Friday, November 05, 2004

Greetings from J-List 11/5/04

When Icame to Japan, I had my share of culture shock. Women in kimonos riding an ultramodern Shinkansen. Vending machines everywhere. Old men wearing "Osamu Tezuka" caps. Between steep wooden stairs in houses and the lack of infant carseats and child-safety caps on medicine bottles, I also thought that Japan must be a dangerous place to be a baby. I was also surprised to see Japanese walking around with interesting hair colors, from copper to brown to the full blonde Japanese soccer player Inamoto sported at the 2002 World Cup. A long time ago, the only Japanese to dye their hair were bozo-zoku, the rebellious youths that ride motorcycles modified to be extra loud, who are also known as yankii, possibly from the English word "yankee" because of their light-colored hair. Sometime in the late 80s, though, hair dying caught on as a universal fashion, and women and men with auburn or brown hair are not rare at all anymore (although the current fashion for kogals seems to be tending back towards black this year). While coloring hair in anime colors like blue and green never caught on with young people, I have noticed that elderly Japanese women sometimes choose colors like purple and blue for their hair. Yet another unsolved mystery for Japan!

Like people everywhere, Japanese are very health conscious, and are always keeping one eye on health trends. It seems every time I watch daytime variety shows on TV, some new traditional Japanese food that enables people to live to the age of 102 is being talked about. In recent years, we've seen several "health booms" such as energy drinks with amino acids added, green tea with fat-busting elements called katekin, eating onions to make your blood "sara sara" (smooth-flowing) instead of "doro doro" (syrupy), and putting tape around your fingers as a dieting aid. The current trend in health in Japan? Kurozu, a black rice vinegar which is supposed to help turn an acidic body into an alkaline one, or something to that effect. After every meal my wife hands me a glass of diluted black vinegar to drink.

Do you know what year it is? I often don't. In addition to the standard Western calendar, the Japanese have a unique system of counting years based on the reign of the current emperor. It's currently the 16th year of the Heisei era (Heisei means "accomplishment of peace"), which began when Emperor Hirohito died and was succeeded by his son, Akihito, so this year is Heisei 16. Before Heisei was the Showa era (from 1925 to 1988), before that was Taisho, and Meiji, and so on -- Japanese students have to memorize them all. When you live in Japan, you quickly learn your own birth year according to the Japanese system, since you need it to fill out various forms (I was born in Showa 43, e.g. 1968). Incidentally, the current Emperor of Japan is 125th in an unbroken line of emperors going back 2000 years. His name is Akihito, but since he's always called "Emperor Heisei" in Japan, it's quite common for Japanese to not know the name of their own emperor.

J-List sells hundreds of great DVDs from Japan, most of which are "region free" (meaning you can play them on any standard DVD player). For people who want to watch DVDs from all over the world, including anime and indies JAV region 2 discs from Japan, we've restocked our popular region free DVD players in San Diego. We have the highly functional small-footprint DVD-800 in stock again, as well as the popular half-height DVD-7890 and full-featured DVD-7880K (which includes a karaoke feature). These players are made in Taiwan for the U.S. market and are fully compatible with North American power, and carry one year warranties. And these amazing players start at just $78.

Remember that J-List carries authentic Japanese "loose socks" in two different sizes, and also carries "socks glue" which you can use to glue your socks to your legs to hold them up. Enjoy a little slice of Japanese fashion culture courtesy of J-List -- they also go great with the authentic high school uniforms we sell, too! Great for cosplay at anime cons or as normal socks that help keep you warm in the cooler months.

J-List customers tell us that the #1 way they hear about J-List is through word-of-mouth. We're very glad to hear this, and we're always happy to have you recommend J-List to your friends! If you've got a friend who might be interested in our unique brand of Japanese pop culture, why not tell them about J-List, or ask them to sign up to our J-List updates? Thanks!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Greetings from J-List 11/3/2004

One interesting social concept I see at work a lot in Japan is the idea of "gaman," which means to endure or to tolerate something that's difficult to bear. The idea that is that if there's something you don't like around you, it's better to endure it stoically in an act of self-sacrifice rather than than act immediately to change it. We see this every day: my wife and I will go to a restaurant that's much too cold, yet no one speaks up to ask the staff to turn the air conditioning down, preferring instead to tolerate the unpleasant situation. We don't subscribe to this notion, however, and will generally break the "wa" of the room by asking the staff to turn the air conditioning down. Once, the officers of a skiing club we belong to were reporting on the expenses incurred over the past year, but there were many large and small irregularities in the numbers. Other members had noticed these problems in the past, but refrained from openly questioning the suspicious expenses. Not so my wife: she stopped the meeting, making them explain all the sloppy accounting issues to her satisfaction. Gaman is something that parents strive to teach to their kids at an early age here, since there are many situations when children need these skills here. The idea of an employee sacrificing himself for the good of his company or of a wife looking the other way when her husband has an affair are linked to this concept. There's a phrase the Japanese use quite often which reflects this tendency to endure something rather than change it: sho ga nai (also shikata ga nai), which means "It can't be helped."

Like the HSBC bank advertisements say, never underestimate the importance of local knowledge. That's true when you're comparing the U.S. with Japan, too. To Americans, the basic idea of soup is Campbell's chicken noodle, but in Japan, it's creamy corn soup, sometimes with corn flakes sprinkled on top. When a child loses a tooth in the U.S., the Tooth Fairy takes it away, leaving money in its place; in Japan, you throw the tooth on the roof (if it was a lower tooth) or under your house (if it was a upper tooth). When you take delivery of a new car, you always do it on a lucky day (Taian) according to a Buddhist weekly calendar, to avoid having a traffic accident. And in the U.S., we sometimes count things by writing "chicken scratch" marks on a sheet of paper, with each completed set of lines equal to five, but in Japan, they write the character for honesty and correctness (tadashii). To see what the character looks like, as well as the stroke order for writing it, click here: http://www.jlist.com/tadashii/

You probably set your clock an hour back on Sunday. Most people grumble about having to remember to set their clocks forward and back in the spring and autumn, this isn't a problem in Japan, the only industrialized country that has not adopted the Daylight Savings Time system. Instead, we have to deal with the other extreme -- by the time I get up in the morning, the sun has been up for at least three hours. It's not that hard to get used to, but all things considered, having that daylight available when you're actually awake and using it is kind of convenient.

J-List is happy to bring you the amazing products of Yulia Nova, the beautiful Russian model who is very popular in Japan and throughout the Internet. We're happy to announce that the two new DVD releases that had been posted for preorder are in stock now, and they're really gorgeous. Both feature 30+ minutes of totally new footage, are completely remastered from the originals, and are mosaic-free. The DVDs also feature info on upcoming Yulia Nova releases.

Remember that it's 2005 calendar season right now! This means that for a limited time only, we've got a huge stock (over 250+) of unique anime, JPOP, swimsuit idol, sports and other calendars that are printed and sold in Japan. Why do we have so many calendars, instead of just carrying the most popular 20 or 30? Because we genuinely love Japan, we want to give you as wide a selection as possible, including items that might not be popular with everyone (but might be perfect for you).

Monday, November 01, 2004

Greetings from J-List 11/1/2004

Hello again from Japan, where going to Kentucky always means going out for fried chicken.

Happy Birthday to Hello Kitty! When Sanrio first released their new design for an ultra-cute character for greeting cards on Nov 1, 1974, no one had any idea that Hello Kitty would go on to become one of the most recognizable characters ever. Known in Japan as Kitty-chan, Japan's most famous face is everywhere here, on slippers, T-shirts, refrigerators -- there are even Hello Kitty limited editions of cars made every couple of years. (We have Hello Kitty toilet paper in stock if you want to redecorate your bathroom in a Sanrio motif.) The company changes the design of Kitty every year, and its fun to see how the character evolves -- in 2000, for example, they introduced the sun-tanned Hawaiian Kitty series, and in 1998, it was Wedding Kitty. J-List always stocks lots of interesting Sanrio products that you can't find outside of Japan on the site, including some cool new items being posted today. They make great Christmas gifts, too!

When you learn a language as different from English as Japanese is, you have to get used to concepts not always translating over on a 1-to-1 basis -- words just don't match up with each other like they might between say, English and Spanish. When the Japanese talk about other planets, they often use the word "hoshi," which is confusing since this word really means star, not planet. There are separate words for white ducks (ahiru) and brown ducks (kamo), and gaijin will invariably produce the wrong word 100% of the time. For some reason, the word for "to ask" and "to listen to" are the same in Japanese (kiku), which has caused challenges when translating dating-sim games at times. There are many English loan words used here, but sometimes they're split into two for easier use by the Japanese. For example, the word for a strike in baseball is "sutoraiku" but a labor stoppage is a "sutoraiki" (ki on the end instead of ku). Some other dualistisic loan words include "gurasu" for a glass of water but "garasu" for glass in a window, or "bureiku" for taking a break when you're tired but "bureiki" for the pedal you press to stop your car.

At J-List, we love to spread our passion for Japan to everyone, and to promote the study of Japanese, too. When I started learning the language at SDSU in 1987, many study tools like kanji practice notebooks and Canon Wordtanks were very hard to find. Fortunately for me, in those wild, wooly days there was almost nothing in English, no manga and no anime, except for the odd fan-subbed episode of Urusei Yatsura we'd catch here and there. If I wanted to understand anything, I had to roll my sleeves up and just learn the language. I read manga in Japanese, and hung out a Japanese restaurants that had karaoke to learn songs and practice my kanji reading. I also translated JPOP songs into English, which helped me memorize vocabulary (if I forgot a word I could sing the song to myself to recall it). There's nothing more rewarding than being able to talk with people from other places in their own language, and I'm glad I was able to learn a fun language like Japanese.

D'oh! The link to the advertisements for gravestones and Buddhist altars in Friday's mail was bad. Sorry about that -- it's working at http://www.jlist.com/grave_sale

The JAV Star for this month is Leon Kadena, an incredibly beautiful idol from Japan. When Yasu calmly told us that he'd seen the most beautiful woman in his life, we pooh-poohed him -- there are so many beautiful women here in Japan, after all. But after looking at her amazing photobook and DVD offerings (which we have on the site), we had to agree with him: Leon could be the most beautiful woman in the world. She was born on Feb. 2, 1986 in Osaka. She's 165 cm tall, and her blood type is B. She likes making traditional Japanese sweets.

Remember that J-List carries the excellent Japan Hot Wheels cars, made exclusively for the Japanese market. The popular toys include a perfect replica of the Mach 5 from Speed Racer, the Airwolf helicopter, K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, his nemesis K.A.R.R., the Delorean from Back to the Future, and more. These are remarkable toys, with great die-cast metal detailing, a super item for any collector. Note that the current stock we have is probably all we'll be able to get, as all current toys are out of production.