Thursday, April 10, 2014

World's #1 Video Crowd-Sourcing platform needs you!




90 Seconds TV! World's #1 Video Crowd-Sourcing platform needs you! 



Several positions in Japan need to be filled immediately!

1) Need experienced project(s) manager in Japan. Perfect business level Japanese a must. Bi-lingual English. Knows how to handle schedules and write Japanese business letters. Experienced in secretarial duties. Understands internet. Working in video production. Work at home too! Very high pay (¥450,000 ~ ¥550,000 yen per month). Apply at: www.90seconds.tv

プロジェクトマネージャー募集 業務はビデオプロダクションでのマネージメント。経験者優遇 その他、日本語英語のバイリンガル、スケジュール管理能力及び日本語のビジネスレター作成技能のあるインターネットに詳しい方を求む 年齢35才位まで 応相談在宅勤務 給与月額45−55万(税込)程度


2) Video editors, camera person, lighting, experts in video production, production managers, all aspects of video production, etc. needed for world's leading online video crowd sourcing platform. We have offices around the world and setting up Japan. Excellent pay and conditions.

ビデオ編集・カメラマン・照明・ビデオプロダクション経験者・プロダクションマネージャー 募集 オンラインビデオクラウドサーチプラットフォーム業務 ニュージーランド他各国にある企業の日本支社立ち上げスタッフです。給与条件等、経験により優遇いたします。オンラインで応募受付 www.90seconds.tv 

Sign up easy! Apply at: www.90seconds.tv

Japan site: www.90seconds.jp


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yen Strengthens 1.25% Overnight - Rough Day for Nikkei 225 Coming?


Now this is a real head-scratcher. The Japanese yen skyrocketed in price over night 1.25%.


The last time something like this happened, the Nikkei 225 had a 500 point drop later that day. But looking at the Nikkei Futures, it shows a 7-point increase.



I would have expected a futures price dropping 200 ~ 300 points for the day....

But, as my wife would say, "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"

Can't believe that the Nikkei 225 won't drop at least 200 today. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words.


There's a very old Japanese saying that goes like this; "If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words."



When I first came to live in Japan, I was told this by many of my close Japanese friends. I couldn't understand it at all. I mean, as a westerner, and a male, it made no sense to me... It didn't make any sense to me for the first 15 or 20 years of my living in Japan. 

My reasoning went like this: How was I to understand what someone is thinking when their words tell me one thing, but they really mean the exact opposite? I am not Houdini or some sort of clairvoyant mind reader! 

I think I got upset about this happening so much in Japan. I think all foreigners who live here do also.

In fact, I remember many years ago, a very close friend of mine in Japan having much troubles because he always took what Japanese people said at face-value and considered them "liars" because they would often say one thing, but mean another. They would rarely "speak their hearts." We had long discussions about this and he would often be angry and demand to me, 

"If they think that, why don't they just say so?!"

It is often said that Japanese people never say, "No!" Also they never say what they really mean. Their true meaning is not in words spoken from their mouths, but from their hearts. 

I used to think I needed a stethoscope to get around Japan and understand what the Japanese were saying!

My very close friend left Japan many years ago and never returned.


This doctor won't need that stethoscope to know what I'm thinking when she examines me

Now, after working in and with big companies as a lackey foreigner or gaijin advisor to high ranking executives; after seeing grown Japanese men crying at meetings; after dismissing several dozen Japanese staff from their duties when I was the only foreigner dumb enough to accept a general manager position at a Japanese company; after serving drinks (and inhaling them) at many corporate parties; after two divorces, and finally one happy marriage (today nearly 20 years); this saying makes perfect sense to me:

"If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words."

Recently, I've had two dear friends visiting from overseas for work. I witnessed this saying in action yesterday twice within the span of a few hours.

The first example was when one of my friends (who doesn't speak Japanese) asked a nice Japanese gentleman to make a short speech in English for a promotional video. The Japanese man said something like,

"Oh, yes. I can do that."

But as soon as my foreign friend was out of earshot, the Japanese gentlemen leaned to me and said, "Mike! What should I do?"

Now, most people would think that the, "What should I do?" means, "Help me with my English." Or, "How shall I say this?" But that's not what he means. Those are his words, but by listening to his heart, I could tell what he was really saying was, "I do not have confidence in my English to make a speech. Isn't there anything you can do for me?"

I looked him right in the eye and said, "I understand. How about we do just a little comment in English and the rest in Japanese?"

His eyes grew bright and he smiled and shook my hand with a sigh or great relief, "Oh yes. That would be best. Thank you."

We held almost all the speech in Japanese. It went well. A success.

The second case was when we went to a different company to organize a project that had been ordered by the big boss. We met two sections chiefs and one of their marketing staff. We did the Japanese business card exchange ritual and sat down. The first thing out of the section chief's mouth was,

"Thank you for coming. We were ordered by our boss to make a video and told we don't have any time except today..."

Once again, any rationally thinking westerner would hear that and shake their heads in agreement.

But that isn't what the guy's heart was saying was, I knew exactly what his heart was saying, and it was this,

"Thank you for coming. We were ordered by our boss to make a video and told we don't have any time except today. This is worrisome as we just found out about it. We have absolutely no plan on what we want and how to do it. Do we have to do it today?"

They had no idea what was going on but couldn't defy the bosses orders... They were hinting to us that they wanted time to make a plan. It was plainly obvious to me. I said,

"Oh? Well, dear sirs, we are merely here to help you and it isn't necessary at all to make this video today. We are here to show you what we can do and when you folks are ready, we're here to help you. We can even attend your planning meetings, if you like."

It was like a huge balloon filled with the hot air of tension deflated right there on the spot. Our Japanese hosts suddenly allowed their backs to relax and they slightly sank back into their seats knowing the "Sword of Damocles" wasn't hanging over their heads at that very moment.

I felt good that I could understand what these two cases really wanted to say when they spoke. It was very satisfying. 

From understanding their hearts, I immediately built a bond of great trust and a sort of acceptance and intimate understanding with these good folks just like the Japanese have with each other. (Or so thinks foolish foreigner? - Me)

It was wonderful that my two foreign friends could witness this first hand when they were here.

If all of us foreigners living and working in Japan remember this, it makes working and living with the Japanese all that much easier.

"If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Professionalism is Craftsmanship: Years of Effort, Dedication and Experience


Professionalism is the same as craftsmanship: work on it and strive for it everyday and, one day, those specialized skills will reward you handsomely. 

As we get older, we must strive for perfection in particular skills as we will never be able to beat mass production like McDonald's. 

I remember when I was a junior high school student. I loved wood shop class and would later go on, with the help of great teachers in high school, to build furniture that won awards at the State Fair (twice in fact! - yes, I was a geek, why do you ask?) 


In 1973, when other kids were making napkin holders in wood shop class, I was making stuff like this French Provincial end table. I won a Blue Ribbon (whatever that means!) at the State fair for this one when I was a sophomore in high school. This table still sits in my living room as sturdy as the day it was built (plus a few nicks and scratches). I'm expecting that this will be an antique in my son's living room someday.


One day, when I was in seventh grade, I asked my wood shop teacher (forget his name) how to make a brace for a table leg that had a dovetail. 

The instructor grabbed the piece of wood I had and said, "You make a 3/8 inch cut along this line." He took a pencil and instantly drew a straight line along the piece of wood, without a ruler or without checking size, or anything; he just scratched it off, just like that, in the blink of an eye, with the pencil right then and there. Then he handed the piece of wood back to me. 

I looked at the wood in confusion. I wondered why he drew a pencil line on my piece of wood? I said, 

"Why did you draw this line?" 

He replied, "I said, 3/8 of an inch." 

"How do you know this is straight and it is 3/8 of an inch?" I asked incredulously. 

He looked at me straight in the eye and said, "Years of experience, young man." Then he walked away. 

I went to my workspace and used a ruler to check the line he had drawn: I was awestruck! It was perfectly straight and 3/8 of an inch all along the breadth of the piece of wood in which he shot off that line seemingly without a thought. 

I was astounded!

Truly, professionalism comes with years of dedication, effort and experience. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

US Government Hypocrisy: Rejects Crimea Voter Turnout at 79% - US Presidential Turnout Much Less But OK!


Even though the people of Crimea have turned out in massive numbers and, reportedly, voted overwhelmingly to join Russia tomorrow, the US Mass Media reports in US rejects Crimea vote, says Russian actions 'dangerous':

Washington (AFP) - The United States strongly rejected Crimea's vote Sunday on breaking away from Ukraine, and called Russian actions in the crisis "dangerous and destabilizing."

Voter turnout in Crimea was 79% and 95% of the votes were favorable to joining Russia. AFP reports in: Crimea votes 95.5% to join Russia in referendum: preliminary results

Simferopol — Crimeans voted 95.5 percent in favour of joining Russia in a disputed referendum on Sunday, according to preliminary results with 50 percent of ballots counted, local authorities said. Referendum commission chairman Mykhaylo Malyshev said 3.5 percent had voted to remain in Ukraine with wider autonomous powers and 1.0 percent were "spoiled ballots".

Why is this funny and why is the US government remarks such hypocrisy?

Well, according to Wikipedia: ‪Voter turnout in the United States presidential elections‬, did you know that a 79% turnout is higher than every voter turnout in the United States for US presidential elections in over 114 years? That's right. The turnout in the Crimea for this election surpasses the turnout for every US presidential election since 1900...



What's the excuse for the US government to say that they will not recognize a popular vote that far surpasses the percentage of the people who vote for the US president in presidential elections? 

The US government says they will "not recognize the results" because of "intimidation by the Russian military"?

From AFP:

"This referendum is contrary to Ukraine's constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Right... And elections held in Iraq and Afghanistan while under the US military boot and with hundreds of thousands of US troops in their countries is different? 

Oh, yeah. I forgot; people LIKE having US soldiers point guns at them. They DON'T like Russian soldiers doing the same.

The only thing the US government can say about this business of not recognizing the will of the people in a popular vote is that in the USA, it's the same: the will of the people be damned.

Stinking hypocrites.

PS: You'll never hear me telling anyone that they should, "Get out and vote!" 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

‪Recent Ramblings: Anarchism, Death and Vacuum Cleaners


Lots of things I've been thinking about recently...

Yesterday, when I told a group of journalists visiting Japan that I am an anarchist, one of them said, 

"But if there were no government, who would build the roads?" 

I replied, "In Japan, all of the privately built trains and subways (and there are LOTS of them), are fast, clean, always on time and cheaper than the government run trains." 

The Journalist's eyes grew wide as the realization sank in and they all said, 

"Oh, yeah... That's right." 

The privately built train and subway stations are also immaculately clean, modern and are filled with shopping for commuters. They stand head and shoulders above the government run trains and stations that are dirty, broken down, and well, they look drab and poorly maintained; like everything else the government does. Not to mention that the government run train system is shoddy and massively in the red every year and a money drain. The private trains are profitable.

Read more about Japan's privately run transport system here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_transport_in_Japan#Major_private_railways 


------------------------------------

I haven't been blogging so much recently for many reasons and one of them is that my dear daughter's grandmother passed away after having a stroke. This fine woman was my mother-in-law from my first marriage. Usually, after a divorce, the in-laws experience a bad relation with the former spouse of their child. But this woman helped me greatly and I will miss her very much.

Komako Hiroki. Thanks Ba-chan. Thanks for everything. I will miss you.

What happens when the matriarch passes away? What happens to a family when the glue, the bond, that held the family together for 5 decades passes away? Read: What Happens When Grandmother Has a Stroke... modernmarketingjapan.blogspot.jp/2014/01/grandmother-had-stroke.html

---------------

Even though it is still quite cold in Japan, the plum blossoms herald the coming of spring. When I visited my daughter's grandmother at the wake, I was pleasantly surprised to find the first plum blossoms of spring had blossomed in front of her house.

In spite of the cold, these blossoms braved the weather. Thanks for the present Ba-chan!

Then yesterday, near my home, I saw many more plum trees in full blossom.



The seasons change. Time moves forward. Everything happens for a reason. 


2014 is still a young year. I am reminded of the writings of C.S. Lewis:

"Life is difficult, so let us be good to each other."

-----------


Finally, the readers of this blog won't get to see it, but I did the voice for a nationally broadcast TV commercial for Roomba vacuum cleaners. It was my first big TV commercial for the year. 


I'm pretty happy about how it came out (usually I am not).

Spring is almost here. Let's have a good year. For ourselves and for our loved ones and friends who have passed.

Remember to treat your loved ones well as:


Yesterday is gone. Today is almost over. Tomorrow isn't promised….

My Interview about Anarchy on Anarchast TV with Jeff Berwick


I was on "Anarchast" from Mexico. Subject is Anarchy with world-famous entreprenuer and talk-show host Jeff Berwick: http://bit.ly/MdB6tB



マイクがメキシコのTVに出演してます。アナーキーについて語るマイク。興味ある人もない人もとりあえず観てください〜!



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"I am Not Dorian Nakamoto"


The idea that the 64-year-old Japanese guy living in California was the lone engineer that wrote the code for Bitcoin is ludicrous.

I work with some of the top engineers in Japan. The oldest ones are in their late 40s. In the world of the Internet, those are the old men. 

Anyone should ask themselves: 

"How many over 60-year-old engineers have I met?" (I've never met/heard of one.) Hell, I've never met one over 50-years-old! 

A 64-year-old guy, the savior of the world, fighting the evil banking system and he's the descendant of samurai no less? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ridiculous!

And now, the online social account for Satoshi Nakamoto had sprung back into life after a 5-year hibernation simply stating, “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.” 

From CNBC:

An online social account for the creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, sprung back into life Friday morning after a five-year hibernation amid growing speculation about his identity. The username Satoshi Nakamoto used an online forum for the P2P Foundation - an organization that studies peer to peer technology - to introduce the virtual currency with a single post back in 2009. The same user returned on Friday morning in an attempt to deny a 4,500-word cover story in this week's Newsweek magazine. Newsweek claimed that the creator of bitcoin was a 64-year old Japanese-American living in California called Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto. But Friday's comment on the P2P Foundation website - using the Satoshi Nakamoto username - simply stated: "I am not Dorian Nakamoto." 

Of course not. 

What is it about Bitcoin that makes people throw clear thinking and common sense out the window?

I wrote: "The inventor of Bitcoin, being one guy, and actually Japanese with samurai ancestors is too fantastic to be true.... Hell, if he is a Japanese, he has a higher chance of being a relative to the inventor of Poke-Mon than having "samurai ancestors." Read all about why here: http://modernmarketingjapan.blogspot.jp/2014/03/newsweek-has-wrong-guy-with-this.html

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Think Newsweek Has the Wrong Guy With This Satoshi Nakamoto.... Here's Why...


(This blog post was inspired by: Is Bitcoin Legal? Illegal? a Currency? a Commodity?)

I read the Newsweek article concerning "discovering" Satoshi Nakamoto the inventor of Bitcoin... I also chuckled out loud when I read Newsweek's rebuttal about this Nakamoto guy's denial. It reads:

"Newsweek stands strongly behind Ms. Goodman and her article. Ms. Goodman’s reporting was motivated by a search for the truth surrounding a major business story, absent any other agenda. The facts as reported point toward Mr. Nakamoto’s role in the founding of Bitcoin." 

As a long time Japan resident, Japanophile, and all around half-Japanese born geek and well studied in Japanese history, I can tell you that when I read the first Newsweek article, "Discovering Nakamoto," I was fascinated too... 

Until, halfway through the article, I hit one sentence...

The sentence read: "Descended from Samurai and the son of a Buddhist priest, Nakamoto was born in July 1949 in the city of Beppu, Japan, where he was brought up poor in the Buddhist tradition by his mother, Akiko." 

I immediately stopped reading it right there because it lost all credibility at that point. Why? The "descended from Samurai" sentence defies belief. 

In the 80s I worked under a guy named Hasegawa who was a Japanese historian. I will never forgot the day when he showed me an English textbook, written by a caucasian American, that said, "Japan's economic recovery was due to hard working Japanese. The Japanese received their work ethic from their samurai ancestors."

Hasegawa threw the book down, scoffed and said, "Ridiculous. This is western romanticist fantasy that Japanese have samurai ancestors. No one has samurai ancestors! Absurd!"

After that, I began to look into it and, indeed, the numbers of people in this country who came from families who were samurai you can count on ten toes; they are basically non-existent because most samurai were too poor to marry and, in a class society, you generally marry within your social strata. That would mean that, generally speaking, samurai who married would have married the daughters of other samurai... (They certainly wouldn't marry the peasant class which was 98% of the population.)

I already mentioned that most samurai couldn't afford to marry. (At the peak of the samurai warrior class (about 1598) there weren't a few hundred thousand of them in total...) 
(See: http://www.alljapan1.com/counter/index.php?cat=175)

Sure, that doesn't dispute the entire Newsweek story, but that's not my point. 

Realistically speaking, it doesn't compute... The odds of this guy, Nakamoto, being the Bitcoin brain AND having samurai ancestors would be akin to, say, Steve Jobs being directly descended from George Washington or Benjamin Franklin... Or even worse odds than that as most of the samurai disappeared 400+ years ago. Yeah, I know... It's anal-retentive (I'm that way often)...But stuff like that bothers me... That this is in this article throws into question the entire credibility of the source of this information for this story.

It sounds like the fantasy script for a samurai anime about Japan, where the good guy, a "Son-of-samurai," against all odds, fights the bad guys... What? Is this the script for next Disney produced Star-Wars movie? 

Then when people say this is Newsweek article is "investigative reporting" I roll my eyes... Yes, I do have a problem with that... This sounds more like hype, promotion or simply trying to sell magazines (by the way, that issue of Newsweek was its triumphant return to the news racks....)


You can't make this shit up!.... Well, I take that back... You actually can!

I think this is just another farce that works to discredit Bitcoin... Not that it needs help in that department with recent news.... I also think this will make Newsweek and print media even more of a laughing stock than it already is.

This samurai business makes me extremely skeptical of this entire story.

The inventor of Bitcoin, being one guy, and actually Japanese with samurai ancestors is too fantastic to be true.... Hell, if he is a Japanese, he has a higher chance of being a relative to the inventor of Poke-Mon than having "samurai ancestors."

----------


This article inspired by my friends Peter Tilley (Bitcoin expert) and Mish Shedlock over at Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.jp/

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 1 (Life in the Cooler) Upon Arrival to Rehab Everyone Must Detox in the Feared Cooler


Today's blog post is the first in a series of articles about events that happened over 20 years ago; my time in drug rehabilitation in Japan. Today will be my first day - well, first few days. I want to write down my experiences for the five weeks total I was in rehab. 


Tokyo Skyline (photo by James F. Setz)


I entered rehab because of a serious addiction to speed. My daughter had just recovered from a nearly two year fight against cancer and it was a victory for me. During that time, not only was I paying well over $5000 a month for hospital bills (private hospital and my insurance company wouldn't pay for that), I had to support two other daughters by holding down several jobs at once. I look back now and do not know how I managed it all. I certainly could not do it again. The hardest part to admit about all this is that I was a speed addict. People think that speed addicts do that drug for fun; well, it may be fun at first but it soon becomes a habit like coffee or cigarettes. Towards the end of my ordeal, I was doing about $2000 a week in speed. 

I didn't do the speed to get high. If I didn't do the speed, I'd fall asleep. I had gotten to the point whereby, if I didn't do any speed, I couldn't just function normally again. What a miserable existence it was. 

Usually, drug rehab in Japan is, at the least, a three to six month ordeal. Many people are there for a year or two. Some people are in there for many years. There were two guys in the hospital that I was in that had been there since they were 16. They were 66 when I was there. Why they were there for so long is that, in Japan, if someone won't agree to be your guarantor and look  out for you after your release, then the state won't let you go. These guys had probably caused their families so much misery that no one wanted to see them again. They were guests of the state for more than 50 years. If they haven't died, they are still there.

There were many other people who had been in an out several times. One guy, who I called, "Mister Cool," told me that he had been admitted, released and readmitted a total of nine times. I'm sure he isn't the record holder either. Mister Cool was very cool, calm and collected. Everyone else was going crazy and climbing the walls to get out of that place, but not Mister Cool. He took it all in stride. I asked him if he wasn't anxious to get out of the hospital. He told me that he was. But he also added, "What's the point of rushing to get out of here? In no time, you're just going to wind up back inside."

I was in and out in five weeks. That seems short but when I was in, it seemed like an eternity. That I got in and out so quickly was because the doctors deemed that I wasn't so bad (I thought I was and I thought they were crazy) and, the longer one stays in rehab, the more difficult it is to return to society as a productive member. So the doctors wanted me out of there as soon as possible. Once in, I wanted out of there immediately and wondered why in the hell I ever volunteered to go in in the first place.  

I would have written down my experiences at that time but I was too messed up and couldn't see any future past the end of my nose. The only future I was looking forward to was my wife visiting in the hospital and bringing me chocolates everyday (former drug abusers usually get addicted to chocolate as chocolate gives a Dopamine rush like drugs do); eating food at the hospital cafeteria everyday and getting the hell outta that place. 

At that time, I was a proud new student of life in the most famous drug rehab hospital in all of Japan: Matsuzawa Hospital. In fact, Matsuzawa Hospital was the most famous drug rehab center in all of Asia. It was said that if you went to Matsuzawa and "graduated" (meaning were released back into society - never to return) that was the same and just as difficult as getting into Japan's prestigious Tokyo University and graduating.

There are lots of "funny" things about Matsuzawa. To me, the funniest part of Matsuzawa Hospital is that they put people who were recovering drug and alcohol patients into the same wards as people who were patients due to having mental disorders such as schizophrenia and the like or being mentally disturbed (uh, everyone is mentally disturbed to a certain level). Me? I was a former druggie about to go straight. I was looking forward to it. Why was I looking forward to it? Because I had voluntarily admitted myself to this madhouse. I was sick of my life. I knew that I only had three choices: Go to prison, die, or go to drug rehab. Being a coward, I took what seemed the easiest route. When I later told the other patients in my ward that I had volunteered to enter drug rehab, they all thought that, surely, I must be the craziest one in the entire insane asylum.

I don't know about today, but in Japan at that time, if you voluntarily entered into drug rehab, unlike the USA, you don't leave until the doctor says it is OK. I didn't really understand that when I went in.

When I was admitted into the hospital, I had no clue as to what to expect. I was asked to lay on a stretcher. The next thing I knew was I was being strapped in. I didn't fight it. I thought strapping people to a stretcher was for safety as, "Maybe they are going to carry me and I don't want them dropping me!" The next thing I knew is the doctor pulled out this massive syringe and was about to give me an injection that looked to be the size of a can of Coke.

The doctor began injecting the liquid into my arm. 

"Ha!" I laughed. I knew I was tougher than this. I was a hard core druggie and I was a foreigner. My body size was much larger than these puny Japanese! "This pharmaceutical grade stuff is for woosies! I've been doing the best!" I thought... 

I said to the doctor with a laugh, "Doc, you're going to need stronger stuff... That's not going to work on me, my friend!" The doctor just smiled at me and nodded in agreement as he continued injecting me....

I was determined to stay conscious. I repeated to the doctor, "I'm............ made of..... much tougher..... stuff...than... ZZZZZZ.... zzzzzzz >snork!<... zzzzzzzz......."

Out like a light. Off to baby bumpy nigh-nigh land....


As I said, I would have written these experiences down on paper and pencil when I was first admitted but I was too screwed up and I think they didn't allow people to have writing materials (for reasons that might become obvious later). Perhaps writing materials were forbidden because people would have figured out a way to stab themselves or someone else with the pencil or maybe they'd commit suicide by hanging with a pad and pencil? Or maybe they would have been slipping notes under the nurses' station window that said stuff like, "Get me outta here!" or "How about calling out for a delivery of a quart of Jack Daniels, eh, sugar tits?"

When one first goes into rehab, they are put into "the cooler." The cooler is like what you see in these World War II movies; Allied soldiers captured by the Germans who make trouble at the prisoner of war camps are sent to detention in "za kooler" by the camp kommandant. People who were in the hospital for drug rehabilitation are put into the cooler because, I was told later, that many of them get really violent and so they are placed there for a few days, under heavy sedation, until they can get some of the chemicals out of their bloodstream and calm down. 

The cooler was a small room not tall enough to stand up straight in and just barely large enough to lay down in. I supposed two or three people - or maybe four could be squeezed into one room. All four walls and ceiling and floor were padded. Of course, like in a movie, the room was completely white. There were no windows and there was a connecting segment that had a toilet in it. There was no door on the toilet nor any way to flush the toilet. It reeked. The door was heavy steel with a small window that had bars on it and there was a slot at the bottom of the door for food to be passed through.

After getting my injection of sedative, I passed out dead to the world. Later, I awoke. I had no idea how long I was out. I had no idea what time of day it was. Was I out a few hours or a few days? I'm still not sure to this very day. I awoke in the cooler. I was laying on my side and, even though I was conscious, I couldn't move. Not just my body, I couldn't move my head, my fingers, anything. I was no longer in a straight jacket, it's just that my motor functions had completely stopped due to the elephant tranquilizer they gave me. By golly those sedatives did work! My faith in big pharma had been restored!

There was a jangling at the door which was above my head and, since I couldn't turn my head, I couldn't see the door. Suddenly I was witness to the black shoes and white pants of 4 or 5 medical doctors and male nurses. They were all mumbling about something. They crouched in front of me and one doctor pried open my eyelids and flashed a flashlight into my eyes. First right, then left. He held the back of my neck. Another doctor was checking my pulse. The doctor said, "Are you okay?"...


I wanted to say, "Yes, doctor. I am fine." But I couldn't. My brain was processing the information but there must have been a problem in the synapse department because when my brain ordered my mouth to say, "I'm ok" all that came out was "Gurglllkkkkdxxx" and a heck of a lot of slobber... I couldn't respond. I had become human jello like the blob in those 1950's science fiction movies.

The main doctor looked at me for a moment and then, with a sigh, said to the other doctors, "Not yet." With that, they all stood up and walked out of the cooler their farewells were the jangling of the keys locking the door behind them.

Slam! Echo. Silence....

My brain was shouting like a lost trapped teenager screaming to his friends who were searching for him yet walking right by as they couldn't hear his cries. "Hey guys! No! Wait! I'm okay! Come back, guys!" I was jumping up and down against the door railing in my mind, but, in all actuality, I was still laying there on my side unable to make even the most basic motor reaction. "Maybe they could read Morse Code if I blink my eyes correctly?" I thought.

Drool... "Come back guys!" But I was tired... So tired... Close my eyes and then back to wonderful sleep...

This situation continued for the next day or two. It got so bad that since I could not move myself, I soiled my clothes. My wife tells me that she came to the hospital and visited the cooler while I was out cold and cleaned and changed me. I guess that is typical and how things are done in Japan. I do know that it is true at Japanese hospitals that family will often come and give invalid family members baths and change clothes. That my wonderful wife did this for me I will always be thankful for even thought I don't remember it at all. My wife would later tell me that I was in the cooler for at least "4 days or so."

The next day, the doctor's came back in. In their previous visit I was so angry at myself because I was still unable to respond coherently to their questions. I promised myself that the next time I saw them, I'd be able to respond and show them that I was okay. I wanted desperately to get out of the cooler as soon as possible. And it was obvious that if you couldn't at least say, "Hi doc!" they weren't going to let you out of the cooler. So I began practicing talking and saying words. Kind of like a self-enforced linguistic rehabilitation.

After a while, I guess a few days, I was finally able to sit up by myself.... Or, at least, what I thought was close to sitting up. I tried to listen to the door so that I could hear the footsteps of the doctors before they came to my door. I figured that this holding area where to cooler was has at least three or four or five other coolers next to mine filled with occupants who, like me, were unable to control any of their motor functions or their bladder. Maybe that's why the place reeked so bad.

At length, the jangling of the keys woke me from my trance. I tried to sit up very straight and I shook my head to try to sober up. The doctors came in and went through their ritual. 

The doctor said, "How are you doing?"

This time I really made the effort to speak clearly but I still even had trouble just lifting my head. I gathered up every bit of strength I had and yet, all I could do was mumble and drool. Again my brain was saying the words but my mouth couldn't do the movements. "Urgh..gxxsnyxxx..." 

The doctor looked at the other doctors and to my horror said, "Not yet" and they all stood up and walked out again. 

In my mind, I panicked, "No! I'll be okay in a minute! Just let me get dressed and splash some water on my face, guys! Come back!" 

Slam. Jangle. Clink. Jangle. They were gone in a flash. I was alone again in hell. Still, exhausted. Once again, I fell to sleep.

After a while I was awoken again by noise at the door. "The doctors!" I thought, "They've changed their minds and have come back to let me out!" I was so happy! But it wasn't the doctors. It was the sound of food being pushed through the slot under my door. I grew angry at this. I went over to look at the food they had given me. It was some sort of rice gruel. In Japan and China, rice gruel is often given to sick people as it is easily quite digestible. I hated rice gruel. 

That they'd walk off and then serve me rice gruel started me off to getting even more angrier the more I thought about it. I started to work myself into a huff. I think about that now and that was a sure sign that the tranquilizers were wearing off. The more I thought about my situation, the more pissed off I began to get. "Who do they think they are putting me into the cooler like this? What is this rice gruel, crap? Don't they know I hate rice gruel?" I decided that I wanted, no demanded to speak to the doctor. How dare they do this to me! I demanded my rights.

I pulled myself up to the door and tried to peek out through the bars at the top (like Steve McQueen did in Papillon) to see if I could see and doctors or nurses running around. But I couldn't see anyone. I began to loudly proclaim all the typical things you see people in the movies say when they are in incarceration:

"Hello! Hello! Anyone there? Hey! I need to talk to the doctor. There's been some sort of misunderstanding. I shouldn't be in here! Hello!" But I couldn't see anyone and the area outside of my cell was silent. I kept speaking, out, louder and louder, almost shouting for awhile, but it was no avail. I considered really screaming bloody murder at the top of my lungs, but didn't. I thought there was no use. There was no one there. I figured that no one could hear me.  Thank god I didn't throw a temper tantrum and start banging on the bars and doing stupid things like throwing my food around or banging the bars with the food plate like a caged ape. I'd find out the next day that they could hear me but allowed me to say and do as I pleased. I was under observation. 

I gave up and sat back down. I was still mad though. I looked over to the rice gruel and decided then and there that I was going to show them. I was going to turn the tables on these wicked people. I was going to gain my release through the peaceful protest methods of the greats like Mahandas Gandhi: I was going to go on a hunger strike and then, next to death, I'd become a world famous celebrity and they'd have to release me.

Yes. That's the ticket! I'd starve myself out of there. I wouldn't eat anything until those doctors came back and started begging me to eat something... I could see it all. Imagine, me! Me as the serious and devout man with a cause and those stinking doctors begging for mercy! They be begging for me to eat. I'd be on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine! I'd be the world leader of an entirely new protest movement! (I think about that now and realize that the sedative must have been wearing off because I was back to having crazy thoughts of grandeur and delusion!)

"Hmph! That's fix them!" I thought. So I sat there having decided that I wouldn't touch the food. That warm food that, actually smelled pretty good. I began having conversations in my head. There was an angel of my good conscious on my right shoulder and the devil sitting on my left. The three of us began to argue.

"Come to think of it, I am pretty famished as I hadn't eaten anything in three or four days!"

"No! You coward! You'll never get out of here if you give into their tricks!"

"He's right, you know. For all you know that food is laced with more sedatives and mind control drugs. They want you to eat it. That's part of their 'plan.'"

"But, you know, my wife really likes that rice gruel stuff. I've never really cared for it. But it does smell pretty good."

"What? What kind of thoughts are these? You've just started a hunger strike and you've lasted maybe 15 minutes and you're giving up already? Don't you have any respect for yourself."

"Yeah? Don't you have any respect for yourself?"

I knew it. Those guys were right. So I stuck with the two out of three guy's opinion and decided to stick it out with my hunger strike. For one, I wanted out of there. For two, I hated rice gruel. If it had been something like fried chicken I think I might have listened to whoever it was who wanted food (I think the wimpy one was me).

So I gave up again and, determined to go on hunger strike, at least until the doctors came the next day, I laid back down in an attempt to sleep and forget about my troubles and the food. When the doctors came in the next day and saw that I hadn't touched my food, they'd become alarmed and, I figured, then we could negotiate on even terms.

I tried to sleep but damn if my stomach didn't stop growling. I was starving. I went back and forth with myself trying to fight the urge to eat, but, after several hours I was so famished I couldn't stand it no more. I had to eat.

I felt like that guy in Midnight Express who was so hungry that he ate a cockroach to survive. I was so hungry that I could do the same! ER, not eat a cockroach, but to eat rice gruel which was almost as bad (at least in my book!)

I jumped to the door and grabbed the spoon and wolfed down a huge bite of gruel. "Yeech! This stuff is cold!" I thought. But it tasted pretty good! "Dammit! I thought, "Why didn't I eat this when it was hot?"

Within a few seconds I had downed the food. I even licked the plate. I put the plate back at the door and tried to peer through. "Thank you! Anyone! That was delicious! Hello! That was delicious!" There was no one there.

A stomach half full and nothing to do, I fell back asleep. I don't remember how much time passed but I do remember later thinking that there might have been sedatives in the food, but, no! That would be a quite inefficient way to administer drugs. They had me locked up. I wasn't going nowhere. They could come in and give me pills or injections and there'd be nothing I could do about it. Why would they lace the food with drugs?

After a while I had to go to the toilet so I saw the spartan settings for the first time. There was only a wash basin and toilet. As I mentioned, after using the toilet, I had no way to flush it so the room stank even more. I tried to yell for someone to flush the toilet out through the bars in my door, but there was no one to hear my cries. Again, I fell asleep.

The next day, the doctors came back. This time I was determined to shape up so that I could ship out. 

The doctor looked at me and said, "You look better today. How are you doing?"


I sat up as straight as I could and drooled out a weak but recognizable, "Fine, doctor.... Thanks to you!" 

I thought I needed to add a, "Thanks to you" to show that I was coherent enough to know that I needed to show some appreciation to get myself outta that place. I figured I'd do some a*s kissing now and play my aces when the time was right. I was satisfied that I was able to give the answer I had planned. 

The doctor then said to me, "Mike. We are going to take you out of here today and put you in a ward with other patients, But if you get violent, you're coming right back in here, do you understand?" 

"Oh stay my beating heart!" I thought but "Yes, doctor." I answered. "I won't be violent."

"We are sending you to unit D-40 where there are other patients. You'll be able to take a shower, shave and have your own room that you will share with other patients. If there is any trouble at all you will be brought back here. You'll be able to eat in the cafeteria and if you have any questions, the nurses will help you. Okay?"

"Okay. Thanks." I said.

"We will give the order to bring you out of here to the male nurses and they will take you out before lunch time. Please immediately wash and get ready for lunch."

"Yes. Thank you."

The doctors got up and walked out. I was so happy! Freedom! I was going to be free from this wretched place! But I wondered what kind of place D-40 was? Was it like a regular hospital where I could walk in and out as I pleased? Or was it more of a military style place much like the World War II prisoner of war camps that things like the cooler were known to accompany?

I grew a bit anxious. Suddenly D-40, while sounding better than the cooler, struck fear in my heart. What if it were like a prison where the inmates have their own pecking order and boss? What if I were thrown into a place with a bunch of drug addicts and former Yakuza who didn't like foreigners?

Was I about to become the whipping boy and someone's bitch in D-40? Was I going to be waking up every morning with an empty bottle of baby oil knocked over near my head, a sore a*shole and an ashtray on my back? What horrors were awaiting me? 

I had a few hours to find out. 

It was in D-40 and my next experiences that I was to find out that my next ward was not so much like a prison in the movies or like a gestapo prisoner of war camp, but much more like an insane asylum ala the classic film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Why? Because in Japan, drug addicts and mental patients are co-mingled in the same hospitals and in the same wards.

I didn't know that when I checked in. I was about to go from the frying pan into the fire.