Friday, September 24, 2004

Greetings from J-List September 24, 2004

Hello again from Japan, where staplers are known as "hotchkiss," after a company that made them back in the 19th century.

There are many differences between Japan and the U.S. Once I went to buy canned coffee from a vending machine, and noticed they had two sizes of the same coffee, with a choice of 200 or 350 ml sized cans (or 7 and 12 oz, for our American readers) for the same price. This struck me as very odd -- who wouldn't choose the larger can? I went for the bigger size, while the Japanese people I was with all chose the smaller can. Turns out they knew something I didn't, though. The amount of coffee in both cans was the same; the larger can contained more water, and didn't taste as good as the smaller can. Often, Americans are conditioned to perceive value based on size or quantity rather than taste, something I would never have noticed without coming to Japan.

Sadly, one of the major economic themes of Japan today is the triumph of inefficiency. When you drive past road construction, there are sure to be several men whose job it is to stand by the road with orange flashlights, ostensibly directing traffic even though everyone ignores them. Then there are the ever-present "parking old men" who do nothing more than stand in parking lots and direct you to a parking spot that you could have easily found yourself. NHK is Japan's public television network, funded by households paying $20 every month to NHK representatives who visit each house door-to-door to collect the money -- no one has ever considered doing direct deposit from people's bank accounts? Japan is a very cash-centric country, and personal checks (or cheques, for our European readers) don't exist here at all. When individuals or businesses need to send money to someone, they usually go to the bank and execute a manual bank transfer (furikomi), paying a $6 fee to the bank for this privilege.

Another bastion of inefficiency is the Japanese post office, but this might be changing soon, as Prime Minister Koizumi pushes for privatizing Japan's behemoth postal system. The Japanese post office does more than just deliver mail and sell stamps: they also operate as the worlds largest bank, holding $3.2 trillion in cash deposits for individuals at a whopping 0.02 rate of return and also selling government-backed insurance. The post office operates 25,000 branches of branches throughout the country, offering various local services and providing a place for elderly people to gather and talk, but it's terribly wasteful. There's a lot of opposition to the reform plans from Japan's 1 million postal employees, who fear losing jobs, and from rural areas which depend on postal services.

Now that summer is over, it will start getting cooler very soon. By customer request. we've got a great item for Domo-kun fans: a soft hoodie pullover featuring our popular Domo-kun face design. Extremely warm and well-made by Hanes, this new Domo-kun hoodie is a super way to stand out in a crowd and keep warm at the same time.

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

  • First, for fans of Kill Bill's character GoGo Yubari, we've got a special treat: Chiaki Kuriyama's sexy image DVD (region free)
  • For fans of elegant Japanese women, we have a great photobook of the lovely Akane Sakura, a truly beautiful thing
  • Next, see stock of the long-lost vol. 3 of Gothic & Lolita Bible, for fans of the goth lifestyle -- filled with gorgeous photos and a pattern you can use to make a gothic outfit!
  • We have a great new Frog Style item in stock for you, with cute frog "omikuji" (notes which tell you if you're going to have good luck today or not), so cute and very Japanese!
  • For fans of our Japanese snacks, we have a tasty new flavor of Pocky for you: Royal Milk Tea, which tastes just like a rich, creamy cup of tea!
  • Also, tasty sesame + brown sugar treats, delicious "Healthy Club" food bars, and "shake shake gummy" treats that are really tasty
  • Restocked snack items include Pizza Pretz, Baked Apple Pretz, traditional Okinawan "black candy," and Japanese chewing gum, including Blue Citrus (my personal favorite)
  • Pingu is very popular in Japan -- we've got some cute pens of Pingu and his girlfriend, Pinga, very fun to write with
  • From the famous toy maker Kaiyodo, we have a fabulous pre-painted "She-Devil" figure that will really look great on display in your room or office
  • Light your way in style with new varieties of sushi lights, cool keychains featuring incredibly realistic sushi pieces that are useful little flashlights when you squeeze them
  • For Totoro fans, a very special item: Totoro and Cat Bus stamps with cool messages in Japanese (they are really cool to keep on your desk)
  • Also, fresh stock of the popular Totoro Catbus keychain and Nausicaa on Meve figure, both very cool
  • Next, enjoy some authentic Japanese bamboo chopsticks that are very traditional and look cool
  • For fans of the classic anime by Tezuka Osamu, the creator of manga and anime in its present form, we've added his 2005 calendar to our site for preordering
  • Happy faces are popular in Japan (a friend once told me they are "very American") -- we have a cute new pencil case with happy faces on now
  • Then, we have a handy item for your bathroom or kitchen for hanging hand towels
  • Finally, look for more wacky Japanese notebooks with funny English on them, more shogi boards, fresh stock of Felix the Cat bubble gum, and more!

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

  • For fans of sexy Japanese girls, enjoy the new issue of Aishite Ageru, aka I'll Love You, featuring real couples in love hotels and beyond
  • Then we've got the new issue of Bachelor, filled with hot girls from around the world, including Eastern Europe
  • Then enjoy the dynamite hardcover photobook of Akane Sakura, a delightful Japanese sexy idol
  • For H manga fans, we have some excellent comics for you, including a great work of first love by Tenma Comics, a compilation of "elevator girl" works, and more
  • Also, a deluxe oversized manga with superb artwork and H story by Tsukasa Midoh's Mysterious Mind
  • Doujinshi fans, we've added more excellent collectable books to our site for you, with some great new books by Japan's popular doujinshi circles
  • Also, a special item: vol. 4 & 5 of the popular Dulce Report, by the famous "chicks with..." circle Behind Moon
  • For our DVD customers, enjoy a parody of English conversation teachers in Japan -- but instead of studying English, the lovely Brazilian Victoria teaches something much more fun (region free)
  • Next, we have a new concept by SOD: gorgeous girls who photograph themselves while you watch (region free)
  • From Moodyz and director Kenshiro, enjoy a very sexy "private dance" by 15 different gorgeous JAV idols, including top names such as Akira Watase, Shuri Himesaki, Yuria, and Ran Asakawa (region 2)
  • Then enjoy a special 4 hour Dream Woman Best offering featuring the most memorable performances of Moodyz Dream Woman series (region 2)
  • Finally, look for fresh stock of various DVD titles, including "hitozuma" and race queen titles, and more DVDs with free shipping!

Interested in learning more about Japan? We recommend trying some of our "reserve subscription" magazines, a great way to get the current magazines from Japan sent to you every month. You can get regular subscriptions to anime magazines like Animage, Newtype Japan and the excellent Megami Magazine, hobby magazines like Figure Maniacs and Hobby Japan, alternative fashion magazines like Kera and SMART, and other great items.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Greetings from J-List September 22, 2004

Japan can be a very uniform place: because things like education and transportation policy tend to get decided on a national level, it can be surprising how similar different parts of the country might look to an outsider. In Japan, a traffic light is a traffic light -- they're all exactly the same color and shape, horizontally oriented, except in northern Honshu and Hokkaido, where they hang them vertically to keep the snow off in the winter. In the U.S., there is quite a lot of variation in how schools are structured, with traditional, charter and year-round schools, schools in large, easy-to-heat buildings on the East Coast but spread-out multi-structure schools in warmer parts of the country. In Japan, however, a school is a school, with drab concrete buildings that look like they came out of some Communist country, uniforms, and textbooks that are the same from one end of the country to the other. And while there are big differences between Japanese cities, from overdeveloped Tokyo to the gritty charm of Osaka to Hiroshima with its street cars and solemn park around the A-Bomb Dome, there is uniformity here, too. No city seems complete without a tower (Tokyo Tower, Yokohama Marine Tower, etc.), a Tanabata festival in July, and in August, a huge fireworks show.

One minor thing I've noticed about Japanese restaurants and similar establishments: they love to trumpet how long they've been around by adding what year they were established. Our favorite Indian restaurant is Mahatma Net Delhi, which has been in business since 1978, according to their sign. They don't always wait before bragging about how long they've been in business, though. My wife and I went to a newly opened Italian restaurant that featured "Since 2004" on their sign. Another wacky one: a coffee shop I go to in Tokyo informs us they've been around "since A.D. 1987" (thanks for the clarification).

Every country has a list of things that are considered rude, and each country is different. In Japan, of course, you take your shoes off when you go into a house (and into some businesses -- J-List included). Never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice, since this is "only for dead people" (chopsticks are placed standing upright in rice as part of a last offering of rice to the departed at Japanese funerals). I've noticed that some Japanese, at least the ones I've encountered, are more open than Americans about discussing topics like menstruation or masturbation. Accidental flatulence is not nearly as rude in Japan as it is in the U.S. On the other hand, something that I personally consider very rude -- someone reading over my shoulder -- is not rude at all here. As a result, anything being read or written by a foreigner on a train is considered fair game, and it's not rare to have one or more Japanese straining their necks to see what this gaijin is writing on his Powerbook.

We're really happy to see how our wonderful 2005 Japanese wall calendars are selling so far -- thanks to everyone who has preordered. We've added a dozen more calendars which were not posted last week, including popular stars like Akiko Yada (one of my favorite TV commercial idols in Japan), the undying Morning Musume, Japanese pro wrestling calendars and more! Remember, order 4 or more calendars and get 15%, and your mailing tubes free, too. These wonderful calendars make thoughtful Christmas gifts for anyone who has a fascination with Japan!

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

  • First, for Gundam fans, we have pretty much the coolest thing I've ever seen: Gundam throw pillows that feature Haro, the Gundam RX-78 and a Zak -- woah
  • For lovers of classic 80s video games, a rare treat: series 2 of the miniature table-top video games which are real games that you can actually play!
  • Shirow Masamune's incredibly rare Galgrease trading cards sold out in just one day, but we've managed to get more in stock, as well as his popular Intron Depot vol. 4 art book
  • Japanese snack fans, we've got more items in stock for you: tasty Cocoa Waffles from Hokkaido, Japanese traditional orange jelly, white grape Hi-Chews and sea urchin flavored rice crackers -- yummy
  • Also, a limited edition flavor of Pucca cream-filled fish shaped crackers, with yogurt cream inside
  • We've restocked various items too, including Hi-Chew Grape, Pocari Sweat drink mix, Glico Honey Pretz, and Shigekix engineered to make you smarter
  • Lupin the 3rd, two dynamite sets of Lupin figures, including Japan's most famous thief, his sidekick Jigen, and Inspector Zenigata
  • Next, we have another cool traditional Japanese ashtray that's modeled after a famous Japanese symbol -- very cool, even if you don't smoke
  • iPod owners, we've got a nifty item from Japan's Elecom electronics maker: a cool set of earphones that converts into a "box speaker" when you want to listen to music with friends
  • For Sanrio collectors, we have a cute faux leather wallet featuring My Melody and strawberries
  • JPOP fans, enjoy the lovely new photobook of Aya Matsuura, a super cute idol who will charm you with her cute photographs
  • And for your kitchen, beautiful hand-painted ukiyoe chopsticks, very nice
  • Fans of Japan's avante-garde artists, we've restocked several great art books, including Gothic Taste and Tsutomu Nihei's "Blame! and so on..."
  • Interested in learning Japanese? We have a cute hiragana notebook that makes it fun to practice Japan's basic writing system
  • Explore the world of shiatsu with a nifty Japanese massager, which allows you to stimulate your hands, neck, feet, anywhere
  • We're fans of the super cute Pinky Street Japanese figures, and are announcing preorders of the new Pinky in Town photobook w/ figure set
  • Fans of the #1 anime magazine we sell, Megami Magazine, we have restocked Megami Magazine Deluxe, which is loaded with fabulous art and stuff to pull out
  • Another rare item for you, we've restocked the Microman Chronicle, a fabulous photographic documentary of the Microman toys by Takara, sold as the Micronauts in the U.S.
  • If you love Japan's super-cute swimsuit idol Yuko Ogura, we can't recommend her new DVD enough: it's a 4-in-1 disc, compiling four of her previous sexy DVD releases into a 2-disc set (region 2)
  • Tarantino fans, we've restocked the Japanese release of Kill Bill, which features all the scenes cut out from the U.S. release of the film (region2)
  • Our Japanese eyedrops are very popular -- and we've restocked all varieties for you today (enjoy)
  • Finally, a cute way to clean up crumbs from your tabletop, more traditional "tenugui" hand towels, more excellent "minus ion" relax pens, and more!

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

  • For fans of Japan's amazing 18+ magazines, we've got a super new magazine for you showing a dozen hot Japanese JAV stars, including Ito Rei, Nao Oikawa, Cocolo, Kurumi Morishita and more
  • Then enjoy the new issue of Shuffle, a super detailed Japanese magazine showcasing gorgeous Japanese women in love hotels
  • Photobook collectors, we've got some great restocked photobooks for you, including Straddle by Miki Komori, Alice in Love Place, and more
  • Collectors of H manga, we have a great lineup for you, starting with the super Battle Club vol 1 by Yuji Shiozaki, a superb manga by Tentyu-Maru, and an incredible expression of imagery from Femio Tenma
  • We've also added fresh stock of several nice manga, including The Illustrated Maya vol. 1 & 2, Masochist Housewife, and more
  • Doujinshi fans, we have dynamite new books in stock, including cool comics for Gundam fans
  • Also for yaoi fans, enjoy a great new complete "yomi-kiri" (single-book complete story) by Chouko Kabutomaru
  • We have a nifty new personal massager for you that's uniquely Japanese: a "heart egg" vibrating massager that looks like a gashapon capsule toy
  • For our DVD customers, we have some great new offerings including an exploration of various toys and bizarre things you wouldn't normally use for that purpose (region free)
  • Then witness the best Black Men vs Japanese women in a special release from Moodyz, featuring gorgeous stars who treated really nice by big black men from the U.S. (region 2)
  • Next, see the most amazing mini-skirt, silk stocking and high heel performances from Waap Entertainment, with no less than ten amazing Japanese ladies (region 2)
  • We've restocked several great DVD products, including the popular "Horse Riding" Concentration DVD release, more all-girl kissing DVDs, and the lovely Waap Special starring Nao.

Remember that J-List carries dozens of excellent English-language dating-sim games which allow you to interact with virtual anime girls in a unique Japanese story. These games are really great -- with long, developed stories, beautiful graphics and characters, and lots of replay value. J-List is the exclusive distributor of Casual Romance Club, an interesting love-sim game release in English, even though it was released here in Japan. It's the only game to offer not just game text in English, but also character voices too.