Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Otaku Standardized Test and origin of the word, Japan's hot summer, and aloe flavored yogurt

Hello again from Japan, and a special weekend update to J-List!

I've written before about how the Japanese like to take tests, and there are national qualification exams for just about everything, from English to kanji to using an abacus to preparing sashimi, and even a test for people who like to memorize train schedules. Getting these qualifications is one way to get ahead in Japan, and having a lot of them under your belt can help you get a better job. Now several companies in Akihabara have gotten together to create the first Otaku Standardized Test, which allows fans of anime and manga to test their knowledge and see if they make the grade as uber-fans. The test is hard -- with questions like, of the following anime shows of the 1960s and 1970s, which was not directed by Tetsuo Imazawa? -- and is of course only in Japanese. The official page of the Otaken can be found at http://www.otaken.jp. The word otaku originally is a polite term for "you" or "your family" but has come to stand for anyone with a strong interest in anime, manga, model trains, or any other aspect of Japan's popular sub-culture. There are several theories about how this everyday Japanese word attained this unique alternate meaning. According to one, the fact that "otaku" was spoken frequently by characters in the original Macross series caused fans to start using it, creating the beginnings of the otaku movement. Alternately, many of the employees of General Products, the model company that would go on to become the mighty Gainax, hail from Tottori Prefecture (the only part of Japan to sport its own mini-desert), and in the local dialect, "otaku" is the most commonly used second-person pronoun.

Japan's oh-so-hot summer continues, with temperatures hovering around 35 degrees (95 Farenheit, although I had to look that up, since I've lived in Japan so long). It's so hot that the plastic in my Star Wars figures starts to get soft, which makes them fall over easily. As bad as it is out here in Gunma (about 100 km northwest of Tokyo), it's much worse in Japan's capital, thanks to the "heat island" effect. With all those people running their air conditioners, and all that black asphalt and reflective glass, Tokyo is often 3-4 degrees Celsius hotter than other parts of the country. It's hotter at night, too, since the heat is stored in the concrete and can't be radiated away because of all the other buildings. The average temperature in the capital has gone up a full 3 degrees Celsius over the past century, a pace far higher than global warming, mainly due to the heat island effect. Which is just one more reason why I'm glad I don't live in Tokyo.

Our English-translated PC dating-sim games are a fun way to interact with Japan on a new level. Several of our games are backordered right now while we reprint them, but we've gotten two titles back in stock today, Chain and Tsuki - Possession. Also, we've posted our popular "Special Set" of G-Collections games (DOR plus any 2 or 3 games) to the site, by customer request. We did have a problem with two titles recently reprinted titles, Come See Me Tonight and Crescendo. If you bought these games but had issues installing them, please contact us and we'll make arrangements for replacement discs to be sent to you right away.