A very big change is coming for my family: my son is starting Elementary School, and that means that many things will be changing. Japanese compulsory education (Elementary and Junuir High School) is standardized on a national level, through the mighty Ministry of Education, and from the upper reaches of Hokkaido down to balmy Okinawa, Japanese schools are designed to one thing: output standardized, happy Japanese kids that can get along and be happy in Japanese society. To that end, the various elements of schools and learning, from textbooks to desks to what teachers do and how they do it, are made uniform throughout the country. My son must do exactly what everyone else does, starting with walking 1.2 kilometers (about 3/4 of a mile) to the school every morning, wearing an official school-approved school backpack called a "landoseru" (which comes from the German word Raenzel), writing with approved pencils and notebooks, wearing a school-approved bright yellow hat, and so on. It's not just my son who will need to conform to a whole new world of changes, though. My poor wife now has to interact with a whole new group of people, from teachers to other parents, and do everything expected of her as a mother in Japan. She will constantly be worrying (perhaps unnecessarily, but who can say?) about our appearance in the eyes of others, which is known as "hito no me" (hee-toh no meh) in Japanese. Among other things, she has to get up extra early and be a crosswalk guard, waving a yellow flag to alert cars that young children are walking along the road.
Recently we've been on a big hot springs kick, and every Sunday for the past few weeks we've gotten into our Mazda Bongo Friendee (similar to an MPV, but taller, and the roof opens to give you another compartment) and going to various onsen towns around us. Japan's various traditions of bathing are quite famous all over the world, and rightly so. Most Japanese take baths in the evening, although younger people replace this tradition with a shower in the morning. In Japanese homes, the actual bath-room is a bath and a separate tiled area outside the bath, with a drain for water to escape (Japanese are amazed that we refer to the toilet as "bathroom" since it's totally different). You always wash your body thoroughly before getting into the bath, and never use soap or shampoo inside the bath itself, as the water will be reused by other family members, and saved for several days. All baths here have heaters to allow you to re-heat the old water, and ours has a one-touch computer that will fill the bath to the pre-set temperature and level for you. If you're a parent living in Japan, you always take your kids in the bath with you and wash them. This warm concept of mother or father taking a bath with their children is called "skinship" by the Japanese, a Japanese term that serves its purpose well. Japanese are great fans of public baths (sento) and hot springs (onsen), too. Since the water is "everyone's water," everyone must wash thoroughly before getting into the baths, although I've seen quite a few old men who skipped this step. As a foreigner living in Japan, I consider myself an "ambassador of goodwill" and what not, so I make sure I follow the rules even if not everyone else does. The Japanese are famous for bathing with men and women together (kon'yoku), but this is actually very rare, and I've only encountered a combined bath once in all my years in Japan. If you are interested in learning more about Japan's hot springs culture, I recommend Peach Princess's excellent game Tokimeki Check-in!, which accurately captures the spirit of a traditional Japanese hot springs inn, from yukata to the ping-pong tables that seem to be required at all Japanese onsen hotels.
Unfortunately we continue to get a small per cent of customers with ordering problems. It seems that some users using the normal checkout (not the express checkout) make orders and receive the automated "thank you" email from the J-List database. Unfortunately, the orders never reach us on our end, and are thus never processed. If you have made an order through the J-List website in the past couple of weeks and never received updates about its status from us, please email us and we'll figure it out for you. Thanks!
For the new update today, we've got a very nice selection of new items for you, including:
o The excellent new issue of Gokuh, which is heavily laden with lovely photographs of the top AV idols in Japan today, Manatsu Hirose to Anna Ohura to Kurumi Morishita and beyond
J-List sells many nice bishoujo games from English, which have been licensed from the original Japanese companies, uncensored, and translated into English. Two of my favorites are Legend of Fairies and Fairy Nights, two "novel type" games for Windows or Macintosh (all versions of both) in which you work your way through an interesting tale of sexy fairies and "battle mahjong." These great story-based games are part 1 and 2 in a series.
The J-Mate site has been updated yet again, with new reviews of items you can get at J-List. We've got reviews of the very nice new Kyoka Usumi best selection DVD, as well as a nice review of the very interesting Black Bukkake DVD. The URL is http://www.jmate.com/