Friday, November 12, 2004

Greetings from J-List 11/12/04

The Japanese like to drink, and beer is usually the drink of choice. Whenever you have a frosty one, it's customary to eat "otsumami" (OH-tsu-mah-mee), a word which means any snack food you munch on with alcohol. There are many of these foods sold alongside alcohol in liquor and convenience stores, some of which might look quite odd to Westerners. First there's "kakipea," spicy rice crackers with peanuts, a favorite of the J-List staff. I am also partial to "chee-kama" or little sausages of steamed fish (kamaboko) with cheese inside. Another treat that goes well with beer are fried okra, which taste like potato chips but are healthier. Spicy beef jerky is often eaten with beer, as is saki-ika, or dried, shredded squid, which seems to taste better the longer I live in Japan. If you don't like the idea of eating squid, think of it using its other name, cuttlefish, but trust me, it's really good.

It goes without saying, but the dynamics at work between the sexes in Japan are quite different from the West, with men and women filling roles that might seem incredibly sexist and outdated to outsiders. Often, it's interesting to analyze the words Japanese people use every day for clues about the relationships between men and women. Two popular words for a person's wife are oku-san and kanai, which mean "Mrs. Interior" and "In-The-House" and are an echo from an era when women really did stay home all day. (My wife gets a big kick out of these words.) Words for husband include shujin and danna, which basically mean "master" when you look at the original kanji characters. Of course, Japanese aren't aware of the meanings of these words on a conscious level, any more than we reflect on the Greek or Latin origins of the words we use in English, but it is still interesting to pick apart the words nevertheless. I recommend Womensword by Kittredge Cherry for more information on understanding women through language.

Japanese companies are very good at coming up with special events to promote their products. The meat industry pushes February 9th as "meat day" because 2 and 9 ("ni" and "ku" in Japanese) make up the word for meat in Japanese ("niku"). On February 14th, women show their feelings for men by giving them chocolate. The commercial powers-that-be have established White Day, March 14, as the day when men must return the favor, giving white chocolate or other doilies back to women. Japan's optometrists designate October 10 as "Eye Day" (Me no Hi) because "10 10" looks like two eyes with eyebrows if you look sideways. And the Glico Confectionery Company has proclaimed that November 11 is "Pocky Day" because the "11/11" looks like little Pocky sticks. In commemoration of Pocky Day tomorrow, we've stocked lots of different flavors of Japan's delicious chocolate pretzel snacks for you, including traditional Chocolate Pocky and the amazing new Cocoa Powder Pocky!

At J-List, we carry some truly amazing items from Japan. Since we love sushi, we're happy to offer many sushi-related items, from the 2005 Joy of Sushi calendar to Sushi Gummi, delicious fruit-flavored gummy fish on marshmallow rice, a popular product J-List has been bringing the world for years. We also sell an item I personally love, sushi clocks made with real hand-made wax sushi, with chopsticks for minute and hour hands and a toothpick for the second hand. The detail of the wax sushi is incredible, good enough to eat. To make it easier for you to give these amazing clocks as gifts this year, we've lowered the prices of all clocks. Don't delay, as our stock is limited to what we have on hand.

Remember that J-List carries the ultra-cute "Groomy" plush pet line from Elecom, cute plush toys designed with soft chamois bottoms to wipe away dust and fingerprints from your computer screen. We stock both the normal sized Groomy pets as well as the small-sized Chibi Groomy, which include a phone strap/keychain so you can take it with you anywhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Greetings from J-List 11/10/04

The Japanese like to drink, and beer is usually the drink of choice. Whenever you have a frosty one, it's customary to eat "otsumami" (OH-tsu-mah-mee), a word which means any snack food you munch on with alcohol. There are many of these foods sold alongside alcohol in liquor and convenience stores, some of which might look quite odd to Westerners. First there's "kakipea," spicy rice crackers with peanuts, a favorite of the J-List staff. I am also partial to "chee-kama" or little sausages of steamed fish (kamaboko) with cheese inside. Another treat that goes well with beer are fried okra, which taste like potato chips but are healthier. Spicy beef jerky is often eaten with beer, as is saki-ika, or dried, shredded squid, which seems to taste better the longer I live in Japan. If you don't like the idea of eating squid, think of it using its other name, cuttlefish, but trust me, it's really good.

It goes without saying, but the dynamics at work between the sexes in Japan are quite different from the West, with men and women filling roles that might seem incredibly sexist and outdated to outsiders. Often, it's interesting to analyze the words Japanese people use every day for clues about the relationships between men and women. Two popular words for a person's wife are oku-san and kanai, which mean "Mrs. Interior" and "In-The-House" and are an echo from an era when women really did stay home all day. (My wife gets a big kick out of these words.) Words for husband include shujin and danna, which basically mean "master" when you look at the original kanji characters. Of course, Japanese aren't aware of the meanings of these words on a conscious level, any more than we reflect on the Greek or Latin origins of the words we use in English, but it is still interesting to pick apart the words nevertheless. I recommend Womensword by Kittredge Cherry for more information on understanding women through language.

Japanese companies are very good at coming up with special events to promote their products. The meat industry pushes February 9th as "meat day" because 2 and 9 ("ni" and "ku" in Japanese) make up the word for meat in Japanese ("niku"). On February 14th, women show their feelings for men by giving them chocolate. The commercial powers-that-be have established White Day, March 14, as the day when men must return the favor, giving white chocolate or other doilies back to women. Japan's optometrists designate October 10 as "Eye Day" (Me no Hi) because "10 10" looks like two eyes with eyebrows if you look sideways. And the Glico Confectionery Company has proclaimed that November 11 is "Pocky Day" because the "11/11" looks like little Pocky sticks. In commemoration of Pocky Day tomorrow, we've stocked lots of different flavors of Japan's delicious chocolate pretzel snacks for you, including traditional Chocolate Pocky and the amazing new Cocoa Powder Pocky!

At J-List, we carry some truly amazing items from Japan. Since we love sushi, we're happy to offer many sushi-related items, from the 2005 Joy of Sushi calendar to Sushi Gummi, delicious fruit-flavored gummy fish on marshmallow rice, a popular product J-List has been bringing the world for years. We also sell an item I personally love, sushi clocks made with real hand-made wax sushi, with chopsticks for minute and hour hands and a toothpick for the second hand. The detail of the wax sushi is incredible, good enough to eat. To make it easier for you to give these amazing clocks as gifts this year, we've lowered the prices of all clocks. Don't delay, as our stock is limited to what we have on hand.

Remember that J-List carries the ultra-cute "Groomy" plush pet line from Elecom, cute plush toys designed with soft chamois bottoms to wipe away dust and fingerprints from your computer screen. We stock both the normal sized Groomy pets as well as the small-sized Chibi Groomy, which include a phone strap/keychain so you can take it with you anywhere.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Greetings from J-List 11/8/04

When I came 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!