One interesting area of life in Japan is weddings, and Japanese really take the subject of getting married seriously. One of my first instances of culture shock in Japan happened when I was riding my mountain bike (gaijiin always ride mountains bikes here) and came across a sprawling palace that looked like it had fallen out of a time warp from Czarist Russia. Turns out it was a wedding hall, a giant facility created solely for marriage ceremonies and receptions, which are quite common in all corners of Japan. In our prefecture, various companies compete ferociously to capture the largest share of the local wedding market, coming up with interesting themes such as Georgia House, which recreates an Antebellum plantation house from the American South; Lockhart Castle, an authentic castle that was imported from Scotland; and Sharon Gospel Church, a U.S. style Baptist church in Japan.
Japanese weddings are divided into the ceremony (shiki) and the reception (invariably called a "wedding party"). The ceremony is usually either Western style, often with a gaijin minister reading the vows in heavily accented Japanese, or a traditional Shinto wedding with kimonos and ceremonial sake. The reception is usually a two-hour affair, which begins with a speech by the groom's boss and features speeches, karaoke or other performances by friends of both bride and groom. During the party, the happy couple disappear to change clothes several times, reappearing to show off new kimonos or beautiful wedding dresses, a custom called iro-naoshi (ee-ROH na-OH-shi, "fixing the colors"). In Star Wars Episode I, Queen Amidala has a new outfit for most every scene, which is clearly taken from this Japanese tradition. A Japanese wedding will always end with the tearful bride reading a letter to her parents, thanking them for raising her, apologizing for being so selfish, and promising to be happy with her new husband ("shiawase ni narimasu").
Has a Japanese person ever told you are "good head"? If so, it's a complement, although it might not sound like one. In Japanese, the phrase for "smart" (intelligent) is "good head" (atama ga ii), which sometimes gets carried over into English by Japanese still learning the language. The English word "smart" (sumaato) is used in Japanese to mean slender, well proportioned (as in, "That girl is very smart and stylish"). If someone says you have a bad head (atama ga warui), they're saying that you're stupid, the same meaning as that ubiquitous Japanese insult, baka. Some other phrases that make use of the word head include atama ga katai (hard-headed, stubborn), atama ga yawarakai ("head is soft" which means someone who is flexible and open-minded), and atama ga furui ("head is old," i.e. someone whose thinking is old-fashioned).
Announcing the return of Pocky to J-List! Since the summer is so hot and humid in Japan, J-List is forced to remove all chocolate items like Japan's popular chocolate-covered stick snacks when the heat is on. Now that it's starting to cool off, we've got Pocky back on the site in a big way, and we've got many of the new flavors for 2006 in stock for you!
We're also happy to announce that we've gotten our first batch of 2006 calendars in, and have posted them to the site now. These large-format calendars are printed exclusively for the Japanese market, and feature beautiful glossy printing and fantastic original art. We've got more than 50 different calendars featuring all the best anime, JPOP, Japanese idol and Race Queen, and more, on the site now! We're also going through adding pictures to the calendars, so you can see how good they look. Remember, calendars are a very limited-time item, and when they're gone, they will be gone for good. They make great Christmas gifts!