Thursday, June 21, 2001

Greetings from J-List June 21, 2001

Hello again from your friends in Japan, the staff of J-List!

In any language, words have slightly different meanings from words in other languages. The Japanese word omoshiroi corresponds to the word "interesting," but it also has a connotation of "funny" (like a joke), which is new if you're used to English. In a similar vein, some Japanese words and concepts just "work" differently in Japanese. One is the word "friend," which is tomodachi in Japanese. In english, the word friend is used quite loosely, and is sometimes applied to someone who isn't a close friend, but it just someone you know or meet sometimes, or even of a person you're romantically involved with. In Japanese, tomodachi would only be used for a fairly close friend that was close in age to you -- it would be almost impossible to have a tomodachi that was much older or much younger than you. Other words are used for other casual relationships, such as shiriai (acquaintance), or if the person is above or below you in a school or organization, words like senpai and kouhai just "fit" better. I've got a friend who's got his own English school, and he's 52 years old. In relationships that are based in Japanese, it would be almost impossible for me to think of him as my friend -- the Japanese word just doesn't work that way.

My six-year-old son Kazuki has teacher a great milestone: he's lost his first tooth. Naturally, I wanted to follow what is done in the States, putting the pillow under my son's pillow so the Tooth Fairy could put money under his pillow. My wife, however, wanted to follow Japanese the way, in which the tooth is thrown onto the roof of your house (if it was a lower tooth), or thrown under the house (if it was an upper tooth). In the end, we compromised and did both. Kazuki wanted the tooth fairy to bring him some American money, until I reminded him that he couldn't buy anything with American money in Japan.

The California energy crisis strikes again! A rolling blackout at our ISP in San Diego caused the J-List site to go down for a few hours on Wednesday. We're hard at work on the new server, which has, among other things, a separate gasoline generator to keep things on even if the lights go out. We hope to have some good news for you soon.

For this evening's update, we've got some nice items prepared for you, including:

  • Many new 18+ products for our adult customers
  • If you like J-List's wacky food and snack offerings, we've got more for you to try. One is a delicious "dry curry" mix (similar to fried rice, but flavored with delicious curry powder), and for rice lovers, packets of Ochazuke, which is a delicious and wholesome food you eat with rice
  • For Play Station 2 fans, we've got limited stock of the current Dengeki Play Station magazine, filled with information on the hottest PS2 games from Japan
  • Updated "Wacky" items incude Japanese lacquerware bowls and coaster, new unique items for ladies, and more!

Remember that J-List carries the most unique selection you will ever find of Japanese gum, snacks like Pocky and Pretz, and more. Please browse our site to find our unique products.

Monday, June 18, 2001

Greetings from J-List June 18, 2001

Hello and Happy Monday from your friends at J-List!

It's said in Japan that the U.S. is a "horizontal society" and Japan is a "vertical society," supposedly due to the fact that life in the U.S. being merit-based (if you work hard, you can enjoy the fruits of you labor directly) whereas progression up the "social ladder" in Japan is often based on age and seniority. It's certainly true that relationships here are very up-down, with a clear idea that the older you are (or the longer you've been in a certain organization), the more "erai" (high-level) you are. This concept is all around you when you're in Japan, you can't get away from it -- it's even built into the language. When a younger person speaks to an older person, even if he's just one year older, he must use "keigo," or polite Japanese, which effectively organizes everyone in the room according to level in a way that is impossible even to consider in American English. To not use the "right" language for your level is disconcerting to others, and makes you sound "cheeky." It sounds odd, but it actually makes relationships work more smoothly here -- it's almost like a networking protocol, TCP/IP for humans.

One interesting concept in Japan is that of senpai and kouhai, which could be translated as upperclassmen and underclassman, although this would only apply to students in school. Basically, higher-level individuals (either because of age or seniority) in a school or organization are senpai, and those who entered the school or organization after are kouhai. Senpai have various responsibilities to their kouhai, to teach and guide them. When I was an English teacher and met new teachers who had just come to Japan to teach, I assumed my role as senpai and took them around, as others did for me when I first arrived in Japan.

We're going to be moving to the new J-List server soon, but in the meantime, we experienced some technical problems over the weekend, which caused the "temporary" order form to misbehave. We've linked the order form buttons to the secure email form, which still works, so secure orders can be accepted without problems. Please note, though, that the secure certificate on the server is giving a "certificate has expired" browser error currently, due to our server problem. If you're concerned about submitting credit card details through the secure email form, please feel free to send us your order by fax or voice mail (the number is (619) 839-3745). If you're ordering through Paypal/Billpoint, or with check/money order, or if you have a card on file with us, we can of course accept orders through email. Thanks, as always, for your understanding during this temporary period.

For this evening's update, we've got some nice items for you, including:

  • Some interesting new 18+ products for our adult customers
  • If you love Japanese girls, we submit that you'll love the charming swimsuit idol Chikako Hatsumi, a lovely creature in a great idol DVD from SOD
  • Love Japanese snacks and food? We've got some interesting items for you, including authentic "ume-boshi" (very tart dried plums that are delicious), and some Power Rangers "furikake" (dried nori and scrambled egg, which you put on white rice -- kids love it) featuring the next series from Japan, Gao Ranger
  • If you love cute things from Japan, we hope you'll check out the "Wacky Things from Japan -- cute items" page. We've posted several new items, including a Hello Kitty lunchbox, a cute Hello Kitty name tag, and more
  • Finally, we've added some new items to our Wacky Things from Japan main page, including a new selection of Japanese washi paper (very useful and cool), the ultimate note holder for your desk (trust us! it's cool!) and more!

Are you an experienced graphic designer with knowledge of Illustrator? We're looking for someone who can help us design some interesting T-shirts, including some shirts promoting CM-Watch, our Japanese TV commercial site. If you're interested in helping, please drop us an email.