Although Japan's version of Christmas is slightly different from other countries, many customs related to the giving or receiving of gifts abound in Japan. First of all, there are two gift-giving seasons, in July and December, when you give gifts to various people who are "sewa ni natteiru," a phrase which describes people who are helping you out in some way (professors, teachers). Companies exchange gifts in these seasons, too, and J-List exchanges gifts with the distributors and other companies that we deal with -- it's always fun to see what this or that company will give this year. In many cases when you receive a gift, you're supposed to give an "o-kaeshi" or a gift in return, which is supposed to be equal to half the value of the gift you received. At weddings, all guests bring about $200 in cash as a wedding gift, and the leave with about $100 in gifts in a big bag -- rice with red beans, katsuobushi (similar to furikake), and other items. Similarly, at funerals, well-wishers arrive with a cash gift in an envelope; they leave with small gifts such as green tea. In years past, it was customary for people to give a gift (cash or some other valuable item) to doctors when their loved ones were in the hospital, although this has been banned by the Japanese medical board within the last decade.
Sometimes you can get yourself caught in a "gift war" with Japanese people -- they give you something, you give something back, intending it to be an "o-kaeshi" (oh-KA-eh-shi), but the next thing you know they've gone and given you another gift. For the first few years of my marriage, my mother and my wife's mother would engage in this kind of gift battle, each trying to get the last word in. My mother finally gave up, I think, resigning to let the balance of gift giving go in favor of my wife's mother. When my wife and I went to Spain, we brought back some salt from the Mediterranean to a couple who run one of our favorite restaurants. They showered us with wine and other gifts in return, despite the fact that the salt cost less than $1, but we knew not to get into a gift-giving war. If you do want to give a gift to a Japanese person and avoid the embarrassment of return gifts, just tell them up front that you don't need an "o-kaeshi"
Tokyo is an interesting place, although I tire of all that concrete when I'm there on businss, and am happy to get back to quiet old Gunma at the end of the day. Some of the more interesting points to check out if you're ever in Tokyo would include Ameyoko, an interesting collection of alleyways full of small street shops selling interesting clothes, food and accessories. It grew out of a major black market that flourished during World War II, and it's quite fun to wander around and see what you can see. Another popular spot with tourists is Akasuka, a large shrine that has many interesting shops around it. If you like electronics, and what gaijin visiting Japan doesn't, be sure and hit Akihabara, home of the "Electric Town" where there are hundreds of shops selling just about anything you can want, and if you've got your passport you can get it tax-free, too. To check out "kogal" culture, just take the Yama-no-te (the loop line that goes around Tokyo) to Shibuya and get off at the Hachiko exit (Hachiko is the famous dog who waited faithfully for his master to return every day, until one day the master died, yet the dog continued to wait faithfully until he, too, died). You'll find a vibrant area of street musicians as well kogals and men trying to hit on them around the famous "scramble intersection" (called this because you have to move your butt quickly to get across in time). For night action, go to Kabikicho, although gaijin should watch themselves as it can be a little rough, and some establishments won't let foreignrs in at all. Tokyo Tower and the massive Tokyo Municipal Government Office are also good to hit if you want a view of the city from above, or find one of the companies that will take you up for a helicopter tour.
For the first update of the new week, we've got a very nice selection of new products for you, including:
- First, the new Urecco is in, and it's a very nice issue, capturing lovely Japanese models like Ichigo Milk and Natsuki Abe in startlingly beautiful photographs
- If you're interested in discount magazines, we've got a bunch posted for you, starting at $5-6 (see magazine page 3 for all discount magazine items)
- The very nice Gal's Shower Live, a combination bukkake magazine and dual-Video CD combination item, is in stock
- For photobook lovers, we've fresh stock of some great items, including leg and stocking fetish photobooks, as well as the beautiful new hardcover photobook of lovely swimsuit idol Yui Ichikawa
- If you like hentai manga from Japan, we've got a very large update for you, with a half-dozen newly posted books as well as fresh stock of many popular books (including the best-selling Fetish Doll dick girl manga series)
- Also for doujinshi fans, good stock of three excellent hentai doujinshi for you -- a new Girl Power, featuring Dirty Pair, Gundam and other themes (including naughty tentacles), and two new game girl books from Kenix featuring the best Capcom vs. SNK hentai (all very nice)
- For DVD fans, we've got some nice new products for you, including an interesting "Couple Kiss" DVD in which male/female couples step inside the Magic Mirror Bus and demonstrate their kissing style, then an experienced "kissing girl" comes and kisses both the man and the woman to show how it's done (region free)
- A busty and lovely new face in the indies AV world, Reiko Matsushima, appears in her first AV release ever, a very nice DVD from Deep's (region free)
- For bondage fans, we've got "A Moisten Maid Sisters," the story of two sisters who works as French maids, who have very interesting sex lives (region free)
- For Madoka Ozawa fans, we've got a great all-new AV release showing the "private sex" of Madoka-chan, what she doesn't show to the camera (region 2)
- Finally, for loves of lesbian DVDs, check out Mami Gotoh and Milk Asakura in a very erotic lesbian and hardcore sex release from Waap Entertainment (region 2)
- If you love cool Japanese toys from Japan, we've got a really elegant anime figure of Fujiko Mine from the Lupin III TV series (complete with cloth kimono and 34 points of articulation in her body), as well as limited stock (as in one each) of the very cool Macross transformable Valkyrie toys
- Also: limited stock of the very nice "You're under Arrest" cards
- For fans of our Japanese snacks and food page, we've got fresh stock of the delicious Strawberry "Tsubu" (bits of strawberry) Pocky, as well as fresh stock of delicious slightly spicy rice crackers with peanuts
- We have some health-related items, including fresh stock of the excellent Japanese hand warmers, a very nice brush to clean your feet in the shower or bath
- Japan is the birthplace of "cute" and we've got more Hello Kitty toilet paper (they make a great for anyone who either loves or hates Kitty-chan), new stickers for Hello Kitty fans, and even more stock of our #1 selling authentic Japanese bento box, Hamster Club
- We've restocked many sold-out sizes of one of our most popular T-shirts, the white "Looking for a Girlfriend" shirt -- now all sizes are in stock, size M to XXL
- We've got fresh stock of our popular wacky Japanese signs, including a sign that says "Please take your shoes off" in Japanese, as well as a Japanese emergency exit sign
- New "traditional Japanese items" include some of those classic sushi erasers, self-inking Japanese stamps, and more Japanese "happiness beans" that you can throw at your doorway in Japanese tradition to chase away devils
- Finally, see Japanese "days of the week" magnets, cool regional maps of Japan (Shikoku, Hokkaido, Northern Japan), fresh stock of our blank vocabulary cards so you can study like Japanese students, and more! Lots of fun stuff for you!
We're happy to see the Hello Kitty vibrators that we got stock of selling at a fast clip -- we sold 20 of them in two days! We have about a hundred in stock, which is a lot, but if they continue to sell at that rate we might run out in a few weeks. If you want your own Hello Kitty mock vibrator, be sure to get yours before they are gone. We just love bring able to bring wacky stuff like this to you!