Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merii Kurisumasu

Hello all. Actually this is a repost because I deleted this post somehow. GRRR...

Here are some pictures from Japan. One is the Christmas Cake my kids baked this year. The other is the computer room of a Japanese friend. As you can see, he really likes America ^_^

Today's J-List post is below. You can also read it on the J-List website or the JBOX.com site.

Hello and the warmest holiday greetings to everyone! We hope that everyone has a very "merii kurisumasu," wherever you are in the world. Since we're seventeen hours ahead of California, we've already finished our Christmas morning, and are enjoying a nice calm day with the kids, playing with all the great stuff we got.

Christmas in Japan is a lot different from the rest of the world. Without a genuine tradition of celebrating yuletide, the Japanese often choose to import some of the more "fun" elements of the season, with Santa-san (yes, they really call him that) and presents and fun Christmas songs, and few of the solemn, pleasant themes found in America and Europe. Christians do celebrate Christmas, attending a special mass after they get off work (Christmas isn't a holiday in Japan). For my first Christmas in Japan, I attended mass at the local Baptist church, and was surprised at how similar everything was to what I'd seen back home, except that the Bible was in Japanese. But by and large religious themes play a small part in Christmas here -- instead, Christmas is something for kids, for couples to go on that special date, and for friends to have a fun Christmas party with lots of loud music and maybe firecrackers. This is a major difference between Japan and the U.S.: we are usually solemn on Christmas and have a blast on New Year's, but this is done in reverse here.

Now that Christmas is beyond us, Japanese will be looking forward to the most important holiday in Japan, New Year's Day. New Year's is a time to visit the Shinto shrine and pray for happiness in the new year, and reflect on what kind of year you want to have. Over the next week, Japanese will rush to finish their nengajo or New Year's cards, which are sent out to friends and family as a greeting and to wish everyone a happy new year. People like me, who wait til the last minute, always have a problem getting their nengajo printed in time. We'll also be cleaning the house from top to bottom (oh-sohji or "big cleaning), so that we can start the new year with a clean slate.

We're extremely happy to announce that Little My Maid, the long-awaited dating-sim game from Peach Princess, is finally in stock and shipping now. This is one of the best-ever Japanese bishoujo games to be released in the English language, and we're very happy to finally have it in our hands, ready to ship out to everyone. Featuring a great story based on a centuries-old Japanese tale, memorable female characters, beautiful art and full mouth animation when characters talk, we hope everyone will try this fantastic new game. We've also got lots of cool free stuff to give out with each copy sold, while supplies last.

It's still not too late to send that special someone a J-List gift certificate, which can be delivered within hours to anyone with an email address. J-List gift certificates are a great way to gift wacky and fun things from Japan to anyone on your list. We'll be processing gift certificates every few hours, so if there's someone you forgot to get a gift for, they can take their pick from the over 2000 cool products we have on the site.

Well, that's all for now. Once again, have a super-duper Christmas holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Japanese Corporate Fashions & More

Hello all. Another slice of life from Japan for you. It will be nice to have Christmas again, and my kids are looking forward to it, as kids are wont to do. My wife, who never celebrated Christmas until she married me, always goes through a period where she pooh-poohs it all, but she comes around when the time comes.

Here are some pictures for you to check out. These are pictures I had handy from Daisuke's wedding a month or two back. Japanese weddings are BIG affairs and this one probably cost $50,000. It was great fun. The glasses seen below are interesting glasses we were given which turn any pinpoint of light (such as a candle) into a heart in your vision. If people tell me they like the pictures I'll try to post them every post. I got a much improved phone with a camera in it, so the ability to go somewhere and say, hey, I should take a picture of this, is greatly improved.

Today's J-List post is below:

Hello from all of us in Japan. We hope everyone is having a great holiday season. We're all getting ready for a nice Christmas here in Japan, with presents under the tree and our Christmas Cake reserved from our favorite bakery. We thank everyone for your kind support this past year and wish you all the best holidays ever.

Japan can take the strangest things and turn them into a fashion trend. Over the past few years there's been a bizarre minor trend towards wearing corporate symbols on clothes, usually famous companies like Texaco and British Petroleum which aren't active in the Japanese market at all. The mini-boom in corporate casual wear is attributed to Japanese pro wrestler Sakuraba, who made a shirt that replaced the famous Union 76 logo with "39," numbers which stand for "saku" according to a Japanese number code that I have yet to figure out, the first two syllables of his name. Today, it's quite common to see people sporting the "76" logo on their clothes here, despite the fact that they probably have no idea what the company sells (since Union 76 doesn't exist here).

One concept that comes up a lot in anime or dating sim games is the childhood friend, called osana-najimi (oh-SA-NA NA-ji-mee), a word which seems impossible to remember until you break it down (osanai means young, and najimu is a verb meaning "to become friendly with"). At least in rural parts of the country where we live, Japanese tend to not be very mobile, and my wife's family has lived on the same land for generations, since the Edo Period at least. My son goes to the same elementary school that my wife went to when she was a child...which is the same elementary school her mother attended, too, back during World War II. Because everyone in our city has been here for years, my wife has many osana-najimi friends who she's grown up with, people she's known for years and years. In my family, we moved frequently whenever my mother got a new job or bought a new house, living in several states and in New Zealand before settling down in San Diego, so the concept of having roots that go back that far is really staggering to me.

Are you looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy person on your list? We humbly recommend J-List gift certificates. The spiffy J-List gift certificate system allows you to gift the gift of cool things from Japan to anyone with an email address. We'll send them their gift certificate, complete with a warm message from you and a PDF file that they can print out, or send it to yourself, print out the gift certificate, and present it to them in person. It's the perfect last-minute gift for the Japanophile who has everything. We'll be processing these gift certificate orders every 8 hours as we get close to December 25th.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Fun at Disneyland and beyond

We had fun at Tokyo Disneyland. It was threatening to rain the whole time, but it didn't, so we knew we had gotten away clean. As told in the post below, we went on a Monday, on the 21st, assuming that the really big crowds would be there on the 23rd, which is the Emperor's Birthday and hence a holiday. The best time to go to Tokyo Disneyland, if you're wondering, is the non-holiday after a 3-day holiday, e.g. a Monday after a 3 day weekend. Then you'll have the whole place to yourself.

Today's post is below. It was cool sharing about a Dog of Flanders, which is a really cool movie. By all means, please go to Amazon and get this great anime. The link is here.

The Japanese believe a person's blood type foretells a lot about his personality, and Japan is having a "blood type boom" right now, with regular variety shows that report on what characteristics each blood type group share. In one recent show, they placed hidden cameras and watched a group of people eating all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, in which you cook your food together on a big grill in the center of the table. A type people tend to be organized and neat, and the A types took just enough food and cooked it in a small corner of the grill. Type B people, who are "going my way" (a word the Japanese use for anyone who is in their own little world, like me), took too much food and hoarded it from everyone else. AB types, known for doing things differently from others, chose things like vegetables when everyone else was eating meat. In another experiment, they showed the last episode of one of the most moving anime shows of all time, A Dog of Flanders, based on a famous Belgian children's story, to rooms full of people separated by blood type. In the last minutes of the show, as young Mello goes into the St. James's Church to see the three famous Rubens paintings uncovered, allowing him to gaze at them for the first time, he finally knows happiness. As angels come to take him and his faithful dog Patrache up to heaven, the camera cuts back to the roomful of people who were watching the scene. 7 out of 8 of the type O people were bawling over the touching scene, while only 2 out of 8 of the type A and type AB people were in tears. For most of my life I didn't know my own blood type, something which is unthinkable in Japan, where the address book functions on cell phones have a place to record the blood type of the people you're calling.

We wanted to do something special for the kids this winter, so we took them down to Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland has been one of the most successful amusement parks in the world since it opened in 1983, raking in tons of money for the Disney empire. It recreates the original Disneyland in almost every way, although there's no Matterhorn and there actually seems to be more room to walk than at the California park. Knowing how bad the crowds can be during weekends and holidays, we went on a Monday, and were rewarded with a moderately pleasant Disneyland experience -- the longest wait was an hour or so. Of course we were obliged to buy lots of omiyage (oh-mee-YAH-geh) for people back home -- the ubiquitous souvenirs that prop up the Japanese economy. Disneyland's nickname is "nezumi-land" (nezumi = mouse) among Japanese fans.

There are some classic jokes in Japanese that I'll pass along to you. One stems from the words "oneesan" which means older sister but can also refer to a woman aged 18-25 or so, and "obasan" which means aunt but also any middle-aged woman. A classic joke in anime or manga features an innocent child who calls a woman "obasan" even though she's still young, and how she reacts to the label -- kind of like my reaction at being called "sir" for the first time in my life. Another classic joke you encounter every once in a while is a cow saying mou yamete (lit. "please stop it already"), which is amusing because the "moo" sound a cow makes sounds like the word mou ("already") in Japanese. Finally, the equivalent of the stale old joke "roadkill on the information super highway" in Japanese is dohto komu which means "...gets very crowded" but sounds like dot-com. So you can say, Amazon wa dohto komu, "That Amazon site sure has a lot of users." If you want to make a really stupid joke in Japanese, that is.