Friday, August 06, 2004

Greetings from J-List August 6, 2004

My wife and both children are in the U.S. now, enjoying their summer vacation in beautiful San Diego. This means I get the whole house to myself, which is truly the Holy Grail for any married man. For the next week, I can enjoy an extra can of beer, play video games all night long, and generally rattle around the house all I want -- life is good.

The Japanese can be somewhat superstitious compared to Americans. It's common in department stores to see people getting their palms read, and fortune tellers that develop a reputation for issuing accurate predictions become very popular, with lines of people eager to hear their advice. There is a cycle of six "lucky" and "unlucky" days based on an old Chinese system, and virtually everyone here goes out of their way to get married or take delivery of a new car on Taian, the luckiest day in the cycle. Salt is thought to purify (sumo wrestlers throw it in the ring before a bout), and after a person who has really bad luck has come for a visit, throwing some salt on the ground will get rid of their bad influence. The Japanese are also interested in Feng Shui, and usually take care to build a house in keeping with its rules (don't build a front door facing west or you'll get divorced, and so on). Similarly, when you break ground on a new home, you always call the local Shinto priest who comes to purify the ground with salt, fish and sake -- we did this when we built the J-List office. The Japanese have also imported some Western beliefs, such as fear of black cats and it being bad luck to break a mirror.

Japanese can have various beliefs about choosing names for their children, too, and there are books that list "lucky" kanji characters to choose for your baby's name. Often people will seek the advice of a Shinto priest when deciding a name, too. We had been planning to name our son Kazuma ("peace + horse") but were were told by the priest we talked to that animal kanji are not good for names, so we changed it to Kazuki ("peace + tree"). Often lucky names are determined numerogically -- for example, when we chose my daughter's name, we were advised to choose a name with the same number of strokes as my wife's name, since that was a lucky number of strokes. Which kanji you choose for the name can be important, too. My wife's name is Chiharu ("thousand + fine day"), but often this name is written with "spring" for the second character. Spring can have a bad connotation in Japanese, such as the word for prostitution ("selling spring"), so most parents would avoid choosing this character for the child's name.

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

  • First, for all fans of the Micronauts toys, sold here as Microman, we have a unique treat: the entire 2004 lineup of new figures, with superb updated designs and deluxe attachments that are really fun to play with
  • Speaking of cool toys, we have extra copies of the new Figure King, a special issue featuring the excellent toys of the Tunderbirds (along with thousands of other amazing toys)
  • Also for Thunderbirds fans, a fun item for your bath: eggs that dissolve in the tub, creating pleasant Japanese hot springs water and revealing a fun random Thunderbirds toy
  • Next we have a great item for the summer: fun wind-up "fortune telling goldfish" which give you good luck depending on what color fish you get -- fun to use as a keychain or hang up
  • Next, a unique item: metal truncheons, or "jitte," which were used by samurai in combat, very cool
  • For fans of Japan's beautiful Race Queens, who promote F-1 racing but are a unique world unto themselves, we have the deluxe new Endless Racing Team photobook
  • Hello Kitty lovers, we've got cute doorknob messages for you so you can indicate when you're sleeping, studying and so on
  • Also for Sanrio fans: fresh stock of classic Hello Kitty toilet paper, great for people who either love or hate Kitty
  • Look for more Japanese Girl Nagomi items by artist Seiichi Hayashi, including a convenient tea holder for your kitchen
  • Lovers of Japanese snacks, we've got more for you, including super fruit gummi candy, sweet Japanese "Karintou" snacks, and for all fans of the super cute character series Ochaken (Tea Dog), mascot characters with cookies in the box
  • Next, we have some great chopsticks from Japan that are extra easy to use and come with chopstick holders for your table
  • For fans of OH! Mikey, we've restocked the Color of Life Movie, a great DVD compiling wacky late-night Japanese television (including the original OH! Mikey pilot episodes) (region 2)
  • Also, look for restocked films by Hayao Miyazaki (region 2) including one of my favorites, the minor story of growing up, Ocean Waves (region 2)
  • For fans of cool things for their computers, we've restocked the Groomy plush pets with soft leather bottoms for cleaning your computer screen, as well as the Bit Grast silver mouse
  • We've restocked our popular Japanese eyedrops, which are very refreshing
  • Finally enjoy fresh stock of various Japanese study cards, more cream to make nipples pink again, a real wooden shogi playing board, delicious sauce called "sauce," and more!

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

  • For fans of Urecco, the top selling magazine here at J-List, we've got a new issue in for you, filled with positively gorgeous girls including Mai Hagiwara (!)
  • Then enjoy the premier issue of "Whitey," an interesting magazine featuring beautiful H girls with pure hearts
  • Next, enjoy the delicious Deka Melon (Huge Melon), a very special magazine featuring a unique twist on Japan's Race Queens
  • For lovers of beautiful women from Japan, we've got the hardcover glossy photobook offering of Rio Natsume, a delightful girl who will melt you into oozing paste with her beauty
  • Then enjoy the lovely cosplay of Sakurako Kaoru, a dark and elegant beauty from Japan's AV world
  • Also, a fabulous new "Chinkame" (pocket sized) photobook featuring dynamite girls photographed in the style we've come to refer to as "Japanese girls in underoos"
  • For our H manga collectors, we've got some great items for you, including a dynamite "hitozuma," a manga rich girls learning about the world, and a wonderful OL comic
  • Also, a great restocking A Married Woman as Mitsue, Pretty Soldier Wars, Delusion, Futanarikko and more
  • Also: great restocked art books including Brave Soul Complete Data, Dead or Alive Best Shot and more
  • For yaoi lovers, we've got the new work by Koujima Nazuki, with the odd title of "Forcibly but Sweety..."
  • For fans of Japanese film, we've got the DVD release of the excellent film "Vibrator," exploring the nature of love and intimacy between strangers (region 2)
  • From Million, enjoy the best scenes from their 4 Hours Super Ecstasy series, featuring incredibly beautiful top-name idols (region free)
  • From SOD, enjoy a fun "massaging oppai for the first time" DVD featuring gorgeous Tokyo girls asked to feel each other up (region free)
  • Then a crossover of many interesting themes: Wife's Body Conscious Bikini Leotard (region free)
  • Next, a superb exploration of love between women featuring four beautiful actresses, brought to you by Moodyz (region 2)
  • Finally, we've added fresh stock of many fantastic DVD titles including Make a Guess of your Friend's Body, Zenra Japanese Drums, Ran Monbu's AYAYA parody, luscious Dance Queens and more!

Remember that J-List has Pocky again! Although Japan's most famous chocolate-covered stick snack melts terribly in the hot summer months, the newest flavor of Pocky, Pocky Reverse, has the cookie part on the outside and the chocolate on the inside, so we can carry them in the summer. Enjoy this delicious treat on the J-List site now, and if you get 10 or more boxes, you get a great discount, too.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Greetings from J-List August 4, 2004

Hello again from J-List, your friend in Japan!

Everyone knows that the Japanese use Chinese characters, or kanji, as part of their writing system. While Chinese people can need up to 3-4,000 characters to read books and newspapers, in Japanese you can get by with the 1,945 "general use kanji" that the Ministry of Education has designated as the official characters that people need to be able to read to be considered literate. Although learning to write kanji is the biggest barrier for "white boy" gaijin like me (Chinese people have it easy, being able to read and write Japanese more or less right out of the box), kanji is a surprisingly logical system that's fun to learn. Many kanji have "radicals," parts of the character that give hints about the overall meaning. For example, the character for "to say" (which happens to look like a stack of books on a shelf) forms the left half of characters for "to read" "to speak" and "to translate." Similarly, kanji that have to do with water or the sea contain the radical that represents water, making it easier for you to link the concepts cognitively. Here's an example of some kanji characters for you:

Kanji are also used for names, and just as there are alternate spellings for Western names, there is often a wide variety of ways to write a person's name. The other day I was searching for information on Jyo (Joe) Hisaishi, the composer who creates all the music for Hayao Miyazaki's films, but there were so many kanji with the reading "Jyo," I couldn't find the information I was looking for until one of the J-List Japanese staff told me the correct kanji for the musician's name. There's an approved list of "name kanji" that parents can choose from, and every few years there are problems when parents try to choose a name for their child that isn't on the list. Ten years ago a family tried to name their son "Akuma" (Demon) but were forced by the local government to change it to something less shocking.

Living in rural Japan means being at peace with standing out in a crowd. Wherever I go in my city, I am reasonably sure I'm going to be the only gaijin I run into all day. Last year my daughter, who is in Japan Girl Scouts, participated in a festival which also included all the local Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops in our city. As usual when I'm around Japanese kids, I instantly occupy center stage, and everyone wants to talk to me, or show me something, or pull at the hair on my arms. (I have lots of blonde hair on my arms, which fascinates Japanese kids no end.) Being the focus of so much attention is not always easy, and I've had foreigner friends who couldn't take being stared at all the time and went home. They said it was like living in a fishbowl. I never felt that way about it -- standing out is just something you have to get used to, or even use to your advantage if you can. It can be unnerving sometimes though: when we went to the Japanese resort town of Karuizawa last weekend, I went into my favorite toy shop, which I hadn't been to in a year or so. The owner recognized me and even remembered my name, all because I was one of the few foreigners that came into his shop.

J-List carries thousands of cool products from Japan for you, including hundreds of import DVDs. Most of the discs we carry are zoned for "all regions," meaning you can view them on any DVD player, but most imported anime (Totoro, Spirited Away, etc.) and high-end indies discs are zoned for region 2 (Japan and Europe). We've added two new great region-free players to the site, to give more choice to our customers who want to enjoy DVDs from all over the world. Now you can choose from the low-priced DVD-7890, the compact and well-designed DVD-800, and the fully-functional DVB-7880K, which adds a karaoke function and progressive scan for the best video quality. The new players will be in stock in a week or so, but we wanted to post them for ordering now.

For the new update, we've got lots of great products for you, from incredible toys you've never seen to fresh stock of your favorite DVDs, photobooks, manga, snacks and more. Please check out all the products we have for you on the site now!

We'll be updating the J-List shopping cart soon, which will add functionality and greatly improve checkout through the site. The new cart will be much easier and faster to use. As always, we believe everything will go smoothly on this end, but if you have problems with the new system, please let us about them right away. Also, you can make secure emails via the secure email form (link in the upper left hand corner of every page).