All posts by Andrew Kincaid

Andrew Kincaid is a writer and a history buff. He has been enamored with history for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he would often go to the library, check out huge stacks of books, and spend hours delving into the dusty past. Now he writes about the more colorful aspects of history on his blog, Oddly Historical.

The Unsolved Murder of Akio Kashiwagi

baccaratAkio Kashiwagi was a whale. No, he didn’t perform tricks at Sea World. Casinos call super-elite high rollers whales. How high did he roll? He would bet $200,000 a hand at baccarat tables. When he visited Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, he would wager $14 million an hour (Johnston, 1990). Kashigawa worked as a Tokyo real estate investor, and like James Bond he enjoyed baccarat.

His love for the game led to problems with creditors. When he died, he owed $9 million to American casinos (New York Times, 1992).

akio-kashiwagiKashigawa was said to be a normal Japanese salaryman outside of his high rolling habits. For example, he enjoyed samurai dramas and traditional Japanese furniture. He married a popular geisha who was 6 years older, and they had 3 children together. As a strict parent, he worried about alienating his eldest son, and he owned expensive paintings that he lent to museums (Watanabe, 1992).

At age 54, he was found dead in his kitchen, stabbed 150 times with an object resembling a Japanese sword (Watanabe, 1992; New York Times, 1992).

Japanese media speculated one of Kashigawa’s creditors decided to make an example of him.

His house lacked signs of forced entry, and Kashigawa always locked his home (Watanabe, 1992).

The middle child of 10, he worked as a farmhand and later as a guide at Mt. Fuji. Kashigawa entered real estate just as the market began to explode, but his money-lending business earned him a shady reputation. He was said to disappear on loan-due dates so debtors couldn’t pay. Kashigawa would then seize their property. He seized land a kindergarten stood upon, evicted the children, tore down the school, and built an apartment complex (Watanabe, 1992).

His murder was never solved.

Japanese and American Violence


It sounds like a crime straight out of CSI or NCIS. For those of us in the United States we shrug. Murder is so common in the news that we only blink. Back in 2008, the US saw more than 12,000 gun-related murders. Japan: 11 (Engel, 2014). Kashigawa’s death stands out because of its rarity and circumstances. According to a study by the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (2014) less than 1 person in 100,000 is murdered in Japan. In the US, that number is 4.8 per 100,000. The report further explains why:

The country’s homicide rate is associated with a stable and prosperous society with low inequality and high levels of development. Young Japanese males now commit only a tenth of the homicides committed by their predecessors in 1955, and the age and sex distribution of victims tend to be uniform across age groups. This has been attributed by some researchers to, amongst other factors, extremely low levels of gun ownership (1 in 175 households), a greater chance of detection (according to police data, 98 per cent of homicide cases are solved), the rejection of violence after the Second World War, the growth of affluence without the accompanying concentrations of poverty common in many highly developed countries, and the stigma of arrest for any crime in Japanese society.

This isn’t to idealize Japan. If anything, Kashigawa’s death suggests a strong presence of organized crime in Japan, which most people who study Japan are aware of. Rather, I want us to think how we  consider crime. TV shows like CSI and NCIS make crime glamorous in many ways. Sure, the bad guys get caught, but crime is shown as an exciting chase, a battle of wits. Criminals appear to be heroes against the government and the status quo.  Anime like Psycho Pass and Ghost in the Shell show the same. Crime is generated by society. There is a strong correlation between crime and economic opportunity (Kanayama, n.d.). Money had a hand in Kashigawa’s death. People with fewer economic options (or feel their business is threatened) resort to theft and violence. American society often focuses on having more and better. That pressure stresses those who lack the economic options, and many turn to crime. Ghost in the Shell touches on the higher end of this. Those with wealth often turn to crime because they seek to preserve their lifestyle or feel as if they can get away with it.

In any case, Japan may have lower gun violence than the US, but that is primarily because gun ownership is lower. An act in 1958 limited ownership of weapons by citizens: “No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords,” with a few exceptions (Allemon, 2000). This law didn’t prevent Kashigawa’s murder. This blog post is turning a little political, but these are topics that we need to discuss. Swords and many types of guns are designed for one thing: to kill people.

Limiting access would reduce the number of deaths associated with these weapons. The proof is in the statistics, but it cannot eliminate it. After all, 11 people still died from guns in Japan in 2008. If we could magically make all guns disappear in the United States, we will still see just as much violence. Although we would probably see fewer fatalities. The issue isn’t with firearms (for the record, I come from a hunting family, and I have no issues with owning hunting rifles and shotguns and other hunting-oriented firearms) but with society. Japanese culture’s focus on community and family encourages its lower level of violent crime.

Likewise, American individualism encourages violent crime. Individualism places value of the self above that of the community. It makes selfishness a virtue, and selfishness leads to increased disregard for the welfare of others. However, you can also argue community can encourage violence: gangs. Gangs appear when a sense of belonging is missing. But if American community hadn’t eroded as it has, gangs would have fewer voids to fill.

This is a heavy set of topics for an anime and culture blog, but it is important for us to think about these problems. It is important to set aside all the media hubris on the issues and the political hubbub about gun ownership. We must look at the underlying reasons why violence happens. It will never disappear, but deep societal change, a slight shift away from individualism and toward Japanese-style communal focus, would benefit the United States.


Allemon, M. (2000) The Japanese Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law: Translator’s Introduction. Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal Association.

Engel, P (2014) How Japan’s Murder Rate Got to be So Incredibly Low. Business Insider.

Johnston, D. (1990). “At $200,000 a Hand, He’s Trumps Kind of Gambler,

Kanayama, T. an Arichika Eguchi (n.d.) Japan’s Challenge on the Increase in Crime in the New Century.

New York Times (1992). “A Top Gambler is Killed Owing Casinos Millions”, New York Times.

UNODC (2014) Global Study on Homicide 2013

Watanabe, T. (1992) “Global High-Roller’s Trail Ends in a Mystery,” LA Times.

Dragon Ball–The Freeza Arc, Book 1

20160320_194730Dragon Ball Z is one of those series that I’ve evolved on over the years. It was big among the geek crowd in my middle and high school years, but at the time I was more into shows like Inuyasha and Full Metal Alchemist. Then, after Chris started this blog, we attempted to watch the original Dragon Ball Z series, and while I could see where it had potential, the vast amount of filler in the show turned us off.

But then Toonami added Dragon Ball Z Kai to its line up, and I decided to give the series another chance. Now the show has become the highlight of the week. It is a vast improvement over the original, not only in terms of art but the story as well. From what I understand, the Kai series is closer to the original manga than the first anime was, so was happy to find that the original source material wasn’t as ponderous as the anime became. I don’t want to sound like I’m downing on the original anime–if I had grown up with it, I’m sure I’d love it as much as some of you do. But for someone trying to get into the show who didn’t grow up with it, well, it’s a tall order.

Long story short, while I was once skeptical of how good Dragon Ball Z was, now I’m a believer. So when Chris asked me to review a full color copy of a full color version of the manga we received from VizMedia, I jumped at the chance. The book covers the beginning of the Freeza Arc. After his defeat at Goku’s hands in the first arc, Vegeta returns to Freeza Station to recuperate from his injuries, intent on going to Planet Namek to gather their Dragon Balls and use them to wish for immortality once he recovers. However, Vegeta is beaten to the punch by the evil emperor Freeza, a powerful being who also wishes to use the Dragon Balls to achieve immortality. Vegeta rushes to Namek, hoping he still has times to get his hands on the Dragon Balls.

20160320_194850Meanwhile, back on Earth, Son Goku is recovering from the wounds he received fighting Vegeta. Many of his friends died in the battle with the Saiyans, and now the remaining Z Warriors want to gather the Dragon Balls from Namek to revive them.

The book is beautifully illustrated, with vibrant colors and detailed artwork, more akin to Kai than the original anime. All in all, the story and dialog is similar to Kai–I believe there were a few small differences, but those may have more to do with my faulty memory than anything else. Manga is new to me–I’ve never been big on comics, and manga in particular throws me off since it reads backwards to what I’m used to. Even so, I enjoyed this book, and based on my limited knowledge of the genre, this volume is a solid addition to any manga lover’s collection.


Available at Amazon.

Japan on a Pedestal: Thoughts on the American Idealization of Japan

Japan_map_1783Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun. American has long had a complicated relationship with Japan. America forced Japan to open her ports to the wider world for the first time after nearly 500 years of isolation, resulting in Japan’s astonishing transition from an agrarian feudal society to an industrial powerhouse. This planted the seeds that eventually bloomed into flowers of death and destruction at Pearl Harbor, when Japan struck at the American “sleeping giant” in retaliation for cutting off the Empire from vital oil reserves. After the wholesale destruction of World War II, which saw Japanese cities leveled by firebombing and two atomic bombs, America helped her former enemy rebuild and become one of the most formidable economic powers the world has ever seen. This eventually led to competition between the two nations, especially in the area of consumer electronics and automotive manufacturing. Even so, our two countries remain staunch allies to this day.

Woodblock print of Commodore Perry, the man who forced Japan to open her ports.

Woodblock print of Commodore Perry, the man who forced Japan to open her ports.

This very, very brief history of Japanese/American history serves as a backdrop to a curious phenomenon that has arisen in contemporary American culture, especially among those who consider themselves Otaku. There is a tendency to put Japanese culture on a pedestal, to hold a romantic view of life in the Land of the Rising Sun. Sometimes this view leads to a longing to live in Japan, one that when finally acted upon leads to a fair bit of disappointment. After all, it is easy to forget that even though Japan is home to some weird, weird stuff, people there live like the rest of us. They work, pay bills, go to school, and worry about their families the same as people in the US. Life for an expat in Japan, once the initial culture shock and excitement wears off, probably isn’t that different than life in the states. If anything, it would be lonely, because there are many cultural barriers between Japan and America that a person may not be aware of until their wading in hip deep.

The question is: where does this romantic view stem from? There is probably more than one cause, and they will of course change from individual to individual. If a person is lonely and misunderstood in their current community, a sort of “the grass is greener” mentality is a possible explanation. But perhaps a more general explanation is possible, and it is rooted in our shared history with Japan.

Japan and America are, at their roots, radically different. Japan tends to be very traditional, structured, and community oriented. America tends to be more individualistic, more enterprising, and more progressive. However, there are some telling similarities as well. Both cultures historically value hard work and determination. Both have a warrior ethos that is central to how they see themselves (the Japanese samurai; the American minuteman/revolutionary.) Both value honor and respect for family. And both have a tendency to be isolationist and xenophobic.

The Golden Hall, a relic of Japan's ancient past. "Horyu-ji11s3200" by 663highland - 663highland. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons -

The Golden Hall, a relic of Japan’s ancient past.
“Horyu-ji11s3200” by 663highland – 663highland. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons –

These similarities gave a sort of cultural compatibility that allows for the sharing of arts, entertainment, business practices, technology, and the like. Especially in modern Japan, there is enough that is familiar to Americans in Japanese culture that they feel like they would be comfortable there. At the same time, Japan is different enough to be exotic, what with it’s unique history and cultural practices. I think this comes to the heart of the American idealization of Japan: they’re like us, but they’re different enough that we can project fantasies onto those differences. Familiar, yet exotic. Known, yet unknown. Accessible, yet inscrutable.

Perhaps this is why so many Americans have such a romantic view of Japan. This, at least, is the conclusion I have reached. So what is wrong with putting Japan on a pedestal? Why are Chris and I making a point to reveal as much as possible about Japan as it is, rather than as it is often perceived?

The modern Tokyo skyline. "Skyscrapers of Shinjuku 2009 January (revised)" by Morio - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

The modern Tokyo skyline.
“Skyscrapers of Shinjuku 2009 January (revised)” by Morio – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

When a person puts something (or someone) on a pedestal, they cease to see the object of their adoration as it is, and only see it as they wish it to be. They see their conception of the idealized, rather than the thing itself. This leads to a distorted view of the idealized object/person, and leads the admirer to a flawed understanding. Now most times this is harmless, but it can lead to a lot of disappointment and unhappiness when the “bubble” of distorted view is popped. Imagine an Otaku’s disappointment when they move to Japan and find existence there as humdrum as it is here, and find that they do not mesh with the culture because they fundamentally misunderstood it.

In addition, projecting an idealized image onto Japan (or a person or anything else really) is fundamentally disrespectful. That is because you are not accepting it for what it is, but rather making it what you want it to be. If you truly love Japanese culture, you would accept it as is and try to understand what is really there, without your own biases interfering.

To conclude, the way of seeing Japan in America is distorted by a tendency to idealize our ally and friend. Anime fans and Otaku especially have this tendency. This likely stems historically from the close, often antagonistic relationship our two nations have shared. We would do well to recognize this tendency toward idealization, and cultivate a more realistic view of the country and culture we find so fascinating.


Andrew’s Guide to Blogging–Good Writing is the Key to Good Blogging

In the first two installments of this series, we talked about how to choose a premise for your blog, and in the second I gave a brief primer on different blogging platforms. Assuming then that you’ve chosen a topic and have a platform to write on, you’re probably eager to start clacking away, churning out blog posts with all the enthusiasm of any new hobbyist.

Which is good! That is the first step to writing (and blogging) well: actually writing in the first place. But you don’t want to stop there; you want to make your writing the best that it can be. After all, you could have the slickest looking  blog out there, with an engaging perennial topic that will allow you to continually find new and interesting subjects to write about, but if you write poorly readers will not be engaged and your blog will only receive a fraction of the views it might have otherwise had.

Now, I am far from the best writer out there; believe me, I’m well aware of my own flaws and bad habits. The giant sentence in the previous paragraph is one example. My habit of using parenthesis (for emphasis!) is another. These things are fine in moderation, but taking them too far is another thing entirely. As a blogger who presumably enjoys what they’re writing about and wants others to enjoy reading about it, you want to become aware of your bad habits and to do as much as you can to correct them.

But a lot of that comes with experience. If you haven’t done much writing, in school or otherwise, you need to learn the basics of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure before you can begin to find your bad habits. You can find basic guides online that will move you a long way toward improving your writing. I won’t go into an exhaustive list of different mistakes you might come across in this post, but perhaps in the future I’ll point out mistakes I see often in my online wanderings.

One of the best ways to learn to write is to read. Read a variety of things, both different genres and different mediums. Read the newspaper. Read other blogs. Read articles by big news sites. Read books from the 19th century. Read modern books. Read books from different genres. See how different people write in different circumstances, and see what appeals to you and what doesn’t about those writing styles. You’ll learn a lot about the basics simply by reading and then becoming aware of how your own writing mimics (or doesn’t) other authors.

You will start to become aware of how to structure sentences and how to present subjects in a clear, concise way, which is definitely what you want when blogging. Be careful though, because you might pick up some bad habits along the way. For example, my wordy and over long sentences stem from having read many works by H.P. Lovecraft, who was infamous for his dense prose. While I liked his style, these days it isn’t as favored as the more concise, direct style you see in novels and especially online.

Another key to getting better at writing is to allow yourself to suck. Looking for bad habits is one thing, but it’s another thing to nitpick yourself to the point that writing isn’t fun. You have to allow yourself to write crap, because that’s how you get better. Writing anything, even if it is the most incoherent, poorly structured, hardly readable hunk of garbage you’ve ever had the misfortune of laying your eyes upon (*cough* like some of the stories sitting on my hard drive *cough*) is better than writing nothing at all. A blogger who doesn’t write any posts isn’t a blogger, just like a novelist who does nothing but plot, plan, and outline but never actually writes the damned novel isn’t a novelist.

So write, but don’t rush to post. Write, and hold in the urges to edit as you go, then release them once the post is done. Be ruthless. If it doesn’t need to be there, cut it. If it sounds off and you don’t know how to reword it? Cut it, you probably don’t need it. Look for typos, awkward sentences, and misused words. Built in spelling and grammar check features help, but knowing what to look for yourself–and when to break the rules–is critical.

A guide to good writing is far beyond this little blog post. My goal here was to get you thinking about how you could improve your writing to make your blog the best it can be. You don’t have to be the next Ernest Hemingway to have a great blog; all you need to do is learn the basics, and write to the best of your ability. It takes humility–you might find that you’re making a lot of mistakes. That’s ok. You might go back to your older posts five years from now and cringe. That’s ok too! That means you’re getting better–in fact, if your writing style hasn’t changed at all in five years, there’s probably a problem.

In the next installment of this guide, I will talk about how to source your blog posts. We will go into primary and secondary sources, and where to find the best sources. Not only that, we’ll talk about how to evaluate sources, and tips on citations. Stay tuned!

Andrew’s Guide to Blogging–How to Choose a Blogging Platform

In the first installment of my guide to blogging, I touched on how to choose a premise for your blog. Perhaps you already had some idea of what you wanted to do, or perhaps you wanted to blog but had no idea what to blog about. Either way, hopefully my post was a bit helpful.

This week, I’m touching on the next step in the process: choosing a blogging platform.  This can be a little overwhelming, since there are a variety of options, some that cost money and some that don’t. I aim not to make an exhaustive list of all the options–simply put, I don’t know them all–but more to illustrate my own experiences with different platforms and to point out what I think is best depending on what you want out of a blog.

Let’s get the two easiest and most user friendly platforms out of the way first. These are Blogger (Blogspot when I used it, although I think it goes by both names) and Both services have free options, and both are pretty intuitive to start for the most part. You can sign up and be blogging on the same day with very little set up time.

Now, I haven’t used Blogger in a long time, so it has probably changed in the mean time, but I found it less user friendly than There are more options for customization if you know how to do HTML (again, this was when I was using it more than five years ago, so it has probably changed since then,) but overall the set up is far clunkier and harder to use than There also seems to be less of a blogging community on Blogger. While it is a valid option, most bloggers starting out seem to prefer

There are a lot of pros to starting a blog. The Dashboard is well organized and easy to navigate. You can choose from a variety of pre-built themes that have a lot of easy customization options built-in, allowing you to do a lot with little knowledge of coding.

In addition, there is a very large blogging community associated with It’s easy to follow blogs from WordPress, and I noticed that when I ran blogs I got far more comments and subscribers than when I was on Blogger or even now that I self-host. Also, has a feature called “Freshly Pressed” where WordPress picks its top blogs and posts them prominently on the site. Getting a post freshly pressed leads to a huge spike in views and subscriptions, not to mention a nice ego boost from the surge in attention. has a free, basic package that puts limits on amount of images you can post (I believe the limit is 3 gigabytes, which would take awhile to eat up.) There are paid options that have more features, but they are pretty pricey. has domain registration features as well. I believe it is $25 a year to register a domain with, including privacy protections (which you definitely want to get for the extra five or ten bucks.)

Registering a domain means you can get a customized domain that no one else can copy. The standard domain reads “,” whereas a registered domain drops the “” part. Some people feel that having their own domain registered makes a blog more legitimate, but if you don’t care about that, don’t worry about registering your domain. Overall, for a basic blog that isn’t really image heavy, a free blog would fit your needs perfectly.

If, however, you want a more elaborate blog without the limitations of a free blog or the expense of the upgraded options WordPress offers, self-hosting might be the route for you. All self-hosting means is that you own the domain and pay for server space on a hosting company’s servers.

The company I host through–Bluehost–allows for unlimited media and images, and will let me attach more than one domain to my hosting account (I only have one–I don’t recommend trying to run more than one blog at a time because you spread yourself too thin.) Hosting costs will vary depending upon your needs, and whether or not the hosting company is running any promotions at the time. On average, the basic hosting package through Bluehost is going to run about $120 a year, with an additional $25 or so for the domain registration fees for each domain you host (you have to register a domain if you self host, and again you want the privacy protection.)

Now, self-hosting has its downsides and upsides. The downsides are the costs, and the fact that it takes more technical knowhow to run a self-hosted blog. I recommend running for your blog–it gives you the same easy-to-use features as, especially if you use the Jetpack plug-in, which links your and accounts and lets you basically run your self-hosted blog like a free site.

Also, with you get access to similar templates as you would with a free WordPress blog. If you know coding, you can do more modifications of these templates than you could on a free site. There are good guides online to getting your self-hosted site up and running, and if you do it right you shouldn’t have to do much more than basic maintenance here and there. I don’t personally know much about coding or really anything computer related, but I got OddlyHistorical up and running with few problems, and it has needed very little maintenance in the year and a half it has been live. It’s definitely doable–it just takes more patience to operate, but the flexibility you get from self-hosting is well worth the effort. I recommend it if you’re serious about blogging and want to build a blog that will stand the test of time.

There you have it. A very short guide to choosing a blogging platform. To summarize, your best bet is going to be WordPress. If you want a free, easy to use platform, is the way to go. There are limitations, but this is a solid choice for the beginning blogger. You don’t want to spend a lot of money before you know that you like doing it.

So, if you’re new to blogging, sign up for a free site and start clacking away without worrying about hosting, domains, coding, and all that technical stuff. As you get into it more move toward a self-hosted blog. If need be, you can migrate a blog to a self-hosted blog later. It’s a hassle but doable.

I’ve glossed over a lot when it comes to considering different blogging platforms, especially when it comes to the self-hosting aspect, but this series is just meant to outline the basics. Next time we’re going to talk about how to compose a blog post, especially the importance of proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Stay tuned!

Andrew’s Guide to Blogging–How to Choose a Premise for Your Blog

Chris has touched on topics around anime blogging here before. I decided to do my own take on the subject. This will be the first in a series of posts about what I’ve learned from blogging for the last five years or so on various platforms. It will cover a range of topics, from what platforms to use to how blogs can make money to how social media and blogging can reinforce one another.

But lets start at the beginning. If you want to start a blog, you might (or might not)have some idea of your blog’s premise. Whether it be a Japanese pop culture blog, a reflective personal blog, or a blog about fly fishing, every blog has a premise, an underlying theme that the topics of individual posts revolve around. It can seem overwhelming at first to try to decide from among the many possibilities.

One good way to determine what exactly to blog about is to sit down and make a list of potential blog premises. List everything that you can think of, including things that seem off the wall. Then, reread the list and cross out the entries that your gut says just don’t feel right.

Next, take the ideas that survived the cull and write each one on the top of a piece of paper. Brainstorm potential blog post ideas for each one, noting which premise you have more enthusiasm for and that generates the most ideas. You want an idea that you like but that also has a lot of leeway in terms of subject matter. For example, Japanpowered started more as an anime review blog, and over time it began to encompass Japanese culture as a whole. The premise has held up for three years and more than three hundred posts, with many more to come.

During this process, you might find that you hit on an idea your really like, but it feels like it doesn’t have a wide enough subject matter to stand the test of time. If that’s the case, look at ways to broaden its scope. For example, my history blog, Oddly Historical, was originally intended as a blog devoted to weird science history. However, while that was a wide area, I decided that expanding my premise to include all of weird history was a better idea. This would give me more flexibility to pursue whatever my whim feels like pursuing. So far, I’ve managed to stick with the blog for a year and a half, and it’s still going strong.

Picking a good premise for a blog is important for a number of reasons. It gives your writing focus and makes it far easier to determine what you want to write about any given day. It also allows you to zoom in on a topic you enjoy, which will generate more passionate writing, which will in turn attract like-minded people to your blog.

While brief, this post will help you at least start narrowing down your ideas for a blog premise. Basically, you don’t want a premise that is too narrow, because you won’t be able to find enough subject matter to write about. You also don’t want a premise that is too broad, because your blog will meander and the abundance of choices will make it too hard to pick subjects for individual posts. Also, your audience won’t know what your blog is about, which makes it hard to gain a following. It is better for a premise to be focused, but flexible. Narrow, but broad enough that you can have some wiggle room to pursue other topics that spark your interest as you continue writing.

Next time, I will talk about different blogging platforms. Trying to decide which platform is right for you can be a bit of a pain, especially if you’re trying to decide whether or not you want to self host (I’ll explain what that means too.) Until then, take some time to think about what blogs you could see yourself writing.