Thursday, January 15, 2004

Greetings from J-List January 15, 2004

Hello again from your friends at J-List!

Well, my little trip to San Diego and Las Vegas has come to an end, and it's time for me to make the jump back to Japan. It's always nice to come home -- nothing makes a person appreciate what a great place their home country is like living in another one. One thing I really miss about San Diego when I'm in Japan is the weather: today, while the rest of the U.S. was freezing, it was a balmy 74 degrees, perfect for wearing short-sleeves.

Tokyo is a really exciting city, a sprawling mass of people and concrete that really boggles the mind the first time you're there. The population of Tokyo itself stands at around 12 million, but if you count the neighboring cities of Kawasaki and Yokohama and nearby prefectures of Chiba and Saitama, it grows to a massive 33 million. About a quarter of all Japanese live within 100 km (60 miles) of the Tokyo, making it by far the most influential part of the country. Because Tokyo is so massive, every few years someone brings up the topic of moving the capital to another part of the country, like Japan's Tohoku region (the northern section of the main Japanese island of Honshu), which is still underdeveloped economically. Unfortunately there's not much momentum for such a plan at present.

If you're ever in Tokyo, there are some good places to see, the famous "playgrounds" which are fun to check out, whether you want to have fun or just do some people-watching. First is Harajuku, a stylish area on the Yama-no-Te loop line where you can find very cool shops, and very hip young people. Go on Sundays to see people dressed up in Gothic & Lolita fashions. Next is Shibuya, also on the Yama-no-Te train line. Go out the Hachiko exit (Hachiko was a faithful dog who waited at this station for ten years for his master to return, unaware that his master had died; you can see a statue of him here), preferably on a Friday or Saturday night, and just feel the energy from the lights, the massive TV screens, the street musicians, and the cool restaurants. Roppingi is also good -- famous for its bars and "image clubs" (establishments where you can have girls dressed in costumes pour drinks for you), and Tokyo's Hard Rock Cafe is there. Finally, if you ever hit Tokyo, you must go to Akihabara, the electronic mecca of Japan, with hundreds of large and small electronics shops. When riding the train, you can always tell you've stopped in Akihabara because all the gaijin suddenly get off the train.

When you learn a foreign language, one concept you catch early on is that a given word will often have many different meanings or nuances when used in another language. One of the first words students of Japanese learn is "genki," which is used in the Japanese greeting "Ogenki desu ka?" (Are you well?). In the context of this greeting, genki means "fine" or "well" and you can reply to this greeting by saying "Hai, genki desu" (Yes, I am fine). But genki can have other meanings, such as describing children running around ("energetic"), or someone beaming with happiness about something, or someone getting healthy after an illness. (The word can also refer to a man in a state of sexual arousal.) Studying a foreign language teaches you a lot about how words work and makes you think about your own language, too.

For the new update, we've got some excellent all-new products from Japan for you, from toy magazines to cool items for your home to brand-new Gundam toys to nifty Kitty items and more. Items for adults include erotic new magazines and super sexy photobooks and hentai manga/doujinshi and great DVDs like the popular "clothed female, naked male" DVD series. Three dozen new products from Japan for you to check out -- please browse them all!

At J-List, we love DVDs, and are happy that we can provide so many unique titles to our customers from Japan. 95% of the DVDs J-List sells are "region free" meaning you can use them in any player, but some discs from Japan -- Japan-released anime and high-end indies 18+ DVDs -- require a special region-free player to view. J-List stocks two excellent transportable region-free players from Lasonic, the feature-rich yet inexpensive DVF-982 and the even more affordable DVB-8092. These players will play discs from any country in the world, including playing PAL (European) discs on an NTSC (North American) TV and vice-versa. They also play VCDs as well as CD-R and DVD-R/CD-RW media. And they start at just $88!

Monday, January 12, 2004

Greetings from J-List January 12, 2004

Hello again from J-List!

Well, we're back in sunny San Diego again, safe and sound. We had a great show in Las Vegas -- thanks to everyone who came by to say hello. Doing an "adult" show was a totally new experience for us, but we had fun, and got to see a lot of cool stuff (Hulk Hogan came by our booth, too). I'm used to having "reverse culture shock" when I come to California from Japan -- little things like ordering a small drink and getting a drink that's larger than a large size in Japan. It was amazing how much culture shock we had in Nevada though: everything from the rules of the road to where you're allowed to smoke (everywhere) were quite different from what we were used to in California.

The circle is now complete: I just caught the last chapter of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. It was truly amazing, a real visual treat, although the Tolkien purist in me might have a thing or two to say about the final cut (which will probably be fixed in the final DVD release). My wife suspects I plan my business trips to the U.S. to coincide with movies that just happen to not be opening in Japan for a few more months, so I can see them early -- where would she get an idea like that?

When you learn a language as different from English as Japanese, there are inevitably some words that don't translate on a perfect 1-to-1 basis, which can present some challenges to anyone learning the language. The concept of "cold," for example, is expressed with two different words: samui (sa-MOO-ee, coldness in the air) and tsumetai (TSOO-meh-TAI, coldness to the touch). Similarly, cold water (mizu) and hot water (yu or o-yu) are two totally different concepts in Japanese. There are two words for "love" in Japanese, too, and if you want to have some fun ask Japanese what the difference between them is -- they'll stumble as they try to come up with a way to explain the difference. The two words are koi (which usually describes romantic love between a man and a woman, or the hot love you get while dating) and ai (a higher kind of love that is used for family or anyone who's very dear to you, or the steady, long-burning love of marriage). Yet another concept that takes several forms in Japanese is "heart." There are three potential ways to express this word: shinzo (the actual heart pumping blood in your body), kokoro (the philosophical elements of your heart, aka your spirit or soul), and haato (the English word heart, written in the katakana writing system), which usually describes a traditional heart shape but can also be an alternate way to write kokoro. Incidentally, while Westerners usually assume the "self" or "mind" is in your head, Japanese indicate that it's in your chest, where your heart is. In case it ever comes up in Trivial Pursuit.

Sometimes Japan can really throw you a curve ball. In Japan, like in all countries, there are foreigners living and working there, from countries like the Brazil, Peru, South Korea, the U.S. and so on. They fill various jobs, such as English teachers, translators, factory workers, you name it. The other day I was in a game center, and I saw a sign posted on the wall that stated in extremely polite Japanese, "Thank you for using this game center. Please understand that our staff can only speak Japanese, so we cannot communicate with foreigners who can't speak Japanese. If you can't speak this language and have some trouble with our games, please go to another game center." Since the sign was written in Japanese, I don't know who they thought was going to read it.

For the new update, the J-List staff has worked extra hard to make a great update for you, with dozens of cool new products from Japan, including DVDs, magazines, photobooks, toys, wacky things from Japan, snacks, gum and more. Please take a few minutes to browse all the great new items we've posted for you! We've also restocked your old favorites, from manga to candy to DVDs, and we know you'll love the cool items for you.

Remember that J-List carries a really unique item sold only in Japan: ultra-soft acrylic character blankets from Japan, with printed images of Totoro and Hello Kitty on them. These blankets are incredibly soft and great to snuggle up against, and keep you really warm -- we actually sleep with two of them, one below and one above, for really toasty winters. My mother loves these blankets so much that she regularly has me bring them to her from Japan. Our current stock of warm blankets from Japan is all we'll be getting in for the rest of the season, so get your super-soft Japanese blanket today!