Today's J-List post is below. You can also read it on the J-List website or the JBOX.com site.
Desserts in Japan can be a little different from what you might expect. One popular dish in Japan is coffee jelly, coffee flavored gelatin that's really good with cream poured over it -- Starbucks sells a Coffee Jelly Frappe in the summer which is delicious. Another popular dessert in Japan is purin, basically egg custard flan with caramel sauce on top, popular in Spain and Mexico. If you've ever seen that yellow/brown dog character from Sanrio named Purin and wondered what that was, he represents flan and his brown hat is the caramel sauce. Nata de Coco is a well-known dessert in the Philippines with firm, chewy squares made from coconuts, and it's popular in Japan, really good in yogurt. Cake is big here too, and most cake shops are small, highly professional outfits who bake fabulous delicacies and sell them for $5 a piece (you almost never buy a whole cake in Japan, it'd be too expensive). Finally, there are many kinds of ice cream in Japan, from matcha (green tea) and azuki (sweet Japanese beans) to variations on Italian gellato and "soft cream" (what soft-serve ice cream is called here). We even have a 31 Flavors in our small city.
It's well known that the Japanese can be quite group oriented, with more awareness of in-group (uchi) and out-group (soto). A lot of this seems to come about through the Japanese education system, which exists not only to teach information to students, but also to create Japanese citizens who can all identify with society on the same level, more or less. In my schools in California, each student had a different schedule, with math this period, English the next, and P.E. after that, so we never had all the same kids in our classes with us. But in Japan, classes are together all day long over the course of the school year, with the teacher coming and going each period, which creates a strong sense of being a part of the class as a group, although it has downsides too. Clubs are another machine for creating a sense of being in a group, and in junior high school, students are usually required to join one of the clubs at the school, even if they don't want to, as a chracter-building excercise.
Today is a holiday in Japan, Kenkoku no Hi or National Founding Day, one of many holidays that come and go without anyone realizing here what the heck they were all about. Established in the Meiji Era as the coronation day of the first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu, the day used to fall on the first day of the year according to the Lunar calendar. Commemorating the start of Japan's Imperial line was frowned upon after World War II as the wrong kind of patriotism, but the holiday was reestablished in 1966.
Here are today's "really cool products" that I thought were especially noteworthy. Note: the J-List links below may be for adult products and should probably be considered "not safe for work." See the JBOX.com site if under 18 or offended by this kind of stuff.
Glico Almond Crush Pocky. I never used to like the taste of almonds until I started eating Almond Crush Pocky. The creaminess of the chocolate really blends well with the almonds in your mouth, and it's very crunchy and fun to eat.
See-Through Erotic. Usually, Japan's adult world is like the U.S. -- there's hardcore, and nothing else, until you get to girls with "extreme" bikinis on, which is another category altogether. This is an adult video that's not adult at all, just softcore, giving you a thrill from seeing Ryo-chan through transparent clothes.
Totoro Nakayoshi Mascot Another fun thing from Japan, this is a plush mascot that you can do just about anything with Use the metal clip to attachit to a strap for your phone, camera, or PDA, or use it as a keychain. Dennis suggested it could be used as a bookmark.
I Love Hentai - Girls fitted tee. The image you normally get of fans of "hentai" games, manga and anime is pretty much male, right? Wrong, because we got a lot of requests for this shirt in sexy female sizes. We've also made a standard men's shirt version of our "I love Yaoi" shirt.
Smoock *Pink* -- Elecom Mouse pad. We're slowly waking people up to the idea that Japanese mouse pads are the best -- soft, well designed, with a place to rest your hand. This one has a recessed area below the pad for the mouse cord. Very cool!