When you become bilingual in a language, you learn a lot about how your own brain works. Every act of learning involves a physical change in your brain, the creation of a new synaptic bridge from one cell to another, and sometimes it seems you can feel this at work in your head. The "mystery of translation" is also fascinating: the act of moving from one language to another takes place deep inside your brain, on a level below your conscious thoughts, almost like a background process in a computer. When I'm translating something from English into Japanese, I mentally place the phrase into my internal "translation buffer," wait half a second for the processing to complete, and then retrieve the result, without really being aware of how it's actually accomplished. The act of translation is actually quite separate from being able to speak a language, and really must be developed in tandem with general language skills. My daughter is quite fluent in both English and Japanese, and the other day I thought it'd be fun to ask her to translate some of the sentences from the book we're reading, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Although she understood the English sentences I read to her, she was unable to render them in Japanese -- it wasn't a skill she'd ever had to develop in her nine years on the planet.
One reason I like the PC dating-sim games that we sell is that they offer an alternate window into Japan's culture that can't be experienced any other way, since the games are quite long and involved and are interactive -- you're in control of the story. In the soon-to-be-released Doushin - Same Heart, there's an amusing scene in which Cham, a girl from Thailand, comes over to see Maki, the middle of the three Suruga sisters. Ryoko, the youngest sister, is totally shocked to see a "gaijin" at the door, and tries to speak broken English to her despite the fact that Cham is speaking Japanese -- something that happens quite a lot here. One of our favorite restaurants in our city is La Bodeguita, great ethnic place run by Peruvians of Japanese descent, and the spit-roasted chicken they serve is to die for. We like to go for the international atmosphere, to enjoy beers from South America and eat food that's very different from what's normally eaten in Japan. Although the restaurant is popular with our city's foreign population, we seldom see Japanese people eating there, and whenever we invite Japanese friends to go with us, they're invariably nervous about trying anything as exotic as Peruvian cuisine. This timidness on the part of Japanese people to take life by the horns and try new things is captured in another scene, also in Doushin, in which one character is inviting another to eat ethnic food, but the person is nervous to try it. It's fun to see what interesting cultural elements you can find even in Japan's bishoujo games.
J-List strives to show you a new side of Japan every day -- if we didn't, we wouldn't be J-List! We stock some cool DVDs that help you learn about the country and its language and people. If you've ever wanted to visit the country but didn't have the opportunity, why not check out Seven Days in Japan, a documentary about one man who realized his dream of coming to Japan. Or if you'd like to learn some fun Japanese phrases (including "how to be annoying in Japanese" and "Date with Keiko" episodes), we recommend the Best of YesJapan, a 4 hour DVD of fun topics related to Japanese that's very approachable for people with no Japanese skills at all.
More pics from Joyful Honda, the big store that has lots of art related stuff, and also home interior related products as well. These are name plates that you have custom made and stick outside your front door. For some reason, I find them absolutely fascinating to look at.
There are many different kinds, some etched in stone or steel, some carved out of glass. This one is cute.
That's how you write Toyota in kanji, in case you were wondering.
They have acitate sheets for artists, too, for all the old school guys out there who aren't doing their shading in Photoshop.
Styrafoam hemispheres, for various art projects. I was of course compelled to wear obe on my head and walk around like a Buddhist priest, which I can get away with since I'm a gaijin...