Friday, March 19, 2004

Greetings from J-List March 19, 2004

Hello again from all of us at J-List!

It seems that a Japanese city can't be complete until it has a big tower for tourists to visit and take pictures of. Virtually every major Japanese city has a big tower in its midst, to serve as a popular spot for visitors and lovers out for a romantic late-night drive. Kyoto Tower resembles Seattle's Space Needle. Marine Tower in Yokohama was the largest lighthouse in the world when it was built in 1961. Osaka Tower was built in 1887, but was melted down for war material during World War II; they rebuilt it in the 1950's. But the most famous tower in Japan is Tokyo Tower, a 333 meter replica of the Eiffel Tower, built because the Japanese secretly wish they were part of Europe (that's why Japan and Europe have the same DVD region). Since Japan is the country of "otaku," or people who become obsessed with hobbies like watching anime or taking pictures of trains, there are "tower otaku," too, who tour all the famous towers in Japanese cities. I found a homepage that contains lots of information on Japan's many towers: http://www2.odn.ne.jp/yoko-tower/museum/museum-e.htm

For a country that eats as much rice as Japan, they have some pretty interesting bread, too. Baked good are often bought in small bakeries that operate in supermarkets, and the smell of the bread baking is really great. You can buy normal bread sliced into eight, six or four slices, depending on how thick you like your bread to be -- the thick kind is great for making French Toast. There are many kinds of "bread" sold in Japan that would be called doughnuts by an American. Anpan is bread with Japanese sweet beans (anko) inside, which is something that foreigners usually can't stand. Melon Pan (melon bread) is a round, delicious sweetened bread that doesn't really taste like melon, no matter the name -- it's also called "no-miso pan" (brain bread) because it resembles a human brain. Curry Pan is a delicious ball of bread with curry baked inside it.

I remember reading through old Saint Seiya manga, while in college in the 80's, and wondering why they always write the blood type of each character along with their name, age and astrological sign. In Japan, it's believed that you can tell a lot about a person's personality and character traits from his blood type. Type A people are neat, tidy, and plan things meticulously, almost to a fault. Type B are "going my way" (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. They can be messy, and tend to act on impulse, too -- I am type B, and my wife is always commenting on why do some things I do based on my blood type. 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 people make good leaders. Finally, AB people have "two faces," one that they make in front of some people and another one they keep to themselves. Like the various beliefs that are related to Buddhism (such as, you're not supposed to sleep with your pillow facing north, as this is reserved for the dead before cremation), the Japanese blood type beliefs are hard to get used to at first, but when you live in Japan long enough, you start thinking there might be something to them after all...

For the new update, we've got some excellent products from Japan for you. They include:

  • First, for collectors of really unique toys from Japan, we've got the newest Kubrick toys in stock -- Gumby Kubrick, featuring the classic Gumby family characters (full sets are in stock)
  • For all who love the miniature, meticulously detailed Japanese food toys, we've restocked full sets of the excellent Desserts version 2, featuring famous and exotic Japanese desserts recreated for you
  • Hello Kitty fans, we've got a super cute Kitty alarm clock, which you can also use as a kitchen timer
  • Also, all-purpose vinyl bags with Kitty-chan and Kiki & Lala on them, very cute, and fresh stock of the cute Hello Kitty Weebles from Japan
  • Japan snack lovers, we've got some great new items for, including bite-sized cheesecake snacks from Morinaga, chocolate covered cookie squares, and a famous soft candy from Japan with a wrapper that's made of rice -- so you can eat the wrapped candy as-is!
  • We also have a new chocolate cookie snack from Kabaya, featuring the super cute pig character Bright Lighton, which come with character keychains of the famous pig in addition to the cookies
  • We've restocked several popular varieties of chewing gum from Japan, including Lotte Green Gum, the fresh, green taste of a forest
  • Want to freak out Japanese people? Put a "beginner's mark" on your car, which drivers who have had their license for less than a year must put on their car by Japanese law -- it will cause confusion and be wacky
  • For fans of super cute items from japan, we've got some plush Pingu keychains, of very high quality
  • Another rare item from Japan, we've gotten in cute "sho Totoro" (the white Totoro) magnets that you can stick anywhere
  • We love bringing you wacky things from Japan, and we've gotten in more wacky Japanese "pin badges," Japanese pins with totally bizarre messages and images on them
  • Also, we've gotten in another wacky Japanese message board for people who are tired and want to be left alone
  • Want to know the secrets of the Gundam universe? We've got the new Gundam Explorer Unofficial Guide in stock in our San Diego office, by Cocoro Books
  • Also by Cocoro, we've gotten the new Silver Screen Samurai, featuring the best of samurai movie posters from Japan -- very cool, and loaded with information
  • Finally, find a fun snack for kids to make in the summer, various restocked kitchen items, and more!

For our 18+ customers, we've got many new products. The new items include:

  • For fans of Japan's wonderful 18+ magazines, we have the new issues of Best Video and Video Boy, filled with famous and up-and-coming JAV stars
  • Then see the new issue of Senningiri International, which documents one man's journey to sleep with 1000 women
  • Then enjoy the wonderful sexy photobook of Nami Miyazawa, a charming small-bodied Japanese gravure idol
  • Also, the flexible and lovely Miku Komori is back, with a new glossy photobook of impossible contortions and her beautiful photographs
  • Also, enjoy the lovely first photobook of Miku Nakanishi, a charming Candy Girl
  • From artist M.Blem, we've got a dynamite collection of H illustrations, with a focus on "maid girls"
  • We have another excellent volley of top-flight H manga, with works by popular artists like Ippei Ikoma, Yayoi Umino and more, including the excellent No Longer Human by Masayoshi Mukai
  • In addition, Yasu has posted a selection of manga for you, including some popular items that we've had trouble keeping ins tock
  • Also, a bold and romantic new yaoi comic for you
  • For our DVD customers, we've added some cool new items for you, starting with a super new release for fans of Asuka Sawaguchi, the clean, fresh girl next door from Japan (region free)
  • Then prepare for more "Restructive Chair Trance" featuring a great all-girl performance, from Dogma and director Tohjiro (region free)
  • From Soft on Demand, a new "naughty ballerina" offering, featuring some very flexible girls with professional ballet experience (region free)
  • Then enjoy Ran Monbu in a new release from Wanz Factory, featuring an incredibly bold performance by a charming Japanese actress (region 2)
  • Also, from Waap Entertainment, a superb work for fans of Waap's primary genre, a classy performance by Mai Sakashita (region 2)
  • Finally, look for a large number or restocked DVDs, including recent releases by Sora Aoi, Ran Asakawa, Haruki Mizuno, Akira Watase and Kurumi Morishita.

Remember that J-List still has limited stock of the world-famous Hello Kitty personal massager, but our stock is (really) running low, and will be gone before the summer. If you want to own a piece of this pop culture history, please act quickly. Have you ever wanted to know the history of how this amazing product came to be? Well, click on over to Jmate.com and read all about the history of this unique cultural icon. The URL is http://www.jmate.com

Monday, March 15, 2004

Greetings from J-List March 15, 2004

Hello from Japan, where a corn dog is known as an "American Dog."

Starbucks continues their expansion in Japan, bringing their upbeat coffee and other beverages to all corners of the country. Most popular areas of Tokyo have several Starbucks, and it's still quite common to find branches with no empty seats -- so Japanese, who are used to crowds, drink their coffee while standing up. It's interesting to compare the menus in Japan and the U.S. The Japanese have no love of eggnog, and so I never get to enjoy eggnog lattes around Christmas time. However, Starbucks Japan offers local variations for their Japanese customers, such as this month's special, White Chocolate Mocha, offered because March 14 is White Day, the day when men who received chocolate from women on Valentine's Day are supposed to give something back. Matcha Frappachinos are also very good, and especially refreshing in the summer.

There are many interesting service-related customs in Japan that I think would work well in other countries, too. In most Japanese restaurants, waitresses give you a steaming hot towel to clean your hands (or if you're a little ill-mannered, your face). Similar to the hot towels they hand out in airplanes, the steamed towels are just the ticket to make customers feel pampered and positive about the meal they're about to enjoy. Another interesting custom are radio-controlled call buttons on tables, which you press to let your server know you'd like to order. Like the men's urinals that automatically flush when a patron walks away, which originated in Japan, these handy amenities might be appreciated by customers in other countries, too. Another Japanese innovation I've watched for a long time: Japanese taxi companies called "dai-sha" ("replacement car"). If you've had too much to drink at a bar, call one of these special taxis, which have two people inside: one to drive you home in the taxi, and a second to drive your car home, so you don't have to leave it at the bar.

The Star Trek replica models from Furuta are off to a great start, which makes us happy, since these highly detailed toys are really the coolest thing we've seen in a long time (I've got my set on display). Meticulously crafted replicas of all the famous Star Trek ships, the detail is so fine you can read tiny words on the ships in the most unlikely places. They're sturdy, assemble easily, and come with stands for displaying.