Monday, January 26, 2015

Random Thoughts on Monday Morning: Toilet Paper, McDonald's, Coffee, David Bowie - Can You Find the Correlation?....

Thought #1: Toilet paper. 

It's strange, but I often think about toilet paper. I think many Japanese people might. I know people in Greece and Venezuela are thinking about it all the time, especially right now.

Did you know that, even today, many Japanese people are hoarding toilet paper? My evidence is anecdotal, for sure, but I know three families who have a few months of toilet paper stored up. 

We are one of them. There must be many many more.

Remember when I told you that Japanese people hoard toilet paper because there have been several times in modern history when it was completely gone for months on end? Yes, in 1979, when there was an oil shock, I have heard many stories from Japanese people that toilet paper was a commodity that could not be found anywhere. And that situation lasted for months. People were using old newspapers for the duties.

How could one of the world's top economies not have toilet paper? (Well, we have a problem with butter, so that may be a clue.... See: Economic Illiteracy and How Japan is Responsible for the Destruction of the Western Economies

Well, now, here is that "No Toilet Paper" threat in Greece (of all places). From Keep Talking Greece: "ND-candidate “sees” even toilet paper shortage, if SYRIZA wins the elections" 

"If SYRIZA wins the elections and forms a government on Monday Greeks will run will run out of toilet paper. This is what ND-candidate Sofia Voultepsi implied just 48 hours before the elections.

“Bank run” vs “toilet paper run”?"

Well, it looks like Syriza won the elections.  I figure that there is a toilet paper shortage coming all over Europe as EU bureaucrats are about to start shitting their pants because they are going to all be out of jobs soon enough. 


I mentioned this toilet paper shortage stuff to my friend Jeff Berwick and he tells me the exact same thing is going on in Venezuela; no toilet paper.

I suspect that this toilet paper problem is representative of a larger problem (of course) that has something to do with distribution, corruption (maybe) and government interference with the free market (of course). I mean, it's not like toilet paper is perishable, is it? How could there be a shortage (excepting that all of a sudden there are more people shitting their pants? There certainly is no sudden increase in the number of assholes....)

I think it is even weirder to have a toilet paper shortage in Japan because, as the Japanese are world famous for high-tech toilets, lots of people have toilets with washlets built in. We do. 

Why my wife wants to buy tons of toilet paper? We have a 1/2 year supply downstairs... No kidding. 

Thought #2: McDonald's. 

McDonald's is doing very badly in Japan: Plastics in food. human teeth in french fries... And it's not just Japan, in the UK a woman found "A worm in Chicken McNuggets."

That's disgusting, but the story is funny and shows how stupid people are. The woman was quoted as saying, "'I'm very fussy about what I eat and when I saw what was in the McNugget I went white."

She's fussy about what she eats, yet she was eating at McDonald's????

We live in a world with LOTS of stupid people.

Thought #3: Coffee

I used to eat McDonald's many years ago.... But stopped for my health about 15 years ago. I do like McDonald's coffee though. In fact, my favorite coffee is 7-11 coffee at ¥100 or McDonald's coffee at ¥120. I refuse to pay Starbucks ¥500 (about $5.00) for a cup of hot water and crushed coffee beans! 

7-11 is the best deal. But with McDonald's I can sit down inside. So that's good. I never eat the other McDonald's stuff.

But I no longer eat any fast food at all anymore. 

Thought #4: What Do These Things Have in Common?

Well, this is a stretch, but here goes....

Did you know that, in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Japan came in third on total medal count and gold medals after the USA and the Soviet Union? That's right; Japanese used to be an Olympic powerhouse.

No more. 

As the years went by, though, Japan became more and more inept at sports and fewer and fewer medals were to be had. Nowadays, if a Japanese athlete comes in fifth, it's big news. If they get a bronze or silver, they are superstars for life.

Well, as the medal count has consistently dropped over the years, in the early 90s (I think it was) a right wing commentator said something to the effect of, "The Japanese athletes no longer win as many medals today because Japan now has sit down western toilets instead of traditional squat toilets. Thus, Japanese kids no longer do squats at home so their athletic ability has declined." 

No kidding. (If anyone can remember the name of the guy who said this, remind me, will you, please?)

"But, Mike, what does that have to do with McDonald's?" 

Hold on, I'm getting there....

In 1971 when McDonald's first came to Japan, it was founded by a guy named Den Fujita. He opened his first McDonald's in a ritzy Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, an upscale district in Tokyo, Japan. It was a smash success. 

At that time, Den Fujita was quoted as saying, "Americans are much bigger and stronger than the Japanese and the USA wins much more Olympic medals than Japan does because they eat things like McDonald's." 

He really did say that, and he was dead serious. 

I'm not making this stuff up.

You might remember when John Belushi set the world record in winning 8 Gold Medals at the 1975 Olympics?... He attributed his success to "Little Chocolate Donuts" being at his training table every morning. Can't argue with success.

So you see, I guess we can deduce from this that, because the Japanese no longer use squat toilets, they have lost lower body strength because they no longer do squats; in spite of the fact that they gained strength because they started eating more McDonald's.... 

Just like Americans and American athletes do.

So, now you know what the relationship between toilet paper and McDonald's in Japan is...

Sort of.


Silly joke I thought of when I was contemplating coffee yesterday in a coffee shop with my friend...

Question: "What do you call David Bowie when he is sitting in a coffee shop?"

Answer: "Ziggy Starbucks."*

* Apologies to Ziggy Starbux of "Roxy Suicide."

Thanks to Jeff Berwick and James Santagata

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Independent Artists From USA, UK and the West, Cannot Get a Recording Deal in Japan

Again, recently, I've had several people writing to me telling me to introduce them to a Japanese record label because they are "absolutely sure" they can break big in Japan. So I'm going to go over this subject again....

But before I go into why you, independent artist in the west, will never get a contract with a Japanese label (until you have a contract with a western record label first - and why bother? You can become big without either label because of the internet)... Let me give you some reality about Japan. From Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Other Western Artists are Minor in Japan 

This column is about Japanese Rock stars versus Western Rock Stars in Japan... The premise is that, in spite of the hype and hoopla in the western press, USA and UK artists have seriously fallen out of their position of "Most Favored" in Japan (and China and elsewhere in Asia). That's what this post is about.

But, over these last fifteen years, sales of albums from US and UK artists, and in turn their popularity, have dropped off a cliff. Western artists are just not the draw or as popular as they were a few decades ago. 

The last big western artist who could come to Japan and quickly sell out a few nights at Tokyo Dome was Michael Jackson at the height of his popularity in the early nineties. 

But that was a long time ago. Very few western artists can come to Japan anymore and sell out the dome even for one night. Most today don't even try. Coldplay certainly couldn't do it. 

In fact, I don't think there are any bands in the entire world (excepting, perhaps a Rolling Stones reunion) that could sell out a few days at Tokyo Dome these days. Aerosmith is playing there next week, for one night, but they are having a hard time selling tickets and will be lucky to sell out the arena seats on the first floor.

Read more here:


In the last month, I've had three different artists' managers and agents from the USA, Ireland and Britain ask me for help in getting them a release deal or a music publishing deal in Japan. These people ask me because I play a lot of new and independent music on the FM radio. Perhaps they also know I used to run one of Japan's most successful Indies labels (in the late 80s & early 90s) and I have been involved with alternative music and the promotion of that kind of music since the late 70s.

Today, I'd like to write a short post about why it is next to impossible for an unsigned independent artist in the west to get a record or publishing deal in Japan in the year 2015. I do this to help people and I do this to help myself because I've written this explanation more times than I care to and don't want to do it anymore. 

This example though, I'm sure, is not just limited to the music industry. I think this example is a microcosm for all industries across the board in Japan when it comes to subsidiaries and licensing product across international boundaries.

Let me give you specifics.

I can think of three artists that I really like and have been playing on our weekly FM radio show. (I guess I shouldn't name them. You can see our playlist here:

Because of this support and these efforts to bring new music to Japan, I have earned the reputation for being the guy who finds these new artists and plays them years before they break even in the west. May I pat myself on the back? Recent examples were Amy Winehouse who we began playing heavily in 2006, a full two years before she she broke big and, more recently, Adele who was introduced to me by Rodney Bingenheimer. I was the first one to play these artists in Japan years before they got popular even in the west. Over the years there were hundreds. Guns and Roses was another notable one way back when. 

Like I said, this is an example, a microcosm, of how other businesses in Japan work also. If there is a parent company and a subsidiary involved you can be sure that politics play a big part in all decisions that are made... This point is obvious but many artists fail to grasp this.

In the past, I have also introduced independent artists to Japanese record labels and music publishers and have gotten them contracts. But that was well before the year 2000. Japanese labels and music publishers today are not interested in signing new western acts for the Japanese market and here's why...

Let's take the example of a world-wide label like Warner music. Warner in the USA releases hundreds of albums annually. Of those hundreds of albums, only a handful get released in Japan. It is unclear how the process for deciding which artists' albums get released in Japan is made. Ostensibly, it would be a decision founded on which artists' album the local label people believe would be most popular and sell the best, but I would be a fool to tell you that is exactly how it is done. I have been in Japan long enough to know that politics and favors are quite important in the decision room. I know that sometimes the good of the company is sacrificed in order to placate some employees' desires and wishes. 

I have witnessed, more than five times in my life, adult Japanese men over 40-years-old of age, actually crying or pouting like little children at business meetings because they didn't get their way. I've seen this in the last month, actually! Grown men crying like children! It was astounding. 

So remember that, perhaps, sometimes an album is released just because Mr. Tanaka is a fan of that artist even though the rest of the staff don't feel that it will sell well... And when it doesn't sell well? Does Mr. Tanaka suffer any penalty? Not immediately and perhaps never. In a few years he might be transferred to another section.

Ever heard of the Peter Principle? If you haven't you should. The Peter Principle says that, "In a hierarchy, every employee will rise to their highest level of incompetence." That, in a nutshell is one of the biggest reasons I can see why business is bad in today's Japan.

But I digress.

The western arm of the label releases hundreds of artists a year. In Japan, only a few of those are released. Politics play a big part. Now, when hundreds are not released, what would happen if the Japanese side arbitrarily picked up an artist from, say, London who wasn't signed to the sister or parent label and released that artist in Japan? Well, you can bet that the sister or parent company would soon find out about it and they would be very pissed off. It would become a major political problem for the western label (destroy their credibility in the local market) and it would then become a major political problem for the Japanese side too.

The western arm of the label would say (of course), "Hey! We have all these other artists that we released. Why don't you release one of those? Why don't you help us promote our artists?" A big row would ensue. And people would be angry and relationships frayed or destroyed.

The Japanese, not being ones to want to make trouble, would rather decline unilaterally signing an artist from the west - one that, by the way, doesn't even have management that the Japanese side has a relation with - so if there is trouble, they have no one to blame. 

The Japanese just won't do it.

In the west, you have the Billboard charts. In Japan, we have the Oricon charts. They are both corrupted by payola but they are what we use. To see the most recent Oricon charts, we have to subscribe and pay money. There's no way I'm going to pay money for that so here's the most recent Oricon Chart Top 30 chart that we can see for free. It's from Nov. 11, 2011. See if you recognize any names on the Top 30:

See any Adele? Lady Gaga? Katy Perry or Flo Rida? No? Neither do I and you will rarely, if ever, see them on any Japanese charts. Like I said, sales of western artists have dropped off a cliff in Japan. 

There won't be any recovery of those sales anytime soon, either.

Understanding these things, then you can see why your band, unsigned in the west, has a basically zero chance of getting signed here in Japan. I hate to break this news to you good folks and great musicians but it is what it is. Don't take it personally at all if a Japanese label or publisher doesn't answer your inquiries about your music. It's not about the music anymore.

Imagine if there were a time slip and your band were the Beatles, as yet undiscovered in 2015 and unsigned to a label in the west, there's no way a Japanese label will sign you for release in Japan. It has nothing to do with your music and your talent and gift; it has everything to do with intra-company politics.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, if they were 18 years old today, would have a major problem. 

And that's why the major music industry is dying.

Good riddance?

For Linda, Margaret, Jp and Allison, and all the others...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Amazon Marketplace is Really a Hit or Miss

I like Amazon. I love being able to order what I want from the comfort of my home and having it delivered to my house. It is easy and quick. Usually.

I have read many articles that talk of the future demise of Amazon. Most of these I've read from Karl Denninger. Here's an example: "Amazon: A Look At The Sheet" I've read where Amazon works on a paper-thin margin so now that many US states are now charging sales tax, their paper thin profit margin has disappeared. Some writers say that spells disaster for Amazon.

I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon did start losing lots of money and had to raise prices heavily, which will allow competitors to cut deeply into their market share (good! competition lowers prices!), but I think Amazon has a good enough reputation that that won't happen too soon... 

Amazon makes my life easier... Well, sometimes....

Ordering directly from Amazon has always been a good experience for me. I can't remember even once having something delivered that wasn't what I ordered or as advertised....

Amazon Marketplace, on the other hand, can be a real "hit or miss" proposition... It can even be a major pain in the ass if something is wrong and you have to return an item.

In the case of books or music on CD or DVDs, I can not complain about Amazon Marketplace. Sure, sometimes they are slow as hell, and things are pretty beat up, er, I mean, "very used" but, the prices are cheaper and I'm usually willing to wait and don't care about condition as long as the CDs play or DVDs don't skip. 

But when it comes to ordering many other things on Amazon Marketplace, I have to give warning.

Case in point: Kitchen Blenders.

In the last 5 days, I have ordered three blenders from Amazon Marketplace vendors, and then finally, paid a bit more and ordered directly from Amazon. (I need a blender because it's the easiest way to get raw veggies: I make Green Smoothies for breakfast everyday religiously.)

In the case of the two from Amazon Marketplace vendors, I ordered brand new blenders that cost between $100 ~ $200 (You'd think that the more expensive the item is, the better the unit or service - usually true, but in my experience, not at Amazon Marketplace). Both I immediately returned because when I opened the boxes, it was obvious that these units were not "new," they were refurbished or returned items.

I like Oster products. I always buy new ones if I do. Sorry, this doesn't look like a new model from the factory, does it?

In both cases, the packaging was obviously (poorly) redone and in one case, it looked as if a repairman had written "low" with a marker pen on the face of the blender's control panel (the kanji for "hikui" - low) as if there was some sort of problem with the power switch and it was in the repair shop.

Now, call me anal-retentive, but if the packaging is all bent and torn in places and/or the unit has writing on it, then that is not a "new" unit; it is a unit that has been returned defective and repaired (therefore, "refurbished" or "repaired") in the case where the box is all messed up, it might be considered "new" by some people but not me. 

The blade holder at the bottom of the glass wasn't screwed onto the unit correctly (it was crooked) and look at those tears and wrinkles on the cardboard. This looks like it was returned and then repackaged by chimpanzees. How did the bottom blade attachment get on there crooked? It certainly didn't come from the factory that way.

As consumers and customers, we should never tolerate bad service or being sold something that is different than advertised. If service is bad at a restaurant, quietly get up and walk out and never come back; if you order an item and get something different than you ordered, you must complain and return it.

In the mid-1970s, I worked in the camera section at a department store in the USA. That department store often had sales on cameras and accessories. I do remember a particular camera model that came in one day. It was super cheap. It was super cheap because it was a piece of junk; both the other guy who worked there and I thought it was a cheap-assed piece of shit. That camera sold for $8. It was flimsy, they broke constantly, and at least 30~40% of them seemed to ship from manufacturer as defective. 

If we sold one, it was sure as the sun rises in the East, the customer was going to return it. That made lots of work for us because then we had to listen to someone get mad at us and then fill out all sorts of forms and we'd lose a customer (also lose our 3% commissions!) 

Nope. I stopped selling those real fast. Anytime anyone asked me about it, I up sold them the $19.99 Vivitar with glass lenses and case and extras and said, "Look at the cheap $8 model. It is completely plastic, with plastic lenses even... When do these things break? They break at the wedding, or family get-together or barbecue party... You don't want to risk that, for a few dollars more, you can get quality that will last for years." Then I'd let them hold the Vivitar and compare: that was a good little camera that was built well. 

So instead of selling the $8 piece of crap (with $0.24 cent commission) that would probably get returned and cause me to do lots of paperwork (we didn't get commission on returns or paperwork - Duh!) I'd sell people a camera, case, film, a few batteries, etc. for about $29.. And have a happy customer walk out of the store and I got about a $0.90 commission! Easy math.  

That's me about the time I worked at the department store. 
I sold cameras. I sold lots of cameras. I was 17.

But I digress.... 

Even though both the other guy and I told our department manager that this camera was a piece of crap and we didn't want them, she went and ordered a couple hundred of them anyway, because the department store chain was going to run nationwide ads for this piece of trash. She ordered them. The people came in in droves. I tried to up sell everyone, but some wouldn't do it. Lots of people bought those things. Of course, lots of people returned them.

We had one hundred of those pieces of crap returned as broken or defective and then we had to send them to repair. Oh, the minutiae of redundant paperwork!

Guess what happened when those cameras came back from repairs? Come on, guess!

Because my boss realized that she had ordered too many of these dogs and that the returns and repairs come out of the bottom line for the camera department, she tried to insist to us that we sell those cameras as "new." 

I ask you dear reader, would you consider those cameras as "new"? I wouldn't.

I got in trouble because I basically refused to sell those. They were "used" or "repaired" or "refurbished" or something, but there is no way in the world those were "new" cameras.

I won't mention the name of the department store because they are doing poorly. 

.....I will say that I hear that Sears Roebuck and Company was once a fine organization. It doesn't surprise me the fortunes of Sears over these last 25 years have gone so poorly.... Hijinks like that went on all the time. 

Oh, but I digress again...

Tell me dear reader, what do you think of this blender? This is actually, the second model that came last night. Should I consider this a "new" model? I wonder what my friends would think if I ordered this and sent it as a wedding or housewarming present or something? 

You're kidding, right?

Anyway, going to give those two vendors bad scores and complain. Finally, I paid a bit more and ordered directly from Amazon. That unit is supposed to come today. If that one is messed up, I'll got to the local electronics store and pick one up.

Buying a blender shouldn't be such a big hassle... It's not rocket science, is it? (I mean, a blender that is new and works and is sold as advertised?) I'm embarrassed to say that I went through almost the exact same experience with Amazon Marketplace vendors 2 years ago when I bought my previous blender that just died.

Live and learn... Some of us (like me) aren't very fast learners.

Amazon Marketplace is fine for used books, music, DVDs, forget it for clothes or home appliances.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Does a Piano Competition Have to Do With Raising Children?

The Semi-Finals and the Finals for the 16th Chopin International Piano Competition in Asia were just held at Showa University of Music in Shinyurigaoka. My just-turned 11-year-old son was in the competition.

The Chopin International Piano Competition in Asia is one of the highest level and most prestigious competitions all of Asia. Just to be able to compete means that these children have made it to the top level of their class. Some of those kids are simply amazing!

In October the finals were held for Tokyo and, in his first attempt, we were pleasantly surprised when our son won a Bronze Medal and made it to the semi-finals. He is in the 11-year-old to 13-year-old category so we did not expect to win a medal (some of those 13-year-olds are incredibly awesome and there is a big difference in growth and body strength between a 11-year-old and a 13-year-old!) So we were extremely happy that he even made it to the semi-finals in his first year trying. Most 11-year-olds didn't pass the earlier competitions.

If you have a child and they are involved in any sort of competition like this, then you know it is not just a competition for the child; it becomes a group effort involving the parents, siblings, an instructor (or two or three) and, perhaps, even some family friends. My contribution? I make breakfast and dinner almost everyday, do the grocery shopping, and am chauffeur and delivery boy so that my classical-piano-trained-wife can focus on working with our son in honing his skill and talent. Thanks to this group effort, and the extra effort of his instructors, he fared well.

A few days before the semi-finals, we had the chance for our son to practice on a real Steinway grand piano for a few hours so I decided to make a video of his practice. It's not often that one can get to where a real Steinway is located and be allowed to video tape and have a run of the stage! So, I just had to make this video! When it was finished, I just knew I wanted you, dear reader, to see it.

This was a live performance, in a private seating, on Jan. 8, 2015 at Shiodome Hall in Tokyo of Chopin Impromptu. If the link doesn't work, click here:

(If you enjoyed the performance and the video by Mike Rogers and Ken Nishikawa, please go to the Youtube link and give us a "Thumbs up!"

Trust folks, that when kids get to this level of skill (the top level in their peer group) in anything; be it any musical instrument, ballet dancing, classical violin, soccer, baseball, swimming, painting; heck, anything involved with art, skill or talent, that they have gotten to the point that it is almost 100% completely up to the child as to whether or not they can succeed. Only if the child really wants to do this and they have the inner talent, hunger and desire to succeed in their hearts and minds, can they take their "game" up to the level they need. The parents can push and push and push forever, but it won't matter (in fact, pushing too much is detrimental); the child must feel and desire to succeed in their goal in their entire being in order to, well, hate to be corny but to "Feel the Force." A flower cannot be forced to grow.

Well, as it turns out, our son didn't make it to the finals. He was a bit disappointed but... at the semi-finals, he played the best he's ever played, so we are more than proud, pleased and satisfied. We couldn't have asked for more! In his first try he made it to the semi-finals so we are not disappointed at all. 

If he didn't play well; we might have been disappointed. But, he played his heart out and played wonderfully. At this level of competition, winners and kids who didn't win (because win or lose, all these kids are winners), are all decided by the tastes and whims of the judges. 

One of my sons instructors was at the competition and witnessed his performance and praised him greatly; she believes he can win. Maybe he can win, but not this year. My son says he wants to try again next year. 

So, we get to go through it all again… Next year. What a wonderful experience and great memories for parents and their children.

As my friend Ken always says; "Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow." 

As my friend Jyoti reminded me;

"What day is it?" asked Pooh.

"It is today." squeaked Piglet.

"Oh? My favorite day!" said Pooh.

Life is fun. We are happy. Hope you are happy too. 


NOTES: I have harped on this subject relentlessly and will until the day I die: I am a professional in broadcasting so I like to think I know what I am talking about concerning the subject of TV. There is no way my son (or any of these other children who were in the Chopin Competition in Asia (or anywhere else) could ever be in this sort of competition or at this sort of level of skill had they been watching TV. Do your children a favor; throw away your TV set. For more, please refer to: The Plug-in Drug

School is, of course, extremely important. I choose my son's school for a variety of reasons and, soon, I will post about that. But for now I'd like to recommend St. Mary's International School in Tokyo. I know many graduates of that school who are leaders in business (presidents and high ranking executives of big companies in Japan) as well as well known musicians and athletes. In fact, in the music department, St. Mary's Boys Choir is internationally famous and has won many awards over the years... You don't get that way without skilled and talented professional instructors. I know that St. Mary's is tops in this country in these fields. I cannot count the number of times, in my capacity as a guy who did marketing for huge corporations in Tokyo that I have met big shots who were graduates of St. Mary's in Tokyo. 

The world is getting more and more difficult. It's getting harder to succeed, and even to survive in. I think this is because of the economy; and it's going to get much tougher from here on out. School is to teach math, reading and writing, but also needs to teach our kids how to think and get a meaningful job, a dream in life and how to prosper in our society. 

Get rid of the TV; get them into a top level private school (or even home school?) Our kids need all the advantages they can get.

THANKS: To my best friend Ken Nishikawa. Without Ken, none of these video productions could be possible.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Astounded by Average American Attitudes Toward North Korea

The North Korea and Sony Pictures and Obama Administration nonsense just amazes me. Because of this recent episode, the US mass media has decided to distract the easily distracted American public away from the issues that actually do matter to them again.... For the umpteenth millionth time.

Instead of looking at things that really matter to the US population, the mass media has Americans back to bashing Kim Dim Son again. It gets tiring.

What astounds me the most about this is that average Americans seem to take some sort of bizarre pleasure in ridiculing North Korea; it's as if they make themselves feel better by bashing North Korea and its "leadership." Sorry, folks, Americans don't have a leg to stand on when making fun of North Korea; especially in the area of political leadership and criminal behavior. 

Both countries are run by psychopathic megalomaniacs that do not differ in kind but in degree only. Yes. Degree only. 

North Korea doesn't run a worldwide empire. North Korea didn't carpet bomb US cities in the 1950s killing massive numbers of civilians, women and children, like the USA did when the USA bombed hospitals, dams and schools in North Korea; North Korea hasn't started wars of aggression or invaded bombed or attempted to overthrow more than 60 nations since 1945; North Korea is not bombing, maiming, orphaning and killing brown skinned children in 7 nations in the Middle East 24/7, like the USA does today... 

There is one area though where the USA and North Korea do greatly resemble each other though: Both are lead by family dynasties who control the political arena: North Korea has the Kim family; the USA has the Bushes and the Clintons.... 

Yeah, all a barrel of laughs!

You never make yourself look better by ridiculing someone else.... How Americans are so ignorant and arrogant that they can make themselves feel better by ridiculing a basket case like North Korea is simply amazing. Of course North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is a criminal and a clown... But America making fun of this guy is like a 900-pound gorilla bullying and beating up a skinny, scrawny, asthmatic 90 pound weakling.

Immaturity and propaganda of North Korea or the USA? Which is funnier or more ironic? I'm not sure.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's in Japan: Sushi Skyscrapers, Hamburger Sushi, Bizarre Underground Temples, Resolutions...

It is now Jan. 2, 2015. My New Year's Holiday is officially over. I've been doing work all day today and getting ready for the New Year work start which begins day after tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at 5 am) for me.

A few things I decided and thought about over New Years....

First off, I haven't really made any New Year's resolutions except to lose weight. And that isn't much of a resolution as it is under doctor's orders. As I wrote in Near Death at the Hospital, Last Month! - Back in Humor, This Month! I almost kicked the bucket in September of 2014, so the doctor told me that I needed to quit drinking and to stop smoking cigarettes... Those two aren't that hard to do, really! (Funny thing! Easy way to quit smoking is to have some sort of heart disease or cancer and, wallah! You no longer want to smoke! Try it sometime! ) The doctor told me that my heart wasn't working at full speed so to accommodate for that, he said that I needed to lose weight so my heart didn't have to pump so hard for a larger body. Makes sense.

Easy to say, hard to do. I've lost almost 25 pounds (about 10 kilograms) and yet, when I went to see the doctor on Dec. 29, he told me that I still needed to lose another 7 or 8 kilograms (about 16 pounds or so!) Yikes!

Other real New Year's resolutions I made were to stop doing work that isn't fun and to stop working with people who are, well, assholes. I mentioned this before in The Internet, the Handicapped and the Future of Production. But let me repeat: 

Over these last 7 years or so, I have been working with many start-up companies. I have come to the conclusion that there is a fundamental problem with the way many of the people who start up companies think: They all state the goal is IPO. Then they work solely for that purpose: the purpose of making lots of money in order to go public. 

Making lots of money is good. But it shouldn't be the primary goal of your life or even your company. The primary goal of life is happiness (I think); the primary goal of the company should be something like; to make people happy. Or; to make society a better place; or to create a better life. You see, if the goals are to make people happy or to make society a better place, etc., and then if the company succeeds at doing so; THEN THE MONEY WILL NATURALLY FOLLOW! 

It also is impossible to gauge the value of doing a job that makes one happy and contented; jobs that cause stress, worry and unhappiness are everywhere and a dime a dozen. To make the primary goal of "Making money" isn't good because we can make money cheating people, taking advantage of them or just plain treating them like shit.... Which lots of people in management do.

Lots of people who will do anything for money seem to also be idiots or assholes too (funny that!) 

There is another thing that dawned on me: The more idiots or assholes you work with, the more stress you have. The doctor says one of the big reasons I got sick in September was probably stress. I believe that, I was working with some people who were total idiots (and assholes) and that was really stressing me out! So I quit.

Thank God I left that place.

Anyway, the big New Year's Resolution for 2015 is to have fun! I hope you have fun too!


Don't do it. LIfe is short. Have fun. Make everyday count!


Here's some photos I took of stuff I did/saw at the end of 2014 and this morning. There's no particular order, but just things that struck me as interesting:

New Year's in Japan? Well that calls for sushi, and lots of it! As is tradition in the Rogers family, we went to our favorite sushi restaurant. There I saw the skyline view of plates stacked up. Take a look, doesn't that look like Hong Kong from the Kowloon side? Or am I too high on sake?

No way! This sushi is not from our favorite sushi place. It is from the Robot Sushi place I wrote about that is totally fun for kids and a great deal! I saw the cheeseburger sushi and decided that I just had to eat one just to be able to say that I did.... And I survived! It tasted like, well, cheeseburger sushi! (For more on the robot sushi, click: Gaijin Gourmet: My Favorite Robot (Sushi) - Hamazushi)

On the 29th of December, we had a get together at my house and roasted a chicken because turkey is too much trouble. Ken and Ayumi came over (it's annual and they are like family). My daughter Sheena came over and of course my wife and son (and dog) were there. Our special guest for the day was Enrico Ciccu who is here from Italy and living alone in Tokyo (which, even though it is very crowded, can be a very lonely place.)

This shrine is right by my house. It is the Seta Tamagawa Shrine. I walked by there today and spent ¥300 (about $3.60) on a "Lucky Charm." I asked the girl if she had any lucky charms for health or success at work.  She showed me what they had... But those charms were too large to fit in my wallet. I asked her about the tiny cheap ones and she said, "Those aren't for work or health, they are just for luck!" I said, "Luck!? That's good enough for me! I'll take one!" It's currently in my wallet.

This is the underground passageways at Tamagawa Shrine. This is a bizarre place. There are hundreds of these stone Buddha down, underground, in this temple. This temple represents a shrine for Buddhist priests who traveled alone throughout Japan before the Meiji Restoration. This place is very cool... Kinda scary.

Seriously, these statues must weigh 100 kgs... Some are huge and must weigh as much as a car. How the heck did those skinny priests get this stuff down into the underground caverns? The entrance and exit to this place is tiny!

Enrico ringing the bell and making a wish.

This is the shrine at Isehara we visited on New Year's day. There is a funny story about this shrine. Inside the shrine is a huge bell. During the war, when raw materials were scarce, the Japanese military tried to get the priests running this shrine to give up this massive bell for scrap metal to be
melted down and made into armaments. You know, for the good of the country and all that. Well, as you can guess, the priests said, "No!" so the Japanese military took to trying to steal the bell out from under the noses of these priests at night when they were sleeping. Oh, come now! Everyone who has seen the Kung Fu TV show knows these priest guys sleep really lightly and even the sound of one tiny branch crackling under the feet of someone sneaking around at night is going to wake these guys up.... And, if you do wake them up at night, trying to steal their bell, they are bringing along an ass whipping to greet you.... Legend has it that the military tried many times to steal the bell.... Guess what? It's still there to this day!

The dog guarding the entrance to the shrine.

The entire family at Isehara Shrine. We wish you all a very happy and healthy 2015! God bless, er, I mean Buddha, no! Amaterasu bless you and your loved ones with health! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mt. Fuji Jan. 1, 2015 - Happy New Year!

Shot of Mt. Fuji Jan. 1, 2015 from Isehara in Kanagawa. 
I think Mt. Fuji is the definitive photo of Japan for New Year's day.

Happy New Year!

(Photo of Mt. Fuji slightly retouched on Photoshop)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015! あけましておめでとうございます!

(Revised Jan 1, 2015)

Well the year 2014, with all its ups and downs, has ended. Thank god! It was a difficult year for me. I hope that it was a good year for you. 

View of Mt. Fuji from Isehara taken on the morning of Dec. 31, 2014

2015 is the the Year of the Sheep in the Chinese Calendar. It is said about the sheep:

"I am a passive onlooker 
I let bygones be bygones 
Goodness brings me fortune 
I believe in the human race 
I understand the meaning of giving 
My cup is never empty 
I am loyal and just and in others I trust 
I am the sheep"

I wish that you and your family have a safe and healthy New Year's holiday. 

May all your dreams come true in 2015. 

God bless you and yours with health and prosperity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Economic Illiteracy and How Japan is Responsible for the Destruction of the Western Economies

The things that get printed in the Western press about Japan never ceases to amaze me. The most recent article that made me smirk and roll my eyes came out on the Washington Post Blog the other day...  I guess there's a good reason that articles like this make it to a blog and not the actual newspaper; maybe someone is paying attention at the editorial desk at the Washington Post after all...

Get this: The story claims that Japanese people not having sex is going to be responsible for the destruction of the western economies.

That's right. Because the Japanese do not have enough sex (trust they do - they pay for it), and therefore they don't have enough children, this supposedly will result in the collapse of the western world economies. This article is currently doing the Internet rounds and I have been asked to comment many times. So, since my comment is the same every time, I thought I'd save myself some effort and just blog my response to this. My response is below the article quote... So, first, kindly, read a bit on this interesting economic theory.

From the Washington Post Blog: Japan’s sexual apathy is endangering the global economy:

Because Japanese people aren't having kids – which is both partially a product of, and perhaps driven by some of the same factors as, their relative disinterest in sex or sexual relationships – the population is shrinking. It's shrinking very, very fast. The Japanese population dropped by 212,000 people last year, the largest decrease on record. The birth rate is still falling, with only 1.03 million live births last year, a record low and dramatic decrease from 1.21 million the year before... 

This isn't just bad because it means the Japanese economy will have fewer workers and thus be less productive. It's setting up an economic time bomb that will go off before long... For any economy to stay healthy, there need to be enough taxpayers to support all the retirees. But Japan's population is shrinking and aging simultaneously, which means that the number of old people is skyrocketing just as the base of taxpayers shrinks.

Here is my response to this article: 

1) Japan is too crowded as it is. Japan is the size of California yet it supports a population that is 1/2 the size of the US population. 

2) Who cares about the world economy? I don't. I am worried about my own and my immediate family; I don't give a rat's ass about the USA or the EU or people living 6000 miles on the other side of the earth. 

3) Here's my vote for Idiot Statist Quote from the article: "For any economy to stay healthy, there need to be enough taxpayers to support all the retirees." Why? What kind of economic theory is this? Why should I pay taxes to support people I don't even know? (All the while the government takes a cut off the top). And why should other people pay to support me? What happened to individual responsibility? Why is the government even in the business of social security? The government should serve one function and one function only (if that): To protect the nation from foreign invasion. Where in the constitution of Japan or the USA does it say that the government should run a retirement Ponzi scheme (or run national parks, roads, airport security, farm production, dictate how large colas can be at fast food restaurants, what you can and cannot eat or drink, etc...) If big government were the answer to our problems, then the Soviet Union would have been a very successful nation. But it wasn't. 

We don't need more taxpayers; we need to shrink the government (and its out of control spending) and get it out of the health insurance business, the food safety business, the retirement fund ponzi business, the business of "Morality Police" (gambling, drugs, prostitution), giving tax monies to foreign governments in foreign aid, on and on and on.... Phase out Social welfare programs and cut government spending.... If we do so (we won't) then this population "problem" and lessening tax revenues are no longer a problem. Problem solved!

PS: History shows that the government built on fiat currency and deficit spending will out spend revenues in every case; Increasing revenues will only serve to prolong the inevitable collapse of this corrupt fiat Ponzi scheme that we have built today. The sooner the Japanese (and USA) government collapse into bankruptcy and new management takes over, the sooner we can try to make a system that can be sustained; it's obvious to anyone paying attention that this system is NOT sustainable. 

We have been mortgaging our children's and our children's children's future for decades. This shit has got to stop. "What cannot continue, won't." (Can't remember who said that!) 

This photo is not from the Washington Post Blog. These are some girls I took a photo of in Osaka at Nanba station (I think it was). If you like this photo, please use as you wish (Credit Mike in Tokyo Rogers, please!) 

NOTES: So, you say you want these people taking care of your welfare and your life and your families well-being?! You have got to be kidding me!

And while I am railing on government over-reach, you folks know that right now there is a butter shortage in Japan? That's right. It's hard to find, and if you do find it, it's being rationed to one block per customer.

Yes, I do have butter. I always keep extra on hand. I have to; after three years in a row of not having butter because of shortages (and being a guy that likes to cook and bake) I decided not to get short handed again.

The world's third largest economy and we can't keep butter on the shelves? And this has happened now for 3 years in a row. Why is that? Because the morons running the government control milk and butter production. 

These assholes can't even handle making butter and people want them to control their lives and health and the nation's prosperity???? 



For an easy to read and simple to understand explanation of how the economy works, may I recommend: Henry Hazlitt - Economics in One Lesson

Saturday, December 27, 2014

WTF? New Year's (Shin Nen Kai) Party! 新年会パーティー

What the Funday on InterFM is having a New Year's Party! (新年会!)

Inter FMの人気番組WTF(What the Funday?)が2015年1月26日月曜日に開催する新年会パーティーのプロ­モビデオ!

What the Funday? Every Sunday morning 8 am ~ 11 am InterFM. Listen on Radiko live here:

What the Funday? on InterFM webpage:

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