Kisenosato. Hakuho, meanwhile has a clean sheet and is out on his own as the tournament leader. Asa and a couple of rank-and-filers are one win behind as the tournament enters its second week today.

Yesterday saw Asa pull out a great escape as he was forced to the edge of the ring by Dejima, before pulling off a matador-esque sukuinage (beltless arm throw), which nearly had his opponent buying a ticket for readmission. Asa conceded afterwards that it hadn't been particularly pretty Sumo, but his nonchalant demeanour as he sent Dejima out was great comedy.

(All the action's after 4:30- look how calm Asa is, the cocky devil.)

Hakuho had a tough bout against Miyabiyama, but came up with the goods to protect his unbeaten record, although I expect he had a pretty sore face this morning.

Although Hakuho holds the lead in the current tournament, the outcome will most probably be decided on the final day (a week today) when the two Yokozuna are scheduled to meet. Watching Asa in preparation for bouts at the moment, he doesn't seem to be suffering from a lack of motivation. On the contrary, watching him glare off into the crowd during warm-ups one gets the impression that he would like nothing better than to stomp some heads. Understandable, given his treatment at the hands of the Sumo Council. The other evil gaijin (me, VMM) are hoping he'll score a comeback win. Nothing against Hakuho, but it would be nice to see him give the finger to the haters.

Pugnacious Ozeki Chiyotaikai, meanwhile, followed up on his near-success in the Kyushu tournament by losing the first seven matches of this tournament, retiring from the tournament after yesterday's defeat. In his defence, he has been hampered by the injured elbow Hakuho inflicted on him during their fierce battle in Kyushu.

Go on, then: happy memories...

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Saturday, January 19, 2008


The shortest 15th Century of all time, but welcome nonetheless

For those of you not in the know, I enjoyed a payday for the first time in four months on Monday. I celebrated by paying off my rent, so I'm back on instant ramen again. I don't give an arse, though: I survived this long, so I'm pretty confident I'm going to make it.

On which subject, a few thank yous are due:

To my family for being amazingly understanding and supportive

To Tricky and Brett for getting me drunk

To all my well-wishers and benefactors

And to the VMM, for putting me back on my feet when my race was all but run

Not much else to report at the moment, so I'll take it out on a musical number:

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Thursday, January 10, 2008


New Year - redux

Courtesy of the VMM, here's a snap of the old bill grabbing hold of one of the participants in the New Year "Pair of twat yankees fighting like girls in the street" deathmatch.

For fans of katakana, "yankee" means "young punk" or similar in Japanese. Furthermore, yankee in picture has got mad purin hair.

If you're still not worn out by all this culture, it's woth noting that Narits-san, the temple I visited, is primarily concerned with protecting worshippers from traffic mishaps.

Rather a prosaic theme for a temple, I thought. Still, it's best to have your bases covered.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008


Friday night, Saturday morning

Sardine-packed into Triangle to see DJ Marky last night: birthday celebration for Tricky who kindly ponied up the cash for me to get in.

What a chum, I thought: least I can do in return is try to get him an honourable mention.

So, crushed down the front of the club, I did my bit. There was no way of making myself audible above the D & B, so I typed out the necessary on my phone and held it up for the MC to read. He read it and sniggered a bit.

And, god bless him, he did the deed.

"Shout going out to Tricky: 31 years old and as ugly as sin, apparently..."

Sadly, Tricky was hiding in the stairwell having a D & M about the nature of true love with someone else's ex. It's the thought that counts.

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Anti-social gaijin, shamelessly using the Shinsaibashi Apple store as an internet cafe

For those of you who, after the brilliance of my recent posts, found the last one a bit of a let-down and are consequently unsure as to whether or not to read this one, the title pretty much covers it.

For the rest of you (this may particularly be of interest to out-of-pocket former NOVA employees in the Minami area): all of the display computers in the Apple store are hooked up to the net. So, I've been in here pretty much every day since school closed for the New Year break.

Not without its drawbacks: no coffee or chairs. Plus Morita Toshiko-san (former AVON student working at Apple store) is probably beginning to think that she has acquired a stalker, or- worse still- A Prospect. Score one for imeeji chenji (image change): blondes really do have more fun.

Other than that, I'm getting royally hacked off with the repetitive playlist in this joint. Might have to bring my iPod with me tomorrow.



The best and worse of katakana

(Grammar bastards take heed: the title's meant to be like that...)

Komon-sensu, although phonetically derived from "common sense" is closer in meaning to "common knowledge." Good material for Japan-bashing here: those caustic observations just write themselves.

Fortunately, the evolution of the Japanese language has a fantastic ace up its sleeve:


1. A caramel pudding

2. Needing to have your roots dyed

Come on Latin: keep up!


Friday, January 04, 2008


Hold on for just one more day

The last time I got paid- the last time I actually got paid paid- was in September.

I've been living in the 1400s for the past three and a half months. Except that my new job pays on the 14th of a month, so I suppose I should call them the 1300s now. Except that this month the 14th is a national holiday, which leaves me pretty much back where I started: waiting for the 15th.

Tonight, Tricky is going to stump up the cash for me to come out on his birthday celebration. Tomorrow, I start counting down: "Ten..."

Just a little longer.

Just a little


Thursday, January 03, 2008


New Year/Japan's finest

Visited a temple for New Year: Kourien's Narita-san which commands magnificent tailbacks up route one. Fortunately, I went by bicycle and thus was exempted from said traffic grievance.

Narita-san is a pretty cool temple situated uphill from Kourien station. The whole neighbourhood was full of vendor stalls and suchlike, not to mention hordes of 364-days-a-year atheists.

Best of all, a fight kicked off down the steps from the temple's car park. This was absolutely brilliant entertainment, as there was about five minutes' worth of push-and-shove foreplay before the two protagonists actually managed to kick it off (I think their mates just got bored of holding them apart.) From my elevated vantage point just outside the entrance to the temple, I honestly could have sworn it was two girls fighting, except for the gruff yells.

Having watched the kicking and scratching for several minutes, I decided that the most civic thing to do would be to inform the relevant authorities, this apparently having not occurred to the several hundred other witnesses. I wandered over to the car park and grabbed the nearest Charlie Sheen.

Oi, kenka aru de.
Oi, there's a fight going on, you know.


Kenka aru de. Kaidan no shita. Kite koi.
There's a fight going on. At the bottom of the stairs. Let's go keep the peace, you lazy bench warmer.

The two policemen shuffled along after me to the top of the stairs like two men going to their execution. Pausing at the top and surveying the brawl at the bottom, two guys throwing fists in a crowded area with women and children nearby, they did what policemen always do in this country: they radioed for back up. Whilst they were killing time at the top of the stairs waiting for their eight mates, they weren't spared the scorn of the local youths for their lack of heroism.

Eventually, a bunch more of the boys in blue arrived, at which point one of the assembled Doris Days had a brainwave, accosted them and told them there was a fight in progress (good work DD- why do you think there were eight of the goons marching in this direction)

The whole posse waded in to put an end to the entertainment. The VMM waded in with them and stood there as cool as a cucumber, snapping photos on his mobile phone whilst the police separated the combatants.

NOTE: Image to follow, provided courtesy of the VMM. Next time I'm in a real net cafe and not the damn Apple store.

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