Monday, April 14, 2014

Remember, the J-List Blogger blog has moved...update your links!

Remember, we've moved our venerable Blogger site to our shiny new Wordpress blog, located at, so if you'd like to continue reading the adventures of Peter and J-List, please bookmark that site instead. All the content from this site has been imported over there, and this site will not be updated anymore.
Blogger was good for many years. certainly an easy place to store my J-List updates so people could read and reference them. When Google used an automatic script to delete my entire life's work because it "appeared to be a spam blog," I knew it was time to leave the service for good. The data was restored, but I can't trust them going forward.
Note: if you're an RSS user, you will unfortunately have to update your RSS feeds. If you're not using RSS with convenient sites like Feedly to organize your day's information, you should, it's the best thing since sliced tamago sushi. If you've been kind enough to link to this site, we'd appreciate it if you would update your links. Thanks!
Goodbye to Blogger, you kicked of sucked balls
The J-List Blog is moving. See you at!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Farewell to Blogger -- visit the new J-List side blog!

We're finally ready to make the move from this Blogger site to our shiny new Wordpress blog, located at, so if you'd like to continue reading the adventures of Peter and J-List, please bookmark that site instead. All the content from this site has been imported over there, and this site will not be updated anymore.
Blogger was good for many years. certainly an easy place to store my J-List updates so people could read and reference them. When Google used an automatic script to delete my entire life's work because it "appeared to be a spam blog," I knew it was time to leave the service for good. The data was restored, but I can't trust them going forward.
Note: if you're an RSS user, you will unfortunately have to update your RSS feeds. If you're not using RSS with convenient sites like Feedly to organize your day's information, you should, it's the best thing since sliced tamago sushi. If you've been kind enough to link to this site, we'd appreciate it if you would update your links. Thanks!
Goodbye to Blogger, you kicked of sucked balls
The J-List Blog is moving. See you at!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Life in Japan is Not Easy

Being a Japan blogger, I often read comments from young people around the world about how they "wished they'd been born Japanese," and this always makes me smile a little. While Japan is a wonderful country that's managed to build a peaceful, happy society, there are some areas of life here that the average American or European would have some trouble dealing with. First, education is very important to the Japanese, which means students have to endure school on Saturdays and juku (cram school) in the evenings in order to keep up with studies. In order to get into a good high school or university, students must spend two years or more in "entrance exam hell," too. Then there's the important aspect of getting a job, and students in their third year of university begin a very structured job search, interviewing with hundreds of companies in the hopes of being offered an employment contract with a good one.There's a funny Cup Noodle CM -- er, TV commercial -- which shows job-seeking university students making a difficult trek through the snow. Suddenly they're confronted by five hostile polar bears, who turn out to be the interviewers that the applicants must get past in order to be hired. The Japanese job interview process itself is positively bizarre, too. As far as I can tell, applicants are required to suppress every scrap of personality and humbly downplay all their past achievements if they want to get hired.
Cup Noodle
A Cup Noodle commercial supporting young job seekers.

The History of Hentai Anime

One reason I believe anime became so popular around the world is that it's a medium that's free to tell dramatic stories involving violence, death, love and even sex, which was a big change over the days when American cartoons were overseen by parental watchdog groups to ensure they contained only "wholesome values." While anime has always been well stocked with stories about giant robots, transforming magical girls and sports heroes, there's always been a dark sub-genre hiding in the shadows which most fans eventually encounter in one form or another. This is the genre of overtly sexual animation known as hentai in the West, though this word just means "perverted" or "abnormal" in Japanese, without any reference to animation or otaku culture. (In case you were wondering, Japanese would just use the term juu-hachi kin anime or "anime that anyone under the age of 18 is forbidden from watching," which is a bit of a pun since it also sounds like the word for "18 carat gold.")
The idea of ero-themed art is nothing new, of course: Japan's 300+ year tradition of 春画 shunga ("spring pictures"), based on earlier influences from China, could probably make Hugh Hefner blush. The modern "hentai" genre began taking shape in the mid 80s with the classic Cream Lemon, a series of loosely related stories created by the top creative talent of the day, directors and animators and character designers who also worked on Mobile Suit Gundam, Macross, and other mainstream shows. While Akira, Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing were bringing mainstream anime to fans around the world, ecchi titles like Urotsukidoji/Legend of the Overfiend, La Blue Girl and Bible Black were introducing the steamy side of animation. While Japanese know their popular culture is somewhat unique in the world, they're generally unaware that many associate their country with, say, "naughty tentacles," or that comedians like Jon Stewart make jokes about them.
Hentai anime
Some thoughts on the history of hentai.

More Sailor Moon Stuff

Remember that we've got tons of great Sailor Moon products on the site right now, from plush toys to pantsu to those dreamy Transform Compacts that are being reissued in May. Remember that Sailor Moon items are removed from the site when they sell out, so make sure you shop early as quantities are often very limited.
sailor moon products in stock!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy Cat Day!

This Saturday, February 22, is 猫の日 neko no hi or Cat Day here in Japan, due to the fact that 2/22 can be pronounced nyan-nyan-nyan, which is "meow meow meow" in Japanese. While the number of households keeping dogs is slightly higher, the Japanese are big fans of cats as they make excellent companions in Japan's smaller homes, and if you've got one of those kotatsu heater tables for them to sleep inside they'll love you forever. If you're a cat person, why not consider going to a "cat cafe" on your next visit to Tokyo? You can spend a few hours relaxing with some new furry friends while enjoying coffee and a light lunch. J-List has hundreds of cute cat-related products from Japan on the site, from Lucky Cat statues that bring luck into your home or business to cute cats for your phone to the cat tail that will change the way you view catgirls forever. Why not browse now?

This Saturday is is Cat Day in Japan.

On Transliteration

Transliteration is the act of transcribing words from one writing system to another, and it's an inherently imprecise process because languages seldom have the courtesy to match up perfectly. This is why the old rulers of Russia can be either tsars or czars, why Mao Tse-Tung suddenly changed to Mao Zedong while I was in school and why lovely Korean figure skater Kim Yuna's name is translated as "Yona" here in Japan. When Madoka Magica came along, fans wondered how to spell the name of everyone's least favorite Incubator. Was it Kyubey, which has good balance, or possibly Kyubeh, which creates a pronunciation that's closer to the Japanese version, or Kyuubey, to represent the long first vowel? Or perhaps QB for brevity's sake, or Qbey, which appears once in the show? The translation and editing of Steins;Gate was a very meticulous process since we knew we need to get everything right, and occasionally we had questions of spelling crop up. Should the heir of the Yanabayashi Shrine be translated as Ruka or Luka? And what about the famous phrase Okarin is always uttering? In every case we went to Nitroplus and got an official spelling to use, to make sure the game matched the intentions of the writer 100%.

Mao Asada and "Kim Yona" (in Japan at least)

Ninjas and Japan

One thing I've always been impressed with is the "cultural footprint" of Japan, which is just a small country in east Asia yet its culture and influence can be felt in all corners of the world. Most of us may not know that much about countries like Vietnam or Belgium or Algeria, yet we generally have good store of knowledge about Japan, including information picked up from anime or games, the popularity of Japanese martial arts, concepts that entered our collective awareness during the Occupation after WWII, etc.. One cultural element famous around the world are the 忍者 ninja, the silent assassins who could sneak into a castle wearing those split-toe tabi "ninja shoes" and dispatch a well-guarded enemy without disturbing the dust on the tatami mats. Historical ninja -- the name is short for 忍びの者 shinobi-no-mono or "one who moves silently" -- emerged during Japan's Warring States period (1467-1568), when feudal domains were constantly jockeying for power with each other. Just as with the feudal knights of Europe and the American cowboy, ninjas have been highly romanticized in books and plays for hundreds of years, to the point that most of what we think we know about them is based on folklore. The Japanese know that foreigners are fascinated with their country, and there are TV shows that travel abroad to report on this phenomenon. One show I caught tracked groups studying ninjitsu techniques in countries like the U.S., Canada, Italy and especially Iran. The map showing active ninja groups everywhere in the world -- though not so much in Japan -- was so funny to see it had my family in stitches.

Ninjas are a famous cultural export from Japan to the world.

Sailor Moonies, Start Your Shopping

It's a great day for Sailor Moon fans, since we got a ton of new products in stock, including plush toys and the awesome Sailor Moon lingerie by famous maker Peach John, so you can always get your Moon Prism Escalation when you want it. We're also happy to announce that the popular Sailor Moon transformation compacts are being reissued, so if you didn't get a set you can preorder one now. Sailor Moon items are removed from the site when they sell out, so make sure you shop early as quantities are extremely limited.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Japan, Peanut Butter and Root Beer

Living in another country can really make you appreciate the little things from back home. This morning I was late for work, so I grabbed a piece of toast and prepared to run out the door with it hanging out of my mouth, anime style. I reached for the peanut butter and saw that I was almost out, so I stood there scooping every precious bit from the bottom of the jar to put on my toast. American peanut butter is one of those things I've really come to appreciate since coming to Japan, because no matter how long I live here I just can't learn to like the overly-sweet "peanuts butter" the locals eat. (Certain words like peanuts, suits, sports and buckets are always used in their plural forms for phonetic reasons, even if you're discussing just one.) Other items I didn't value enough until I couldn't find them easily included Vlassic pickles, really fine craft beer of the kind that my hometown of San Diego has become famous for, a good selection of cheese and of course all manner of Mexican food. Root beer is another item that can be difficult to find in Japan, except for Okinawa where it's a local favorite, presumably a remnant of the years when it was a U.S. territory. In our refrigerator right now there's a single can of root beer, which my family of four is going to divide up tonight as root beer floats because we only have one can.

An example of the cute "toast in mouth" meme often seen in...what was I typing?

The Season for Outfitting One's "New Life"

One thing to know about Japan: everything starts in April, from the school year to the official start of work for new employees at companies to the blooming of the beautiful sakura which represent the coming of spring. Because so many things change in April, the preceding months are when people prepare, buying furniture and other necessities to outfit a new apartment, ordering new suits to for entering the workforce, and so on. Companies are all too happy to help with this process, advertising special sales to pull customers into stores so they can buy everything at once. My son will be starting university in Tokyo, so last weekend we drove to a "home center" to start buying things he'll need, including a bed, study desk, and kotatsu. While were were shopping we noticed quite a lot of other customers making purchases, too. The clerk explained that the store was extra busy because everyone was rushing to buy what they needed ahead of the consumption tax hike from 5% to 8%, which takes effect in, you guessed it, April.

The season for outfitting a new apartment.

Ecchi Anime Recommendation: Seitokai Yakuindomo

A few posts ago I wrote about how high schools in Japan often come in girls- and boys-only varieties, though as the population of students falls, many of these same-gender schools are becoming co-ed in an attempt to find enough students to fill their classrooms. That's the story behind Seitokai Yakuindomo, or "Student Council Staff Members," often shortened to SYD. Currently in its second season, it's a playful show about a former all-girls school which recently started allowing boys to attend, though there are only 28 male students compared with 524 females, which results in main character Takatoshi Tsuda generally being surrounded by gorgeous but perverted girls. Originating from a 4-koma manga in the tradition of Lucky Star or Nichijou, the show is a stream of short segments and off-color gags, a great "turn off your brain and enjoy the ecchi jokes" anime. One thing I like about the show is all the gags related to visual novels and eroge, like when student council treasurer Suzu goes to the nurse's office with a fever and Shiho offers to give her a sponge bath, while the mischievous Aria unlocks the door to allow an "event flag" to be set, since a male walking at just that moment is something that would happen in an "H" game. SYD is certainly on the racy side, so if you weren't a fan of Imocho ("Recently, My Sister is Unusual") you might not like this show's approach to comedy. But if you're looking for something nosebleed-inducingly entertaining with excellent production values, you might want to give it a try.

Yet another of my guilty pleasures, Seitokai Yakuindomo.

Steins;Gate is In Production Now!

Remember our good news: Steins;Gate is finally gone Golden Master and is on its way to the duplicators for printing. The shipping date for the Limited Edition of the game is March 31st, so if you want to secure your copy, make sure you preorder soon to avoid it selling out too early. We've got more good news, the announcement of the Steins;Gate Standard Edition, which you can also preorder, for shipping on April 30th. Steins;Gate is one of the most legendary visual novels ever made, a fascinating story of hardcore science and time travel, and we're immensely glad to be bringing this game to everyone. The game will be shipping 100% DRM free, and the Limited Edition comes with a download code for free, so you can be playing the game while you wait for the package edition to arrive.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Genki and Pantsu for Northern Japan

One of the big trends in Japan these days is anime series about idols, and shows like IdolMaster, Love Live! School Idol Project, AKB0048, White Album, and Dog Days all revolve around fictional idols who are often only slightly less "real" then the girls in Japan's idol groups like AKB48. The newest idol show is the currently running Wake Up Girls! I like the show because of its more realistic (and less moe) character designs, plus, let's be honest, the pantsu. I also like the show because it's based in Sendai, the vibrant Japanese city in Japan's Tohoku region which was the scene of so much sadness after the powerful earthquake and tsunamis of March 11, 2011. The anime is very much intended to "cheer up" the Tohoku region and encourage fans to visit by talking about delicious local foods and showing lots of 聖地 seichi ("holy lands" e.g. real-life locations) that fans might want to visit. The reality of what Tohoku has been through is definitely a part of the show: one of the girls is from Ishinomaki, the coastal city that experienced a desperately high death toll during the tsunamis, and she still lives in the temporary housing that was erected after the disaster. Sendai was founded in 1600 by one of the most famous samurai lords in Japan's history: Date Masamune, a one-eyed warlord who, among other things, provided the inspiration for Darth Vader.
While the Wake Up Girls! anime may have been made to bring genki (happiness, good cheer) to the Sendai area, I'm thinking they're feeling pretty genki already, thanks to the spectacular performance by Sendai-native Yuzuru Hanyu, who took the gold for men's free skate at the Sochi Olympics. Yuzuru-kun, who's been skating since the age of 4, is quite a colorful character. He's a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh, and all through his career he's never failed to bring his favorite plush "Pooh-san" (as the character is known in Japan) to his competitions, which became his trademark. His faithful friend was nowhere to be seen at the Sochi Olympics, however, as he was asked not to bring it because Disney is not an official Olympic sponsor. Among other things, Yuzuru-kun us quite a dashing lad, and he's got a huge following by fujoshi all around the Internet, including thousands of female Chinese fans who create steamy doujinshi about him.

Some genki and pantsu for Sendai.

Record Snowfall for Japan

When the Tokyo area got 11 inches (27 cm) of snow last week, the most seen in Japan's capital in 20 years, we were all amazed and a little inconvenienced. Then over the weekend we got another snowstorm which was much worse, dumping an unbelievable 31 inches (81 cm) of snow on J-List's home prefecture of Gunma, and 44 inches (114 cm) on Yamanashi Prefecture near Mt. Fuji, the highest levels seen in 120 years. Winters on the Kanto plain are usually cold and windy, and snow is rare thanks to the Japan Alps, which act as a barrier between us and the weather blowing in from Siberia. Virtually everything in this corner of Japan ground to a halt with the new snow, with all major roads and train lines closing. The timing of the storm was especially bad because Saturday was Entrance Exam day for several of Japan's most famous universities, which added to the stress of the poor students taking the most important tests of their lives. Unfortunately the snow is going to slow J-List up a little, since we're still digging our parking lot out so the post office can get to our door and pick up outgoing packages. Thanks for your understanding!

Some days there's nothing to do but make a giant snow Totoro.

Steins;Gate Golden Master Announced!!

We've got some excellent news for you today: Steins;Gate is finally gone Golden Master and is on its way to the duplicators for printing. The shipping date for the Limited Edition of the game is March 31st, so if you want to secure your copy, make sure you preorder soon to avoid it selling out too early. We've got more good news, the announcement of the Steins;Gate Standard Edition, which you can also preorder, for shipping on April 30th. Steins;Gate is one of the most legendary visual novels ever made, a fascinating story of hardcore science and time travel, and we're immensely glad to be bringing this game to everyone. The game will be shipping 100% DRM free, and the Limited Edition comes with a download code for free, so you can be playing the game while you wait for the package edition to arrive.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Japanese and Blood Types

One interesting oddity about the Japanese is their odd compulsion with blood types, and I remember reading Saint Seiya manga back in the 80s and wondering why the comic went out of its way to list the blood types for all the characters. The answer, of course, is that the Japanese somehow came to believe that a person's blood type provides a lot of information about their personality, etc. Type A people are neat, tidy, and plan things meticulously, almost to a fault (my wife). Type B are "my pace" (as the Japanese say), meaning that they do their own thing without worrying about the opinions of others, and don't plan things out in advance (me). Type O people have a private world inside their minds, supposedly, and they're quick to become passionate about something, but then change to something else just as easily. Type O make the best leaders, it's thought, and during WWII the Japanese government went out of its way to recruit soldiers with type O blood. Finally, AB people have "two faces," one that they make in front of some people and another one they keep to themselves. Depending on where you're from, there's a good chance that you don't know your own blood type, and this is something that shocks Japanese people, who are as familiar with their own blood types as they are with their shoe sizes.

The Japanese are big on Blood Types.

Thoughts on Doctor Who, Science Fiction and Shimapan

I've been a fan of science fiction ever since I picked up the Ray Bradbury short story "Frost and Fire," and have enjoyed the genre in its many forms over the years. One thing I like is analyzing influences from one work to another, for example deconstructing the books that inspired Hideki Anno to create his classic Gunbuster ~ Aim for the Top! (namely, Ender's Game and The Forever War). The barriers that exist between the various sub-genres of science fiction are important, however. While both Britain and Japan often find themselves at the center of intergalactic invasions and other interdimensional phenomenon, we'd all cry fowl if Japan-style giant robots or sentai five-teams started showing up in the Doctor Who universe...though I'd really like to know why the Doctor is eating out of Mio's shimapan bowl in the picture above. Incidentally, if you're wondering where the Japanese stand on Doctor Who, sadly the series is not really a thing here, as it was only broadcast on NHK for a few years and never developed that much of a following.

Some thoughts on science fiction and shimapan.

The Japanese [Heart] American Animation

One thing I like about Twitter and Facebook is the ability to have random conversations with readers, and often when working on these J-List posts I'll throw out a question and ask for feedback about what people would like me to write about. One random person asked me, "We spend so many hours watching anime from Japan, but do they watch our animation as well?" The answer is sure, there are many Japanese fans of Western animated TV shows, from Power Puff Girls to My Little Pony and "SpongeBob." (They remove the "SquarePants" from his name part because, well, pantsu.) The terminology can be a little odd, of course. Just as Japanese above the age of 40 often refer to animation on TV as "manga," because the term anime wasn't coined until the 80s, they see no problem in referring to Disney or The Simpsons with the term "anime" (shudder). My daughter is a huge fan of Adventure Time, and J-List's employee Mai (who keeps our site stocked with bento boxes and Sailor Moon products) taught herself English in part by watching Family Guy and South Park. I was especially surprised to find the 1960s Hanna-Barbara anime cartoon Wacky Races is very well-known here, to the point that Japanese today still imitate Muttley's unique laughing style (though they call him Ken-Ken) and make Touhou crossover fanart. As a fan of the concept of "World Peace Through Shared Popular Culture," this pleases me greatly.

Many Japanese love Western animation.

Happy Valentine's Day 2014

Today is Valentine's Day, and wherever you are in the world we wish you all the best chocolate dreams. Just because February 14th is here doesn't mean our special sale on all Japanese chocolate products as well as dolphin polishers, personal lotion plus a certain product that will change the way you view catgirls forever is over. The sale goes to the end of February, so if you need any chocolate or personal toys, make an order now!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

J-List Tokyo Sightseeing Guide

I often get mail from people planning a trip to Tokyo, asking me to recommend some sightseeing spots. While there are many fun things to see around Japan's capital, the reality is that the Kansai (Osaka) region is the better place to visit, with fabulous destinations like Kyoto and Nara and a thousand more years of history than the Kanto (Tokyo) area. If you are Tokyo-bound, though, here are some suggestions. Of course Akihabara is fun to visit, but if you want to really drink in the totality of otaku culture, try to be there on a Sunday after payday (which is the 25th of the month), when everyone is power-shopping and giddy with excess energy. If you like 8-bit gaming culture, hit a store called Super Potato, which has more classic console game stuff than you can shake a stick at. If you drink, make sure to go pub-crawling in Shinjuku's east side near Kabuki-cho, or else head to Shinjuku's West Side anv have some Suntory Hibiki in the bar from Lost in Translation. If you need to get across the bay to Odaiba for any reason, go out of your way to ride Himiko, the "water taxi" designed by Space Battleship Yamato creator Leiji Matsumoto. Another fun water-related experience you might try is an evening cruise on a yakata-bune, essentially an old-style Japanese izakaya restaurant-bar on a boat that cruises around Tokyo bay while you eat and drink. Of course one spot you must visit if coming to Tokyo is the famous Hachiko statue in Shibuya, erected by local residents to honor the dog who waited faithfully for his master to return, even after the man died. Other destinations to keep in mind are Nikko and Kamakura, two of the most beautiful temple areas in Tokyo, and Matsumoto Castle, the only truly grand Japanese castle in this part of Japan.

There's a lot to see in the Tokyo/Kanto area, like Kamakura.

Japanese Companies Famous Overseas

It's interesting to look at some of the less famous Japanese companies that have nevertheless managed to find success around the world, like Salonpas, who exports those pain relieving patches out of Kyushu, or Japanese pen manufacturer Zebra, whose corporate slogan is, "This is a pen." When I went to Germany for the first time, I was pleased to see an old friend being sold in the supermarkets: Yakult, the probiotic yogurt-esque drink that's enjoyed millions of times a day in Japan. The company started manufacturing healthy fermented milk drinks in 1955, which can now be found from New Zealand to India to Sweden to Texas. In 1954, the son of math teacher Toru Kumon said he was having problems with his studies, so Mr. Kumon developed a learning program called the Kumon Method, which spread throughout Japan and also to the U.S. and Europe via franchised Kumon Math and Reading Centers. (There's even one near my house in San Diego.) While my kids never used the Kumon Method in their studies, the program does have a good reputation among those who've used it, and it helps young students get serious about keeping up with their studies in a way that's similar to Japan's juku evening study schools.

Some famous Japanese companies around the world.

Japan's "Special Feeling" Meme

Where will you be when Japanese memes strike next? Last weekend the Tokyo area got a once-in-a-decade snowstorm, about 11 inches/28 cm in a day, which while small by comparison to some parts of the world is quite a lot for us. During the storm something extremely cute happened: a couple was interviewed by the TV news and asked what they thought of the snow. The man answered, "Being out in the snow with my lover like this immerses me in a special feeling which I like a lot," while the girl shyly covered her face in embarrassment. (The word he used was 恋人 koibito, literally 'lover' but also translatable as boyfriend or girlfriend.) Suddenly Pixiv became inundated with fanart portraying various anime character pairings in the same situation, and thus the "Special Feeling" meme was born. Although it's the cutest thing since Hello Kitty met Dear Daniel, the meme got its start when a Japanese user tweeted a screenshot of the interview, cynically cursing the happy couple for being リア充 ria-ju, an internet slang term that's short for リアルの生活が充実してる riaru no seikatsu ga jujitsu shiteru or people who enjoy a full and happy 'real life' (e.g. someone who has a boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/whatever). The meme is a fun way for people to obsess over the romantic relationships of their favorite characters, and there's no limit to the combinations fans are 'shipping' (that is, fantasizing about non-canon relationships, from "relationshipping"). If you want to see some of these wacky pictures, I've been posting them to the J-List Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter feeds.

The "Special Feeling" meme is born on on Pixiv.

No Really, You Should Preorder Steins;Gate Sooner Rather Than Later

We've got an update for fans of Steins;Gate, the hardcore visual novel of science, time travel and otaku culture, which is coming out in English in the coming months. We posted an update about the package printing a few weeks ago, and now we're happy to tell you that the fanbooks are nearly finished printing, too. This limited edition will come with the game, official "lab member" pins, awesome fanbook, and a beautiful package, printed in Japan for maximum quality. If you haven't preordered the game yet you can grab your copy here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Japan vs Korea Update

The other day I happened across an interesting headline: "Virginia vote on Sea of Japan hands victory to Koreans." While the article seemed to indicate that the state had voted to rename the Sea of Japan to the "East Sea" (the name South Korea is pushing for), it was merely a resolution that both names should be used in textbooks approved by the Board of Education, something Google Maps already does. It's an interesting plot twist in the ongoing war of words between Japan and Korea, which has increasingly spilled over to the U.S., as Korean groups pay lobbyists to petition state lawmakers on their behalf, erect billboards in Texas declaring that Dokdo (the disputed islands which Japan calls Takeshima) are Korean property, and even put up a statue honoring comfort woman in Los Angeles, a move that has Japanese living in the city starting to feel downright unsafe. To be perfectly clear: Japan did terrible things before and during World War II, though the actual crimes comitted have been embellished by China and Korea, who have made it a national pasttime to demonize Japan. When it normalized relations with South Korea, Japan paid $800 million (nearly $6 trillion in today's dollars) as reparations for Koreans killed or forced into military service by Japan, asking to pay the money directly to the victims; the then-military government said no, give it to us instead, whereupn it used most of the money for economic development without passing it on to the actual victims. I fear that the PR war will continue to go badly for Japan for a couple of reasons. First, Japanese are not savvy enough to hire lobbying firms or fill YouTube with (silly) videos promoting their side of things, and also because Koreans are generally so much better at English than most Japanese.

Someday Samsung and Apple will agree on who really owns those islands.

Dentists in Japan

There are certain positive aspects of living in Japan, including toasty kotatsu heater tables, Japanese festivals, and beer vending machines. Japan is less blessed when comes to dental care, however, and gaijin living here generally love to complain about the local dentists. While Japanese dentists are usually good at fixing teeth, they're famous for making you come back dozens of times to finish your dental work, instead of getting it out of the way in a few visits. (I once had to visit a dentist twice a week for 18 months to complete some semi-complex work, which was no fun at all.) I recently needed to get some dental work done because I was "haganai" -- this is the shortened name of I Have Few Friends, which happens to also mean "I am missing a tooth," sorry for the pun -- so I called my new dentist to make an appointment. Before going into the dental office I prepared myself to speak English rather than Japanese, since the dentist's wife is studying English and loves practicing with me.

I'm not a fan of Japanese dentists.

All Girls High Schools in Japan: Are They Really Yuri-Tastic?

I came to Japan in 1991 and worked for five years as an English teacher before deciding to take a chance on that new thing called the Internet I'd been hearing so much about. During my time as a teacher I taught hundreds of students from age 3 to 83, but most were high school students. Compulsory education in Japan only goes through the end of junior high, and high schools function as a miniature version of the university system, with each school offering something different to attract students: a high academic level for university-bound students, sports and club activities, a focus on commercial trades like retail, accounting or agriculture, even extra-stylish school uniforms made by famous Tokyo designers. One thing that surprised me was the number of students who attended all-girl or all-boy schools, something that was quite outside my experience, being from California where these schools are rare. There are many reasons why single-gender schools exist, including to provide a solid education free from the distraction of the opposite sex (the top academic schools in our city are all single-gender), to provide a Christian-based education, or just to uphold the traditions of the past. Just because some schools are all girls- or boys-only doesn't mean the students don't date -- that's one of the reasons for events like the "culture festivals" you see in just about every anime series these days, so students from other school can visit, make friends and possibly find a girlfriend or boyfriend. While I'm sure life at an all-girls high school is nowhere near as yuri-tastic as Sakura Trick, one student confided to me that on hot days, students would flap their skirts to keep cool, not caring if the other female students see their pantsu.

Single-gender high schools are fairly common in Japan.

Steins;Gate Production Update

We've got an update for fans of Steins;Gate, the hardcore visual novel of science, time travel and otaku culture, which is coming out in English in the coming months. We posted an update about the package printing a few weeks ago, and now we're happy to tell you that the fanbooks are nearly finished printing, too. This limited edition will come with the game, official "lab member" pins, awesome fanbook, and a beautiful package, printed in Japan for maximum quality. If you haven't preordered the game yet you can grab your copy here.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Tokyo Gift Show Report

Yesterday I went down to Tokyo Big Sight with Mai, the talented J-List employee who keeps our site stocked with bento boxes and accessories and Sailor Moon products. We were there to attend the Tokyo Gift Show, a convention in which companies selling everything from fashion and clothing to plush toys to health products display their wares to retailers like us. With over 2000 sellers, there was a lot to see, and some of the most popular categories included extremely cute socks, items related to Mt. Fuji (since Japan is having a "Fuji-san boom" now) as well as products to help older Japanese like "pen-type" reading glasses. Japan is big on promoting its 地方 chiho, or various regions, and I was able to sample many interesting foods and wines from all corners of the country. There were also pavilions in which companies from different countries promoted their various products, including Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and New Zealand. The event was held at the same venue as the famous Comiket doujinshi direct sales event, but it was of course a very different crowd, with no cosplay babes to be seen anywhere.

The Tokyo Gift Show's official logo is pretty cool.

Japan Loves England

Being an American in Japan has been a good opportunity to learn more about...England. Yes, Japan has always had a special affinity for the British Isles, and the list of British influences on Japan is long indeed. (One could make the argument that all the unpleasantness of WWII was Japan basically wanting to be noticed by Britain-senpai.) When I first arrived in Japan I wondered at the way some trains were called 上り nobori ("climbing") while others were 下り kudari ("descending"), and after a while I figured out that it referred to whether the train was going in the direction of Tokyo or not, a system borrowed from England 150 years ago. In addition to driving on the left-hand side of the road, the Japanese have imported words like "bonnet" (the hood of a car) and "saloon" (for a sedan), and institutions like Parliament, the Royal Mail Service, the BBC and 3 o'clock teatime have all been more or less cloned wholesale. If you're an American who's ever wondered at the Japanese use of "pants" for underwear (rendered as pantsu by fandom), that's actually the British usage coming through Japan. If you want to watch an extremely cute anime that captures how the Japanese feel about the U.K., I highly recommend Kin'iro Mosaic.

The Japanese have a special love for the U.K.

World Building In Anime

One of the more interesting aspects of animation as a medium is the "world building" that creators can do, since everything is drawn and there are no limits to what can be shown other than the imagination. One series with a fascinating world-defining premise is the currently-running Noragami. It's a mainstream anime about a supernatural "god" named Yato and a girl named Hiyori who gets stuck between the human world and the afterlife, resulting in her soul separating from her body at inconvenient times. As part of the story, it's posited that there are invisible spirits called 妖 ayakashi living all around us. These creatures interact with us without our knowledge, sometimes perching on the shoulders of distraught people and encouraging them to commit suicide, and Yato and Hiyori must destroy them. In the romantic comedy dark maho shoujo anime Madoka Magica, we learn that when a girl goes missing without a trace, it usually means she was a magical girl who was defeated while inside the magical dimension. Another anime work that creates a totally believable world for us is the classic film Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise, which I recently re-watched. The first work done under the banner of Gainax, it's a movie about a fictional country on an alternate Earth that's trying to launch a rocket into space, and of the main hero Shitotsugh Lhadatt as he prepares for the mission. Virtually everything about the world being shown to us is re-imagined from scratch, from the shapes of the coins they use to the airplanes they fly to the religion of the people we meet. Another reason I'm a fan of Wings of Honneamise is because I'm a card-carrying soundtrack geek, and the BGM by Sakamoto Ryuichi (YouTube link) is extremely beautiful.

Anime is best when it creates unique worlds for us.

Our Tenga + Chocolate Sale Continues

February is here, a great excuse to grab some awesome chocolate from Japan, whether you're buying it for that special guy or girl or just like chocolate, and this month we're having a great 2x J-List Points Sale on all Japanese chocolate, from the newest flavors of Pocky and Kit Kat to the anime-themed chocolates we've got in stock. We've got more good news, though: we're also having a great sale on all stress toys, including TENGA, anime-themed parody toys, massagers and personal lotion, so everyone will be happy this month! Browse all the fun Japanese chocolate and Tenga items now!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Valentine's Day is Coming

If you've watched more than three episodes of just about any anime, you'll likely know that Valentine's Day in Japan is a little different from in your own home country. Here, instead of men giving boxes of chocolate to their sweethearts, the custom is for females to give chocolate to the the important men (boyfriends, husbands, sons or possibly male coworkers) in their lives, which is usually the subject of much entertainment in harem anime series. There are two kinds of chocolate, 本命チョコ honmei-choco or "real heart chocolate," given to someone you actually care about, and 義理チョコ giri-choco or "obligation chocolate," the kind female office workers feel obliged to give to the male employees at work. Chocolate companies and department stores are always trying to create new chocolate-giving trends that will be talked about in the media, like the year they promoted 友チョコ tomo-choco, chocolate given between friends, as the coolest thing. This year the buzzword is 自分チョコ jibun-choco, or chocolate that you buy for yourself, since no one knows what you like more While classics like Godiva are popular this year as always, one small chocolatier came up with a cool idea: Jurassic Dig Up Choco, which consists of chocolate "dirt" with chocolate dinosaur bones hidden inside that you excavate with included digging tools. If you'd like to score some awesome chocolate from Japan, either for giving on Valentine's Day or jibun-choco for yourself, we've got plenty in stock and on sale! (Please use EMS shipping if ordering in time for Valentine's Day delivery.)

Japanese are getting ready for Valentine's Day.

Setsubun 2014

Today is 節分 Setsubun, a fun day for anyone with small kids in Japan. A remnant of the old Lunar (Chinese) New Year that Japan used until 1873, it's a day when oni (devils) who are dressed suspiciously like Lum from Urusei Yatsura will be symbolically chased out of the house by children so that happiness can reign in the home. The father of the house will assume the role of a devil, wearing a paper mask that makes him look scary. When the devil attacks, the children pelt him with baked soybeans and chase him off, shouting 鬼は外、福はうち! oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi! ("Out with devils, in with happiness!"). When the devils are sufficiently vanquished, everyone eats their age in soybeans to help guarantee good health in the coming year. Another custom related to Setsubun is eating an entire roll of rolled sushi at once, which is called 恵方巻 eho-maki, which helps you determine your direction for the new year. The rolled sushi eating tradition can lead to some rather interesting fan art on Pixiv. 

Setsubun is an important cultural day for Japan, though not so good for ogres.

Tokyo Election Update, If You Care

When former Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose was forced to resign over a $500,000 "loan" made to his campaign last year, he doomed us all to one of my least favorite things, a Japanese election. Now the race is on, with dozens of candidates vying for one of the most important political jobs in Japan, governor of Tokyo, which is essentially a prefecture made up of 23 city-sized wards with a total population that's slightly less than the Netherlands. As usual in Japanese politics, it's all about old people, and the frontrunners in the race are former Prime Minister and Egyptian mummy impersonator Morihiro Hosokawa, disgraced former Air Self Defence Forces head Toshio Tamogami (who was fired for making inappropriate statements about Japan's wartime past), and Yoichi Masuzoe, a politician famous for having a lot of ex-wives. (He speaks both French and English fluently, so he qualifies as the "most interesting Japanese politician we can think of offhand" by default.) One thing that's funny to me is the way national political issues find their way into Tokyo's "local" politics, and some of the hottest topics for debate include the future of nuclear power in Japan, the ongoing disputes of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea and what Japan should do about the TPP trade agreement.

Former P.M. Hosokawa tries to become governor of Tokyo.

Movies in Japan

The film version of Ender's Game -- or as the Japanese call it, Ender no Game -- finally opened in Japan, so I dragged my son along to see it, as he's rapidly getting to that "too busy to go see movies with his dad" age. The Japanese love movies and follow Hollywood and European films closely, which makes the Japanese market an important one for film studios. Happily for expat gaijin like me, Japanese fans are used to watching foreign films with subtitles rather than dubbed voice tracks (as in the case in most other foreign countries, notably China), so I can enjoy movies in my native language. One small frustration is the tendency for films to be shown in Japan several months after their U.S. release, which is also the case with the second Hobbit film, which doesn't open here for another few weeks. This minor quibble is managed by the fact that you can drink beer in Japanese movie theatres, Pulp Fiction style, so I'm not too upset. While it's not uncommon to go see a movie after 10 pm or even later in the U.S., this isn't really done here in Japan, and my son and I had the entire theatre to ourselves last night. My review/rant about Ender's Game is here if you care particularly. (Serious spoiler warning, of course.)

Some info on Japanese movie theatres, if you're curious.

Chocolate and Pocky Sale This Month??

February is here, and that's a great excuse to grab some awesome chocolate from Japan, whether you're buying it for that special guy or girl or just like chocolate, and this month we're having a great 2x J-List Points Sale on all Japanese chocolate, from the newest flavors of Pocky and Kit Kat to the anime-themed chocolates we've got in stock. We've got more good news, though: we're also having a great sale on all stress toys, including TENGA, anime-themed parody toys, massagers and personal lotion, so everyone will be happy this month! Browse all the fun Japanese chocolate and Tenga items now!

Monday, February 03, 2014

My Rant about Ender's Game

Ender's Game -- or as the Japanese call it, Ender no Game -- finally opened in Japan, so I dragged my son along to see it, since sons are good for that sort of thing. Here's my mini review/rant. Note, DO NOT read further if you are a fan of the book and/or plan to see the movie. I am not kidding -- the book and film pivot on one of the most spoiler-able plot points in SF, and you don't want to be spoiled if you don't know the story already.
Ender's Game, of course, is one of those really special SF books, like Dune, The Forever War of the best books of Arthur C Clarke (2001 or Childhood's End, take your pick), are immensely important to serious readers of the genre. When I heard they were making a movie, I groaned and prayed that they wouldn't ruin it. While they did okay in some areas, mainly the mechanics of the Battle Room, I guess it was totally a foregone conclusion that they would royally screw the pooch in other, more subtle areas. Not a 1998-Godzilla level screwing, but a screwing nonetheless.
First of all, some praise for the staff. They made a movie that was basically well executed. The performance by Asa Butterfield was the high point of the film, and he frigging was Ender Wiggin. I commend him.
My first point of contention with the film: what was the point of having every single character in the movie (except Harrison Ford) be a minority, with black/dark hair? I get that one of the themes of Ender's Game is that the world is a much different place by the Bugger Wars, with more than just photogenic white people from California, and there are Indians and Africans and Armenians and Muslims and tattooed-faced Maoris doing stuff in the future. Gotcha. But why is every character in the story dark haired, with several characters of varying shades of darkness, to the point that the average audience member will likely be confused about who is who, especially between Alai and Bean? I don't recall seeing a single blonde character (okay, Peter was blonde), but no one in battle school. Bean is from Rotterdam, why couldn't he have been blonde? Maybe give Petra a red tint so she didn't look exactly like Valentine? They could have also managed some of this potential confusion by not removing Hot Soup, the Chinese character.
Next up. It's not kind but I have to say it -- what's up with all the fat characters? There were several characters who, it seems to me, were above the weight you normally associate with mainstream characters in films, including Valentine, Major Anderson, and Bernard. It's not nice to say, but when several members of your film have a higher BMI than Crabbe from Harry Potter, I have to wonder what's up. Maybe along with the minority issue above, the film's creator was sick and tired of stereotypes, and wasn't going to take it any more.
While I'm being potentially rude to my readers, how do they get off making Bonzo Madrid a full head shorter than Ender? Ender is supposed to be tiny, years younger than everyone and physically weaker than everyone except Bean, yet he towers over Bonzo in the film. It was hilarious to watch the shower scene.
There were lots of really annoying changes which didn't need to be made. The Buggers (a word never actually used in the film I think -- perhaps taken out because of Orson Scott Card's famed homophobia, and the nervousness around this as the film was released) need to invade the Earth because of our water. What is this, V? (And if you know what I'm talking about, welcome to middle age.) Some of the changes were cool. They seemed to move up the time of the arrival of the fleet to the Bugger worlds, which tightened the story, making it important to get Ender to Battle School within 28 days...then they talk about his training taking months, and negate that. They do little annoying things like, make Petra into a super romantic heroine when this isn't really part of her story.
Other changes were criminal. The most important aspect of the story is battle school, yet how many battles do we get as Dragon Army? Just one! Their first and last battle was against Griffin and Tiger armies. Thus, they had to mix the most enjoyable elements from all the battles into a very short segment, then boom, Battle School is done. No slow buildup of the legend of Ender, no realization that "Ender, if you're on one side of the battle, it won't be equal no matter what the conditions are." Our enjoyment, like the enemy's gate, is down.
Virtually none of the really important lines from the book made it into the film. Gone is, "They are entering into the mysteries of the fleet, Colonel Graff, to which you, as a soldier, have never been introduced." "You make it sound like a priesthood." Or, "When it comes down to it, though, the real decision is inevitable: if one of us has to be destroyed, let's make damn sure we're the ones alive at the end. Our genes won't let us decide any other way. Nature can't evolve a species that hasn't a will to survive." (Possibly removed so as not to annoy fundamentalists with a reference to evolution, since they're counting on Christians to make up for the people boycotting the film over the author's attitudes on gay marriage?) Ender's destruction of the Bugger homeworld as a specific way to get out of becoming a commander is also converted into so much flashy CG and ignored.
There were other pointless and stupid changes. Instead of the cool mystery about Command School being on Eros, we get...impossible instantaneous travel across the galaxy instantly by Ender, negating the whole point of "we're running out of time, we need to train Ender as our commander now." The ansible, one of the most amazing and mysterious devices in the original story? It's mentioned once, then totally neutered by saying "we had to move to this advance base near the Formic's homeworld, so we could communicate instantaneously with our fleet via ansible." Do you know what a fucking ansible is? It's a device for communicating with any ships, anywhere, and the writers didn't have the slightest idea what it was or why it would be kind of cool to have one.
Instead of the book's excellent ending, with humanity going off to the stars to take over the Bugger homeworlds, Demosthenes (Valentine), Ender and Mazer Rackham leading the first ship...we get Ender going off alone in a ship (which shouldn't exist) with the queen egg. Naturally all the cool "his two books were called the Hive-Queen and the Hegemon, and they were holy writ" is totally gone, and Peter, one of the most interesting characters in the Enderverse, never mentioned after the beginning of the film.
A final thought: I sincerely hope that someone paid a lot of money to option for sequels, greedily thinking that this will be a new ongoing franchise like ther Terminator movies, only to have wasted their money when no more movies are made. Cause someone deserves to be punished for this movie.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Farewell to Blogger

I've been blogging about Japan since 1998 -- actually a bit before then, but I officially trace my start as a blogger to the release of the American Godzilla film in Japan, which is when I realized that writing about the stuff I saw here was actually more important than selling bento boxes and Totoro plush toys through J-List, though those things are fun, too. I moved to Blogger around 2003, and have enjoyed the platform overall: an easy place to archive the J-List posts that I write so they can be a reference to me and to others. Although the "age of blogs" is clearly past (Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/Pinterist are far more important to us), I've enjoyed having Blgoger there as a "no-brainer" way to publish.
This good opinion changed last week when then the company unceremoneously deleted this blog for spam via an automated script. The Blogger help board was filled with people who had had their sites deleted, and they had to go through the same obstacle course I had to go through to get the site restored. I had backups, but they were mostly text based, which would have been very hard to rebuild manually. Happily the staff restored the site and apologized (again, via an automated script).
But the damage is done, and I can't trust a platform that's so hostile to some of their users, so I am bidding the Blogger platfrom adieu. This blog will be back soon, upgraded and renovated, on a self-hosted WordPress site. Until then we recommend you follow our Tumblr instead. Thanks for reading and supporting J-List, and see you soon!

A Blogger graduation! Omedetou!

J-List Update January 31. 2014

The decades after WWII have seen some successful American businesses establish themselves in Japan, including Coca-Cola, Toys R Us and the Aflac duck. Another big success story has been McDonald's, which launched in 1971 to bring that company's brand of simulated quasi-food to the Japanese, and currently has more than 3000 restaurants here. Over the past few years, McDonald's and "Donald McDonald" (which is Ronald's name here) have brought us much entertainment in the form of Internet memes (Ran Ran Roo〜!) and bizarre fanart from Pixiv. McDonald's Japan won big when the yen crashed during the 2008 recession, allowing them to import tons of cheap beef from the U.S. and Australia and lower their prices, but when Prime Minister Shinzo "The Man Who Makes Our Anime Cheaper" Abe came to power a year ago, the yen returned to more normal territory which forced the company to raise its prices. To help re-invent itself, McDonald's has been offering "American Vintage" hamburgers, including 50s diner-style classic burgers and chili fries and now 70s-themed meals complete with people dancing disco style in the TV commercials.

McDonald's is selling "American Vintage" burgers.
There are quite a few differences between people in the U.S. and Japan, and one of them is, ah, body size. Japanese can seem impossibly thin to Americans, with an average height and weight of 171 cm/68 kg (5'7"/149 lbs) for men and 159 cm/51 kg (5'2"/114 lbs) for women, at the age of 30. In the early days of J-List we brought a 23-year-old female Japanese employee of ours to the U.S. to help work the San Diego Comic-Con, and she literally had to go to Gap Kids to find clothes that were small enough for her to buy. That said, there are actually some overweight Japanese, and the other day I watched an interesting show called Beauty Colosseum in which various "talents" (a catch-all word meaning actresses, comedians and singers) who had gained unwanted weight go on a big diet while the TV cameras record their weekly progress. Various diet methods were discussed during the show, like the kuromame diet consisting mainly of Japanese black beans, or the "hot yogurt diet" in which you eat a cup of yogurt that's been microwaved before each meal, to provide more calcium to your body, or something like that.

There are actually some overweight Japanese.
The Japanese are fond of designating certain days as special. May 4th is Ramune Day, commemorating the launch of the now-iconic Japanese soft drink all the way back in 1872, while August 2nd is パンツの日 pantsu no hi or "pantsu day," a day for celebrating everything that's wonderful about shimapan and other kinds of underwear. This Sunday (February 2nd) has been designated as "Twintail Day" by the Japan Twintail Association (which is a thing), and it's a great excuse to contemplate the awesomeness of "twintails" hair style, which are apparently called "pigtails" in English, though I've lived in Japan long enough that I needed to look that up. Many of the most popular anime characters have "twintail" hair, including Azusa from K-On!, Hatsune Miku, Kuroko from A Certain Scientific Railgun and of course Sailor Moon. Like "softcream" (what the Japanese call soft-serve ice cream), "virgin road" (a wedding aisle) and "guts pose" (someone pretending to show off their strength), twintails is a cute example of 和製英語 wasei-eigo or "made-in-Japan English."

Who's your favorite "twintail" character?
Today is a big day for PS Vita fans, with some great titles being released today, including the "definitive version" of the romance game Amagami, Disgaea 4, a Dragon Ball Z fighting game and deluxe edition of Rozen Maiden which comes with the actual watch from the series. We love all Sony's game platforms -- PSP, PS3, PSVita, and the soon-to-be-released-in-Japan PS4 -- because the games are all region-free, meaning otakus all around the world can play these great anime games, learn Japanese using them, and so on. Browse the new PSVita and other anime games now!

J-List Update January 27, 2014

Every once in a while Japan does something that makes you stop and say, "wait, what?" Like when they advertised the latest Ring horror film by dressing up 50 women as Sadako coming out of a TV and walked them around Shibuya, scaring people. Or when you're in the men's onsen bath and a cleaning lady comes in, ignoring our nakedness as she tidies up the buckets and shampoo bottles. (Some of the stranger Japanese snacks that we sell on J-List probably make our customers say "what?" too.) The other day I stopped of at a convenience store to pick up some onigiri when I saw a rare thing: a gorgeous Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG, one of the most excellent cars I can think of, with the key in the ignition and the engine running while the owner went in to make a purchase. Now, Japan is a country blessed with low crime, and it's not uncommon to see trusting souls keep their car running while they go buy some canned coffee or the newest issue of Shonen Jump, secure in the knowledge that no stranger would impolite enough to take their car for a joyride. But this was a car that costs more than a house in many U.S. states, sitting with its engine idling, free for the taking. All I could do was stare with my mouth hanging open at the sight of it.

Japan can occasionally make us say, "what?"
Last year I took a trip to Hakone, the "holy land" for Evangelion fans, and visited all the places seen in the series, even trekking through the brush with my phone in GPS mode for a half hour looking for Misato's apartment building before realizing it hadn't been built yet. Later I got the urge to re-watch the original series, since I hadn't seen it properly in years. I had a great time, enjoying the retro 90s freshness along with the longer and more developed stories that were possible across 26 episodes, compared with the contraints of the three Eva films. I also enjoyed the "analog-ness" of the series, since it pre-dated fancy CG animation which all too often negatively impacts our enjoyment of what is still a fundamentally "2D" art form (I'm looking at you, Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio). While the last two episodes of Eva are famous for being rather horrible, sort of the 90s version of the Haruhi "Endless Eight" episodes, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my old friend again after all these years.

I finished my re-watching of the original Eva.
Japan is unique among modern industrial nations because of its rapidly aging population, which is the result of a birthrate of just 1.39 per female coupled with a very low rate of immigration from the outside. The country got some bad news when it was announced that 2013 saw a record population drop of 244,000, as deaths outpaced births at a faster rate than ever before, a news story that's likely to be repeated every year for the foreseeable future. Other countries have issues with low fertility rates -- Spain and Germany are about the same as Japan, and South Korea, always competitive where Japan is concerned, "wins" with just 1.22 babies born per female -- but in Japan's case there's effectively zero net immigration, which means Japan will eventually have difficulty finding workers to keep its economy going. The married staff of J-List, at least, is doing our part to help raise Japan's population, and most of us have two or three kids, which is above the average for Japan. Our French web designer's Japanese wife gave birth to a wonderful baby boy last year, and our DVD buyer Tomo's second child is on the way.

Japan's population is slated to fall greatly this century.

J-List is loaded with awesome Sailor Moon products from Japan, from the kawaii "Swing Figure" sets official Sailor Moon bento boxes and cups and more. Sailor Moon is really exploding around the world right now, and as you've noticed by the large number of products that have sold out and been removed permanently from the site, it's a good idea to preorder the items you want lest they go away forever. Click to browse the top Sailor Moon products, as ranked by our customers!