Friday, January 06, 2006

Las Vegas, the Japanese concept of "face," and the best sauce for your eggs

Hello from happenin' Las Vegas. We're here at the AVN Expo and having lots of fun talking with customers and flirting with the beautiful girls at the show. We were also graced with the presence of Helicopter Man, a very nimble JAV actor who has an amazing style. Remember, if you'll be at the Sands Expo Center this weekend, come by booth 1174 and say hi!

One area that's not well understood about Japan is the concept of "face." If you've read too many James Clavell novels, as I did before heading for Japan, you might think that Japanese people are highly concerned with avoiding any loss of face. In reality, I have seldom even heard the concept mentioned, and in fact it took me a few years of living in Japan to even learn how to express the idea of "losing face" in Japanese (which is usually expressed as kao wo tsubusu, which literally means "to have one's face crushed"). Although the concept is not that common, I have managed to have my face crushed a few times. Once, I introduced a friend into an English teaching position at a nearby facility for people with disabilities, where a Japanese friend of mine worked. Because I'd made an official introduction -- shoukai in Japanese -- the person should have taken care to do an extra good job, since my reputation was on the line as the person who had gotten her the position. When she flaked and stopped teaching the lesson, it made me look very bad, and I had to apologize to the students. Another time I've observed the somewhat rare concept of "face" was at a school I taught at back in the mid 1990s. Over the course of 10 years or so, the school had managed to accumulate so much bad debt the bank itself would be in danger of going under if the school defaulted on their loans. This would be a huge embarrassment to the bank manager who had okayed all the bad debt, so the logical thing to do was to continue loaning money to the unprofitable school so it could continue to operate, losing even more money. It made it another six years then finally went under, presumably giving the bank manager in question time to retire and push the mess onto someone else, and avoid having his face crushed.

Soy sauce is a popular flavoring in Japan, and is used more often than salt and pepper to improve the flavor of food -- I realized one day that my wife doesn't even keep salt and pepper in our kitchen, since she never uses them. Another popular sauce used by the Japanese goes by the descriptive name of "sauce" (soh-su, although it's officially known as tonkatsu sauce). It's a delicious thick sauce that compliments many kinds of foods, especially fried food like potato croquettes. Both soy sauce and tonkatsu sauce are sometimes poured over eggs in Japan, and a debate has raged for years at J-List as to which tastes better. Personally, I think nothing improves fried eggs than a dabble of Kikkoman soy sauce, but apparently I am in the minority, as most of the other J-List staff favor the thicker tonkatsu sauce on their eggs. In case you're interested in making the same comparison, we've gotten Bulldog's delicious tonkatsu sauce in stock on the site for you.

How would you like to spend the year with a beautiful Japanese girl? We still have dozens of super 2006 calendars in stock, including some excellent swimsuit idols like Meguru Ishii, Hiroko Sato or half-Japanese half-British Becky. Maybe you like the grown-up Haruka Ayase? Or how about the talented and beautiful actress Yukie Nakama? We've still got tons of 2006 calendars in stock, ready to go out to you ASAP. And starting now, all calendars will get free shipping tubes!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

How Japanese buildings are incubated, about Japanese eye color, and an invitation to Vegas

"You've been in Japan too long when you believe that buildings are made by incubating the site in blue plastic sheeting for nine months." Japan is, as I've mentioned before, a "construction nation," and a huge segment of the economy is driven by various public and private construction projects -- kind of like military contractors in the U.S. Even in the dark days of the mid and late 1990s recessions, there was a steady stream of new roads, homes and buildings (especially pachinko parlors) being constructed. When the Japanese build a tall building, they do it right: as the framework is being built, the exterior or the building is completely enclosed in sheeting so that a hammer dropped from one of the upper floors won't cause a hazard to people below. Up goes a giant plastic cocoon that says ANZEN DAIICHI ("safety first") on the side, and a few months later a skyscraper is hatched. When you're not used to seeing buildings being constructed this way, it can look quite strange, almost as strange as the bamboo scaffolding that's used alongside buildings in Hong Kong -- bamboo is a strong, light material that's readily available, after all, although it's certainly not used this way in Japan.

What color are your eyes? All Japanese people have brown eyes, although if you ever ask them what color their eyes are, they'll tell you "black" (because the center of the eyes are indeed black). Japanese are often interested in the eyes of foreigners, since they come in different colors, something totally unknown in Japan (although they do have color contact lenses here). When I tell Japanese that my eyes change color depending on what I'm wearing, ranging from green to hazel to blue, they usually don't believe it's possible. Once, I was asked by my former Spanish teacher, a Japanese woman who grew up in Peru, if I saw the world through a blue or green tint because of the color of my eyes. This was just about the weirdest thing anyone has ever asked me in my life.

Now we're off to Sin City for a convention, the always-fun AVN Adult Entertainment Expo that runs January 5-8 at the Sand Expo Center, where we'll have our unique Japan-related products on display, in addition to cool freebees like our Japanese Pocket Tissue. If you're going to be at the show, we'd love for you to drop by and say hello! All customers who mention J-List will get a free gift just for coming by. For info on the show, see this page.

Since J-List is physically based in Japan, we're able to find hundreds of amazing products for our customers each month, including many bizarre and fun items that can't be found outside of Japan. We often find ourselves setting trends, from kanji T-shirts to the "strange ratio" cute canines known as The Dog and more. We've also been involved with the amazing OH! Mikey, the bizarre TV show acted with mannequins that tells the story of the Fuccons, a parody of an American family that has come to live in Japan. With great characters like Mikey (an average, er, American boy), Barbara and James (his outrageous parents), spoiled Laura (his cousin, who has a crush on him), and the hilarious Tony and Charles from England, OH! Mikey is non-stop hilarity at its best. Now the series is being released in the U.S. -- and you can get the first special sampler DVD for just $5.98 from J-List!

J-List is happy to make our popular PC dating-sim games available to fans all over the world, and we've got a mind-boggling lineup of English- translated titles from companies like Peach Princess, G-Collections, and JAST USA, with interactive "H" games for every taste. We've decided to extend the free shipping for all CD-ROM games through the end of January, allowing everyone to experience these long-playing multi-scenario PC games, which are fully translated to English and free of the pesky mosaic that's on the Japanese versions. January is a great time to deck out your game shelf with excellent dating-sims for your Windows computer!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Akemashite Omedetou, all about Japanese banking, and forces at work on banks in Japan

Hello and Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu to everyone. We hope you had a really fun New Year's blast -- we certainly did, although it was a little bizarre. We're here in San Diego, so we had a pretty traditional (for America) celebration, with champagne, funny hats and the Times Square countdown on TV. But we didn't want to give up our Japanese-style Dec. 31st experience, so we ate traditional toshi-koshi ("crossing into the new year") noodles and mochi (the oddly named 'rice cakes' which is just white rice pressed into squares that are heavenly toasted and covered with soy sauce). For the first time in ten years we were unable to watch the big JPOP extravaganza Kohaku, the most-watched show of the year in Japan, but we've got it waiting for us on the DVR at home.

The subject of Japanese banks is an interesting one. There are two kinds of traditional Japanese banks, the so-called "city banks" like Sumitomo or Tokyo-Mitsubishi, which are well-known national institutions; and the hundreds of small and medium-sized provincial banks that serve the regions outside of Tokyo. The banks do pretty much what you'd expect them to do -- hold deposits, make loans and offer various financial services -- but there are some big differences. First of all, Japanese banks are the most conservative in the world, and they are terrified of new ideas; as a result Japan's online banking world is a decade behind the likes of Wells Fargo. While most businesses try to differentiate themselves from their competitors, Japanese banks nearly always compete by trying to be exactly like their peers, right down to the interest rates offered, which are so low you'd laugh (one of the best rates offered by our local bank is 0.1% on a 5 year CD). This seems to be related to the concept of shinrai, or trust -- if a bank acts exactly as you expect it to, it earns your trust more quickly.

There are two external forces at work on Japan's banking world right now. One is Japan Post, the soon-to-be-privatized post office. In addition to delivering the mail, Japan Post acts as the largest bank in the world, securing the deposits of millions of Japanese families with an unbelievable $3.5 trillion in cash -- about equal the annual GDP of Japan itself. Despite the reality that Japan has a perfectly healthy banking sector that could provide these services, the government-backed postal savings system plays the part of the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla and interferes with the normal functioning of banks -- and pays no taxes by the way. The other force Japan's banks have to contend with are the gaishi-kei, foreign and foreign-backed banks that are the principle source of actual competition in the banking world. Some, like the all-online Shinsei Bank, even have -- gasp! -- gaijin CEOs! From offering much higher returns on investments (a full 1.25% rate on a 5 year CD) to providing innovative products like dollar or euro accounts inside Japan, to slashing the outmoded fees that normal banks charge (such as $7 to transfer $50 to someone a few miles away), these young instutions are finding many new ways to entice consumers.

At J-List, we've always been fans of the unique PC dating-sim games, and you can choose from an incredible selection of interesting games (including many games by download). We're happy to announce that Enzai - Falsely Accused, the very first PC yaoi game ever, has gone "golden master" and will be shipping soon. If you haven't preordered this great game yet, we hope you'll do so soon, to show your support for this fascinating new genre of interactive adventure games from Japan. Set in Napoleanic Europe, Enzai is the tale of Guys, a young man in prison for a crime he didn't commit, a fascinating multi-scenario mystery that you have total control of.

J-List currently has an amazing lineup of 3000 products from Japan, a truly mind-boggling selection of items for every taste. Did you miss checking through our 2006 anime, JPOP and gorgeous idol/actress calendars, with newly reduced prices? Looking for something wacky but fun from Japan, like our authentic tabi "ninja boots" or Japanese headbands? How about our amazing selection of Japanese snacks or gum? Or a downloadable dating-sim game for your PC? You'll always see a new side of Japan every time you browse J-List's products. To browse all our products in order of last update, click here

Remember that J-List is having a great sale on our close-out T-shirt designs, which we're getting rid of older shirts to make room for new creations. In addition to the reduced prices, you also get free shipping in the U.S. and Canada (or half price shipping for international customers). It's the last chance to buy such wacky designs as It Is Forbidden to Commit Seppuku, so check out our selection now!

Every month we present a new JAV star as "this month's girl." The selection for this month is the delightful indies idol Izumi Hasegawa, a gorgeous starlet who acts on the Moodyz label mostly. Born on March 12, 1983 in Tokyo, her "three sizes" are 88 (bust), 59 (waist) and 85 cm (hip). She's acted in a wide range of works, playing the cute girl-type, then an elegant female teacher (complete with glasses, gotta have the glasses), then taking on a mass of big black men from the USA. Her blood type is O, and her interests are karaoke, shopping, and going to hot springs (onsen).