Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Greetings from J-List June 2, 2004

Hello again from the hardworking J-List team!

It's amazing how very different Japan and America can be. In the U.S., a major element driving the economy are home sales, and the appreciation that owning a home can bring is one of the foremost ways to get ahead in life. But in Japan, the concept of a "used" home having any value at all is almost completely alien. Very few Japanese would consider purchasing an existing home from someone else; it's much more common to buy land and tear down any existing buildings, to make room for a new house that you'll build from scratch. While land is still very expensive, it's been steadily losing value in almost all parts of Japan ever since the speculative land bubble burst in 1989 -- thus buying land as an investment for the future is not something that most people are willing to do. Personally, I prefer the American system much better, even if rising home prices can make it difficult for young people to get their first home.

It's said that Japan is 25 years behind the U.S. in terms of social development, or 10 years behind, depending on who you ask. Seen from a certain viewpoint, there does seem to be a "social development gap" between Japan and the rest of the world, from the growth of the Internet to attitudes about women and more. For example, for decades you could find "skin color" crayons in Japan, but they were quietly renamed in the late 1990's. When I came to Japan, I was amazed to see that there was no child carseat law, and you could regularly see kids standing up in the front seats of cars driving around town. Embarrassment at being "behind" the West, though, caused Japan to enact a strict child seat law in 1999. In the early 90's, Japan was a smokers' paradise, with few limitations on where smokers could light up, but over the past decade, there's been real progress in making many areas free of smoking, including all JR local trains (smokers who want to enjoy a cigarette must pay extra to ride the more expensive Bullet Trains).

Have you ever spoken to a Japanese person and wondered why they make agreeing noises while you're talking? This is aspect of Japanese speech called "aizuchi," basically "agreeing sounds" that speakers make when having a conversation. In Japanese, I could be explaining something that happened to me, and the person I'm speaking to would say things like "eeh" (yes), "so" (that's true), and "ne" (a general word of agreement). It may sound funny, but in Japanese, these words are necessary to show that you're listening attentively to the other person -- not making these sounds shows you're not paying attention, and the person you're talking with is likely to stop and ask you what's wrong. The trouble is when you carry aizuchi into English, and butt into what the other person is saying with "that's right" and "oh, yes -- it sounds really weird.

For the new update, we've got some excellent products from Japan for you, including several great new magazines, super cute photobooks, a great item for Cutey Honey fans, more great manga items, anti-catnip for cat haters, new Totoro and Hello Kitty toys, a super Macross/Robotech transforming model series, wacky Japanese buttons, a great replica of world famous military ships, a half dozen great new DVD releases including many items you won't want to miss, and more!

Remember that J-List sells hundreds of varieties of delicious Japanese snack foods, gum, candy and other treats. We've got traditional foods like miso soup and furikake (a name for foods that are sprinkled over white rice), amazing and fun to eat treats like Funya-Q (a big, soft gummy face that you can mash and eat), and more. Why not browse our excellent line of Japanese snack items today?