Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Greetings from J-List September 8, 2004

Hello from Japan, where a cleft chin is known as "ketsu-ago" (KEH-tsoo AH-go), literally meaning "butt-chin."

Japan is the home of manga, the uniquely detailed comics that are famous all over the world. The term manga literally means "whimsical pictures" and was coined by ukiyoe artist Hokusai to describe a book of wookblock art he'd done (he's the artist of the famous Red Fuji and The Wave you may have seen). Early forms of manga had existed since before World War II, but the father of manga in its present form is Tezuka Osamu, creator of virtually all of the popular early works. His stories, often laced with challenging philosophical themes, set the bar high for the generations of manga artists that would follow. Today Japanese buy a staggering 2.2 billion manga books annually, 40% of all printed books sold here, and manga is generally read by people of all ages. At our liquor shop, we sell the weekly manga magazines like Shonen Jump and Shonen Magazine, and it's not uncommon to see a businessman get out of a BMW to buy this week's issue of his favorite comic. While Westerners use the term manga to refer to Japanese printed comics, most Japanese over the age of 25 use the word to refer to animation as well; only the younger generation uses the term anime.

Currently Japan is having a "manga revival," with many of the classic golden age comics back in print for fans to enjoy again. Fist of the North Star, Golgo 13, Lupin III, The Rose of Versailles, Ashita no Joe -- they're all being reprinted and sold in convenience stores for the next generation of Japanese. I'm currently re-reading Touch, the 80s high school baseball manga by Mitsuru Adachi, which I used to study Japanese with back in college. It's very "natsukashii" (nats-ka-SHII, meaning nostalgic)

The most profitable Disney theme park in the world is Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983 and has broken all records for money-making in the history of theme parks. The Japanese penchant for spending money on souvenirs for family members, called omiyage (oh-mee-YAH-geh), helps make this profitability possible -- the average guest spends around $300. Disney's second Japanese park opened a couple years ago: DisneySea, centered around themes of the ocean. The park features a volcano, a recreation of the Arabian town of Agrabah from Aladdin, a fun under-the-sea area for younger kids, a cruise ship, a "jet coaster" (as they say in Japan) based on Journey to the Center of the Earth, and even a hotel where you can get married, right inside the park. We had fun when we went, but my son said it was "kakko warui" (uncool) for Mickey Mouse to speak Japanese when he should be speaking English. The biggest problem with theme parks in Japan are all the people: no matter what day you go, it seems they're brimming with guests, and waiting 3-4 hours for popular rides can really suck.

For the new update, we've got some excellent products from Japan for you, including updated and restocked toys, manga, DVDs, snacks, wacky things from Japan, and much more. J-List has over 2000 cool things from Japan -- you can view items updated in the last 3 days with the handy 3-day link,

For anime fans in Germany, there's a cool convention starting September 10-12 in Kassel, and many of our game and T-shirt products will be at the show (although we won't be, unfortunately). For more information on the show, see the Connichi website at

Remember that J-List stocks the incredibly detailed classic food replica items from Re-Ment and other companies, which recreate famous foods of the world -- sushi, Japanese traditional dishes, classic American food, Asian treats and more -- in such detail you won't believe they're not edible (you even get little silverware/chopsticks). Although Japanese have to buy these individually, we go out of our way for you, making full sets available so you can avoid buying duplicates and throwing them away. These amazing toys are perfect for doll collectors, too -- and they make thoughtful gifts, too.