Japan's birthrate is among the lowest in the world, with about 1.23 children born per couple. Since Japan lacks constant immigration from the outside like America and Europe, the low birthrate is placing some unique strains on society here. Extremely rural parts of the country are becoming practically empty of people, as young Japanese move to cities to work and older Japanese die off. We can see Japan's "famine" of children right here in Gunma Prefecture, where we live: Tomo lives in a small town in the mountains called Omama, population 22,000, where there are almost no children at all. Near his house, there's an elementary school with 35 students -- not 35 students per class or per grade, but 35 students in all six grades. To counter the dire problem of having less and less people every year, provincial Japanese governments are trying hard to make it easy for families to have more kids, giving free health care to every person under the age of 5 and providing subsidies for services like preschool. Some prefectures even offer bonuses for families willing to do an "I-Turn" (a Japanese word for moving from a city to the country, taking the letter I from the Japanese word "inaka" meaning "rural area"). The Nagano Prefectural Government will give anyone who moves to the prefecture and builds a house $10,000, no questions asked. Even in our city, there's a monthly bonus of $300 paid to any family that has three children, with more money available if you have more kids.
Each language is unique, with its own set of interesting features. Romance languages, for example, have nouns that come in male and female genders, which is very different from English, and potentially confusing for English learners of those languages. In Japanese, there are other interesting features. For example, the subject and object are often left off of sentences if the speakers know what is meant. Thus a girl might say to her friend "Iku?" which literally means "Go?" Who is going, and where are they going, and when are they going, are all implied. Also, there's a highly developed system of "keigo" or polite Japanese used in formal and business settings. Often, you choose extra-polite verbs and nouns (called sonkeigo or "honorific language") when talking with, say, a company you do business with, to raise them up to a higher level than you. At the same time, you choose other words when referring either to yourself or your own company to push yourself a lower level (called kenjogo or "humble language"). Many basic verbs such as to eat, to go and so on come in three versions, a normal version, an honorific version and a humble version.
Japanese have many tongue twisters in their language, which are always fun for gaijin to learn, since no one expects us to know things like that. One of the most famous is "Niwa ni wa, niwa niwatori ga iru." This translates to: "Niwa ni wa (in the yard), niwa (two + counter for birds) niwatori (chicken) ga iru (there are)," or, "there are two chickens in the yard." Another fun one is "Tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da." This breaks down as "Tonari no kyaku wa (as for the customer next to me) yoku (a lot of) kaki (oysters) kuu (eat) kyaku da (is a customer who...)", or "The customer sitting next to me is one who eats a lot of oysters." Don't know how to pronounce the Japanese words? Don't worry, here are the two phrases in MP3 format, courtesy of J-List's lovely staff: http://www.jlist.com/tonguetwister.mp3
For the new update, we've got some excellent products from Japan for you. They include:
- First, for fans of the Japanese fashion and cosplay movement known as Gothic Lolita, we've got a great new Handmade Goth Loli photobook featuring gorgeous outfits complete with patterns you can use to make your own outfits
- For fans of Japan's unique small toys (called candy toys because you usually get candy in the box too), we've got some great "evolution" figures featuring the creatures that have lived on the Earth before us (full sets in stock)
- Next, we have a great samurai sword keychain that's useful as a letter opener or just as something cool to display
- For Sanrio fans, we've got a dynamite Hello Kitty pencil case that's just beautiful -- a unique item from Japan
- Japanese kids love hamsters -- we've got some cute Hamtaro dress-up dolls that are really fun to play with
- Do you ever get carsick? We have some handy motion sickness bags in stock for you
- Fans of Gashapon (capsule toys), we've got full sets of a unique Pokemon set -- and full sets are in stock
- For collectors of plush toy, enjoy a cute large Pingu plush, a cute animal brought to you by Banpresto
- For fans of our Japanese snack items, enjoy tasty beef bowl flavored potato chips (yes, you read right); traditional Japanese candy made from sweet beans; and delicious ume (plum) tea powder, wow
- Also, some delicious tropical fruit candies for Hello Kitty fans, three packs with a different flavor each
- Enjoy some great restocked snacks too, including Funya-Q (a "gummi happy face" that is tasty), ramune and cola gummi, Honey Pretz and more
- Bento fans, we've restocked several popular items, including the Kyoto and I.Kotoba Deluxe Bento Sets, more chopsticks, and lots of other items
- Never be without a pen to write with -- we've got a superb miniature pen that you can use as a keychain so it's always handy
- Organize everything in your life with a small "section case" great for jewelry, computer parts, tools and more
- Finally, for fans of the groovy Sailor Moon live action series, we've got the 6th DVD, which was just released in Japan (region 2).
For our 18+ customers, we've got many new products. The new items include:
- For fans of incredible photography from Japan, enjoy the dynamite Nama Shoku ("Fresh Food") photomagazine featuring Sayaka Uchida as you've never seen her before -- yummy
- Then check out the new issue of Aishite Ageru ("I'll Love You") DVD, featuring a color magazine and 2 hour sampler DVD too
- For doujinshi fans, we've got another excellent selection of all-new books for you, recently published and really great to read and collect
- Enjoy the super sexy Race Queen Shoko Hamada, a popular swimsuit idol and F-1 promotion girl from Japan
- For H manga fans, enjoy some great new comics from Japan's top publishers, including the Cold Hip of a Rich Girl by Maitaimu, a superbly detailed work by Mujin Comics, and a summer "Love Festival"
- Also, we have a great work for yaoi fans, the excellent Platinum vol. 3 featuring the works of nine popular artists
- For our DVD customers, we've got some amazing new items for you, starting with the dynamite new Sora Aoi release by Samantha (region free)
- Next, experience more thrill of the Olympics with Soft on Demand's amazing new Zenra Swimming 2, featuring three gorgeous professional athletes including a former Olympic contestant -- wow! (region free)
- Then Female Director Haruna goes to Hakata, Kyushu in southern Japan to explore the world of "Deep Kissing" with beautiful Japanese girls (region free)
- Enjoy a new release from U&K featuring more lovely Tokyo girls who experience all-girl love for the first time, on camera (region free)
- Then from Waap Entertainment, the amazing world of "Panst" (sexy stockings), a thrilling look at gorgeous women from low angles (region 2)
- We've added free shipping to several more DVD titles, including 4 Hours of Rina Takase and Mio Asakura, Dream Shower starring the lovely Rin, several Masterpiece Concentration titles and more
- Finally, look for fresh stock of many popular DVDs, including Sora Aoi's luscious Devil's Training, the Evangelion cosplay DVD, Miki Komori's amazingly flexible Straddle, and more!
At J-List, we love bringing our brand of wacky Japanese pop culture to the world. J-List customers report that the #1 way they heard about J-List was through word-of-mouth. If you know of anyone who's interested in Japan in some way, we hope that you'll tell them about us -- we're always happy to receive referrals! Thanks in advance for telling your friends about J-List.