Friday, April 30, 2004

Greetings from J-List April 30, 2004

Hello again from Japan, home of cars with unique English names like the Honda "That's."

I often think that the U.S. doesn't look hard enough to countries like Japan for ideas about how to best organize the government. Currently, the issue of requiring cars to have better fuel efficiency in the face of the popularity of large SUVs is being discussed. Japan has a great system for encouraging use of fuel-efficient cars in its road tax system: every March, anyone with a car must pay an annual tax which gets more expensive the larger your car's engine is. Drivers of the smallest, most efficient cars pay only $30 a year; for average cars, the tax is around $300; but if you've got a large sedan or SUV, expect to pay $1000 or so. The current California annual vehicle registration system starts out high when you buy a new car, but drops as your car's value goes down, effectively rewarding drivers for keeping their cars as long as possible, even when they become inefficient polluting machines. Instead of this system, structuring things so that there's an economic benefit for driving newer, more efficient cars sounds like a good idea to me.

Now Japan has entered Golden Week, a series of national holidays that happens to fall more or less within the same week. Japanese use the long holiday period to travel, and it's common for virtually the entire population of Tokyo to make a mass exodus away from the city, going home to be with family or taking a vacation in other parts of the country. Unfortunately, anyplace that we'd like to take the kids during Golden Week -- the mountains, hot springs, Tokyo Disneyland -- is packed with Tokyoites, making it virtually impossible to go anywhere fun.

There are many approaches to learning a foreign language -- the Army Method (stress on learning through memorization), the Grammar Translation Method (learning a language by parsing its grammar), the Communicative Method (leaning by speaking and listening in the target language), the Natural approach (trying to replicate the steps that children go through when they learn a language). Another approach is the "get attention" method, which I'll label the Social Feedback Method to give it a cool-sounding name. Basically, you learn whatever vocabulary and phrases that will make you the life of the party among your new linguistic group, be it cute ways to begin conversations with attractive Japanese girls or interesting phrases that will amuse Japanese people around you. I have a friend who worked his way across Asia using this method, learning just enough of the local languages to be social and have fun with his hosts, and he swears by it.

At J-List, we love being a bridge of pop culture between Japan and the West, and we try to encourage interest in studying Japanese by selling many Japanese study aids (basically, all the things I wished I could buy when I was studying Japanese at SDSU back in the 1980s). One of the best tools to help you study Japanese is the Canon Wordtank, a fantastic line of electronic dictionaries that are packed with features for gaijin learning Japanese. We're proud to announce we've gotten stock of the brand new G50, a totally redesigned Wordtank with great many great features, including up to nine dictionaries including the Kojien, the most famous dictionary in Japan. We've also restocked the IDF4600, the Cadillac of Wordtanks, and reduced our price on this fabulous item. Both come with full English printed manuals, too!

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

  • First, for Shirow Masamune fans, a treat: a personal Roman Album of Mamoru Oshii, director of the Ghost in the Shell movies
  • Next, a super treat for fans of highly detailed "candy toy" and PVC figures -- the 40th anniversary Official Exhibition Guide of the famous Kaiyodo corporation, showing off their most amazing creations ever
  • Final Fantasy fans, we've got a super "trading figure" series from Square featuring the most memorable figures of the timeless FF series
  • Blythe fans, we've got two really special Blythe doll + dish sets by Takara, very fashionable and fun to display
  • For fans of our Japanese snacks, enjoy some special new items, including tasty blueberry pies, a sample pack of candy from the Meiji Confectionery Company, flavored bread stick snacks and more
  • Also, super cute Sailor Moon gummi based on the cool new Sailor Moon live-action TV series
  • Hello Kitty lovers, we've got a cute "Kitty Notebook Computer" that you can use to email Kitty-chan -- it even has a mouse
  • Next, we've restocked several popular reflective Japanese message stickers with bizarre messages, to amaze your friends with
  • For Domo-kun lovers, we've got a brand new item, a cool leather pen case featuring Domo-kun and his friends
  • We have more authentic chopsticks from Japan, a handy set of hand-made bamboo chopsticks that are great for having guests over, and a "value pack" of disposable chopsticks for all uses
  • Need to iron clothes anywhere? We've got a handy item from Japan, a portable ironing glove that's so handy
  • Have hours of fun with a fun PostPet game, the super cute pink bear made by Sony -- he dances in water for you
  • From the Panda Z universe, two cool new robot friends: Hamugear 1 and 2, giant robotic hamsters that are incredible cute
  • For fans of die-cast toy cars, we've got fresh stock of the Tomica Honda NSX, Nissan Cima and Porsche Boxster, as well as newly restocked Japan Hot Wheels toys
  • If you were interested in the varieties of Japanese tea we mentioned on Wednesday, we've posted some very healthy Japanese tea, great for dieting too
  • Finally, a cool way to organize your business cards, cute erasers for fans of Shinkansen, another of the Gabriel C basset hound toy from the Ghost in the Shell Innocence movie, and more!

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

  • First, for fans of Japan's elegant 18+ photo magazines, we've got the new issue of Urecco, an extra-special one that's filled with gorgeous JAV stars and models
  • Next we we've got the new issue of Sasotte Ageru, e.g. I'm Gonna Ask You Out, a fun magazine for fans of real Tokyo girls
  • Then we've got the new issue of DVD Wonderland, a full color magazine with a 2 hour DVD of super indies samples for you
  • We've also gotten in stock more low-priced magazines and magazines with DVDs inside, starting at just $5
  • Photobook lovers, we've got a super hardcover offering by the lovely Nao. (she always has a period after her name, in imitation of Morning Musume.), an superb Japanese beauty
  • Sakura Mizutani is the super cute honey who will "Snipe your Heart" in her new hardcover photobook
  • Then from Sabra, a special photobook featuring Azusa Yamamoto, as photographed by Seiichi Nomura
  • Restocked photobooks include the amazing Dressage by Marina Matsushima, the elegant Sundownder stocking photobook, Maiko Kazano's stylish and sexy photobook, and more
  • For our H manga customers, we've got some special items, including a new Electric Love Princess manga, compiling famous game-girl doujinshi, a special manga about skinship, and a story featuring "naughty tentacles"
  • For our DVD customers, we've got some great items, starting with 4 hours of the best Cosplay Idols by TMA (region free)
  • Next, enjoy the "Palm of a Hitomi Hayasaka" with 4 hours of her hardest performances, presented by Million (region free)
  • From Soft on Demand's Deep's label, an exploration of various themes for you, with seven gorgeous JAV stars (region free)
  • Then enjoy an amazing "cat fight" offering from Soft on Demand, featuring wild girls who really get into it in the ring (region free)
  • Then from U&K, a new exploration of extremely sensual and expressive kissing between females -- don't miss this cool DVD (region free)
  • For fans of Garo Aida, we present the beautiful new soft offering of Megumi, one of his most beautiful models yet (region 2)
  • Finally, various restocked DVD titles, including the Contrary Soap Heaven with Sora Aoi, more "study by 100 girls" DVDs, and other restocked items!

Remember that J-List carries dozens of varieties of low-cost highly-detailed "candy toys," so named because you usually get some kind of candy in the box with the toy. From the super cool PVC figures of Shirow Masamune's characters to Furuta's superb Star Trek models to replicas of famous Japanese foods to the Sony AIBO toys, these are fun to collect and display. We even sell display cases for these special toys! Because we're dedicated to going the extra mile for you, we make full sets of most items available so you don't have to waste your money buying duplicates and throwing them away.

Want to see Japan's military in a new light? We found a recruiting video for the Japanese Naval Self-Defense Forces that's quite amusing. The slogan is "I love Japan. I love peace." The link is here: http://www.jda.go.jp/JMSDF/event/cm_p/index.html (Quicktime required).

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Greetings from J-List April 28, 2004

Hello again from all of us in Japan!

In the U.S., the existence of the military looms large in many ways. The military protects the U.S. and some of the best jobs to be had are with jobs related to the defense industry. Japan has a military, too, although you probably don't think about them much. Japan's 300,000-strong Self-Defense Forces, or "Jieitai," were created in 1954 at the urging of the U.S., who wanted allies to stand with them against Communism. Even though the SDF is supposed to keep its budget at less than 1% of Japan's GDP, it's a very advanced and well-funded force, with an annual budget of US$42 billion. One of the biggest problems with Japan's military forces is that they're basically extra-legal -- Article 9 of Japan's constitution strictly states that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential will never be maintained." During the 13 years that I've lived in Japan, there have been numerous attempts at amending the constitution to give the SDF official status, but Japan's strange form of democracy, in which every little political party has the right to shout out their opinion and consensus is very hard to reach, has made this impossible so far.

Although coffee and Western tea are popular in Japan, many prefer the wide variety of Asian teas often grouped together in the wide category of "green tea." The list of teas enjoyed in Japan is almost endless, with the most popular being ryoku-cha (a slightly weak green tea), mugi-cha (a pleasant-tasting tea made from barley, enjoyed in the hot summer), or genmai-cha (tea with roasted grains of unhulled rice in it). Oolong-cha, a dark refreshing tea from China, is perhaps the best-selling bottled beverage in Japan; it's very nice because it cuts through oil, washing down anything greasy you've eaten (it can be even used as a mild cleaner). Matcha, a bitter green tea made from powder, is used in the Japanese tea ceremony, and is also a popular flavoring for cakes and ice cream -- I even saw matcha yogurt the other day, although I can't recommend it.

A major path to business success seems to be, watch what successful companies do in the U.S., then do it in Japan before they can get over here. In America, eBay may be king of the hill when it comes to online auctions, but in Japan it's Yahoo all the way -- Yahoo's Japanese auction site is so successful that eBay quietly closed their Japanese page three years ago. Pizza Hut is another similar success story. After observing the paradigm shift from eating pizza in restaurants to having it delivered, Pizza Hut copied the Domino's strategy in Japan, opening hundreds of franchises and delivering pizza in 30 minutes or less. Pizza Hut (whose motto here is "Dynamic and Speedy") has a strong presence all over Japan, but Dominoes is almost nonexistent.

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

  • First, for Ghost in the Shell fans, we've got a treat for you: "gashapon" (capsule toys) of the classic by Shirow Masamune, in full sets so you don't have to waste your money buying duplicates
  • Fans of Japan's gorgeous swimsuit idols, we've got trading cards of Azusa Yamamoto, fun to own
  • Looking for delicious snacks from Japan? We've got Milky Banana candies, super delicious Chocolate Every Burger, little cookie hamburgers for you to eat, and more
  • From Lotte, we've got delicious acerola gum, a tart, very delicious fruit that's high in vitamins
  • We've restocked many food items including the traditional flavored Kyoto style pretzel snacks, Hi-Chu Green Apple, March of the Koalas, Bontan Ame and various flavors of Pocky
  • Also, a very wacky item: a pack of Black Black caffeine gum that's really an eraser in disguise
  • We have the new Dengeki Comic Gao, a fabulous 550+ page monthly comic that's filled with great art and extras
  • Manga collectors, we've got a treat for you: vol. 1-7 of the Mythical Detective Loki, e.g. Ragnarok, a super set for you
  • One of the most famous stories in Japan is the Sankokushi, the History of Three Provinces of Ancient China -- we've got excellent PVC figures from Sankokushi, in full sets, from Epoch
  • Sanrio fans, we've got a super cute item for you, an all-purpose pump bottle for shampoo, hand soap and so on, featuring My Melody, as well as a remote controlled Walking Hello Kitty
  • For all those embarrassing moments when you don't have enough chopsticks in your home, we've got some nice new ones, made of bamboo, the best material for chopsticks
  • We've got a cool item for you: multi-colored Japanese fude (FOO-day) pens, which allow you to write in classic Chinese calligraphy
  • Fans of Gloomy Bear, the sad and homicidal Japanese character, we've restocked several items for you, including the Gloomy Bear ballpoint pen
  • Finally, we have totally cool Sanrio notepads, more spiffy shogi playing board and piece sets, wacky highlighting pens that smell like fruit, and more!

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

  • For fans of beautiful kogals photographed very stylishly, we've got the new Urecco Gal in stock for you, just loaded with gorgeous girls for you
  • Enjoy the new issue of Bizuma ("Beautiful Wife") Hacker, a popular magazine for fans of married women and 30+ ladies
  • Also, the new issue of Enjo Kei, a perfect bound magazine featuring 100% real Tokyo girls
  • For photobook fans, the delicious Ryo Uehara shows her lovely self to the camera, in an offering that is really lovely to see
  • Then see the beautiful Sumire Ogawa, a super-sexy swimsuit idol, in her brand new release
  • Restocked photobooks include three very popular photobooks featuring the lovely Mihiro, one of our favorite sexy models from Japan
  • Next up, Ourei Harada shines brightly in her hardcover photobook with the delectable title of Vanilla Aulait
  • We have some fantastic 18+ manga for our H manga collectors, including a wet new work from Takeshi Hirano, the super "Mix With" by Ohwata Izumi, and a superb "kemono" offering from Pikupi-kun
  • We've also restocked several popular manga titles for you -- check them out
  • For yaoi fans, we have a new work in stock for you, Cisco Kataru's "Empty Heart," as well as various restocked titles
  • For our DVD customers, we've got some great new items, starting with a fun Concentration Horse Riding collection, at a great price (region free)
  • Then we've got a delightful new release by Sora Aoi, featuring multi-angle action of one of Japan's loveliest JAV stars (region free)
  • Next, enjoy a new "naughty ballerina" DVD featuring Miki Nakazawa, the Rhythmic Gymnastics girl with Black Hair (region free)
  • From SOD's Chuujitsudoh label, female best friends touch each other to try to guess which manko belongs to their friend (region free)
  • For fans of all-girl performances, we've got another excellent offering by the famous indies studio U&K (region free)
  • Then from Wanz Factory (my personal favorite JAV studio), a fresh new concept: tickling, starring six lovely idols including Rina Usui (region 2)
  • Then enjoy many restocked titles including the Contrary Soap Heaven with Sora Aoi, Kyoko Ayana's DVD with toy, the excellent Sexy Ballerina, and Ero Para Go Go!, a tribute to late-night Japanese television game shows.

J-List sells many interesting items from Japan, including our trademark "funny Japanese T-shirts" which are printed in the USA and come in all sizes, from small all the way up to XXXL. Our most popular T-shirt by far is the "Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend," followed by "Dirty American Devil" (the word the Japanese used for us during the war), "Beware of Perverts" and "You Must be 20 to Buy Alcohol and Tobacco." Of our recently added shirts, the Domo-kun parody is easily the top seller. All shirts are 100% cotton and all sizes are stocked, for speedy shipment to you!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Greetings from J-List April 26, 2004

Hello again from Japan, where the statement "not by the hair of my chinny chin chin" means something else entirely...

First of all, an IP change over the weekend caused some problems with the site, including a brief down period and some images that did not display properly. The problem has been fixed -- sorry if you were unable to use the site during the down time. If you experience any problems with the JLIST or JBOX sites, please let us know and we'll check into it right away.

It's fun living in Japan, however there's one big drawback: we live next to North Korea, one of the least fun nations you can live next to. North Korea has kidnapped at least six Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 80s, taking them home to act as language teacher-slaves to train spies how to speak Japanese. There are dozen of other Japanese more who are missing, believed to still be held in the country. They have a nuclear program, and we live right in the middle of any missile flight between Pyongyang and Tokyo -- that's just not fun in anyone's book. North Korea has a very highly organized drug trade, and virtually all of the cocaine that comes into Japan is from there. But there's a side to the international drama that you've probably not heard about: apparently, North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong Il seems to have fallen in love with a famous Japanese magician and singer Princess Tenko, and is stalking her through a network of agents in Japan.

It started when Princess Tenko, a famous illusionist (Mattel made a line of dolls based on her in the 90s, and she's supposedly dating Jean-Claude Van Damme), travelled to North Korea to perform in a gesture of international friendship. North Korea's leader was quite taken with her charm, and invited her back every year to perform on the birthday of his father. Several years ago, Princess Tenko got suddenly ill during her stay, which the North Korean government used to try to deny her permission to leave the country, in effect kidnapping her. After her return to Japan, Princess Tenko allegedly received hundreds of phone calls from mysterious men who have harassed her, telling her that Kim Jong Il wants her to return to North Korea. Mysteriously, the calls always came at 2:16 pm, which points to North Korea's Dear Leader: his birthday is February 16, and he is fixated with the numbers, even to the point of driving in limousines with "2 16" as the license plate numbers.

I say allegedly above because with Japanese television you can never be sure that the documentary you're watching is real or faked. Television in Japan is very ratings-driven, and it's quite common for TV to stage events so they can film them, which is called "yarase" (yah-RAH-seh). A wide variety of Japanese television is completely fake. In one show, Japanese adventurers travel around Kenya with a camera crew (including a local man who just happened to speak Japanese) in search of giant snakes, who always nearly kill someone before being subdued at the last minute. In another show, an American woman aids camera crews searching for Japanese who have gone missing, using ESP to direct the crew all around Japan in a very dramatic fake search. Japanese love ghost documentaries which purport to capture proof of spirits from beyond on the grave, all of it scripted and quite fake. Even Japan's NHK got in trouble when they used dynamite to cause an avalanche in the Himalayas so they could pretend they just happened to have a camera there when a natural one occurred. So when watching about the supposed stalking of Princess Tenko by Secretary Kim, it's important to take everything with a few grains of salt.

We're happy to announce that the Yulia Nova DVDs vol. 1-3 have gone golden master and are on their way to the pressing factory. They should be back very soon. This dynamite trio of DVDs captures the incredible grace and beauty of Yulia Nova, a Russian model who has become very popular here in Japan and around the world. We hope you'll order these dynamite DVDs today. Each includes 2 hours of great footage, including 30+ minutes of superb never-before-released material. Also, the DVDs are fully subtitled in English from a new translation of the original Russian, allowing fans to see and understand Yulia as never before.

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

  • First, for fans of the hip anime Noir, we've got two incredibly high-end cold case anime statues of Kirika Yumura and Mireille Bouquet
  • J-List sells tons of cool Sanrio items you can't find outside of Japan -- we've got Hello Kitty traditional paper balloons, a great mascot for your bath, and a way to block the sun from your car in Hello Kitty style
  • Also -- traditional Japanese bell, which you can attach to anything, but these are beautiful Hello Kitty bells
  • We're big fans of Rement's miniature food items -- now there's a new one, Puchi Sample Supermarket series 2, featuring over 25 miniature Japanese food items, complete with shopping carts and baskets, many cool items for you to play with and display (full sets available)
  • Fans of Tomica's super detailed die-cast cars, we've got a new item: the Mazda Altenza, sold in the U.S. as the Mazda6
  • For fans of wacky things from Japan, we've got lipstick-style Pringle's erasers in stock, very popular in Japan right now
  • For fans of our snacks from Japan, we have delicious chicken and mayonnaise flavored snacks made from rice; tasty grape gummi treats; and one of my favorites, Gummi Choco chocolate-covered strawberry gummi -- yum!
  • Also, an item that I definitely recommend (I'm eating the sample now, it looked so good): Funya-Q, a super wacky soft gummi face that you can stretch and play with and eat
  • Also for Japanese snack fans, we've restocked several items, including Hi-Chu (various flavors), CC Lemon Candy, and more
  • Godzilla lovers, we've got a very cool soft vinyl keychain/phone strap in stock for you
  • We've added stock of the G&L Bible vol. 1 for collectors who want to have in their collection
  • We've got more wacky "pin badges" with cute characters on them
  • And for your kitchen, extra-long cooking chopsticks that make it easy to cook without burning yourself
  • Fans of the Japan Hot Wheels, sold only in Japan, we've restocked many popular items, including the Mach 5, K.A.R.R. (K.I.T.T.'s evil twin from Knight Rider), and the Airwolf helicopter
  • Also, we've added stock of the Cominica Totoro keychains, so detailed and fun to carry with you
  • Finally, look for more cool miniature Shogi boards, more tools to help you study Japanese, more cute hamster erasers, and many more items!

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

  • For fans of real Tokyo girls, we've got the new issue of Aishite Ageru, the perfect-bound deluxe book featuring real Tokyo girls
  • Also, the new issue of Please Be Gentle With Me, a great new issue featuring authentic couples for you
  • For fans of magazine + DVD combo items, we've got a new Senningiri The Movie DVD, featuring one man's attempt to document his liaisons with 1000 women
  • Then enjoy the lovely hardcover photobook offering of Rio Natsume, the silky and elegant swimsuit model from Japan
  • Also, we loved the beautiful glossy photobook of Airi Ishikawa, who you can get to know through her beautiful photographs
  • For fans of "jukujo" (mature women), we've got the very sexy photobook by Mai Oikawa
  • Look for various restocked photobook, including the Office Lady Pictorial Book, Sora Aoi's popular first photobook, Race Queen Izumi Yokoyama's dynamite photobook, and more
  • Also, we've got fresh stock of LCC Gold, the photobook capturing the lovely bodies of Romanian gold medal-winning gymnasts Lavinia Milosovici, Claudia Presacan, and Corina Ungureanu
  • H manga collectors, we've got a great new items in stock for you, including Kotomi's Encyclopedia and the positively mind-blowing Heaven's Egg
  • Also, MG Joe First Lesson, a superb oversized H manga complete with color pages inside
  • Yaoi fans, enjoy various newly restocked comics as well as a great new anthology comic with great stories inside
  • For our DVD customers, we've got some great items for you, starting with Hitomi Hayasaka's Very Best, a collection of 4 hours of her most memorable works on the Million label (region free)
  • Then enjoy a bargain-priced selection of the Concentration Soap Land Ladies, four lovely girls who get you squeaky clean (region free)
  • From SOD, the best of their "I'll assist your..." series, featuring incredibly beautiful actresses who are happy to help you feel better (region free)
  • Then, 100 beautiful girls who want to engage in "chin chin study," an amazing Japanese genre (region free)
  • Then enjoy more all-girl action with lots of slippery lotion, courtesy of U&K, one of the top specialty indies studios (region free)
  • Then from Wanz Factory, enjoy the Super Angle of Mai Sakashita, filming her from low, sexy angles and fisheye lenses (region 2)
  • Finally, look for various restocked and reduced priced DVDs near the tops of all DVD categories.

Remember that J-List carries over 2500 unique products from Japan. One of the most unique ever is the Hello Kitty vibrating shoulder massager, a licensed Sanrio item that has been one of the best-selling products at J-List for two years. Sadly, the massagers are totally out of production and will never be made again. We've got the last stock of these unique items in all Japan, but our stock is rapidly being depleted as a dozen or so sell every day. If you want to own a really bizarre piece of Japanese pop culture, get yours before we run out for good! If you get 3 or more, you get an automatic 15% off at checkout.