That Sega is one smart company. A few years ago they created Mushi King (Bug King), a card game that capitalized on the fascination boys here have with beetles and other crawlies. You drop 100 yen into the coin slot and get a random "bug card" with bar codes on the sides to indicate what insect you're fighting with, then you do battle with other bugs by swiping your card to choose attacks. It was a smash hit, and for months you had to wait in line to play. Sega recently brought this concept to girls with Love & Berry, a popular game in which girls get cards representing clothes, shoes and other fashion accessories, which they can use to outfit their character and make her look o-sha-re (meaning "cute and fashionable"). The characters then battle by dancing in their cute new outfits, and get points for how good they look while doing it and how well they keep to the beat of the song. Everywhere you go, it seems, there's a crowd of girls waiting to play this game, with mothers standing around talking to each other while their kids wait in line. In generations past, video game arcades have had a bad image, akin to pool halls in a past era, but kid-friendly games like these are slowly changing things.
The Japanese often abbreviate words to make them easier to work with, such as English terms that are clumsy to use in the syllable-based kana writing system. For example, the English word digital camera is often shortened to digi-kame, American comics are known as ame-komi, an American short hair cat is ame-sho, a personal computer is a pasokon, and so on. They also come up with some "English" (quote unquote) abbreviations that can be quite difficult for gaijin to puzzle out. A TV commercial is known as a CM ("commercial message"), and some guys might make a CD of BGM (background music) to play on that special date. Before doing something, you should consider the TPO -- this Japanese word is short for "time, place, occasion." Several English abbreviations which sound strange to my American ear are actually British terms, possibly archaic, like OB/OG ("old boy/girl," i.e. an alumnus of a university), NG ("no good," the opposite of OK), and WC ("water closet"). See if you can figure out what these terms mean:
Answer in the next update!
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." To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the JBOX.com updated products link.
Otome Gumi 2006 ~ Wotomegumi 2006. A nice photomagazine (which we define as a photobook with a staple, as opposed to perfect bound binding) featuring one gorgeous lady.
Captain Kana -- Kana Kawai. A new photobook for, er, baseball fans that might just change how you view the sport.
Japanese Comickers 2. Comickers is a book we hope you'll be seeing more of on J-List. It's a very good book detailing the best art from Japan's many illustrators and manga-ka, with articles on how to create that art.
Super Beautiful Leg -- Maiko Ohshiro. Very beautiful legs on this lovely model, Maiko Ohshiro (her last name means "Big Castle"). I am very partial to Wanz Factory covers. ^_^
Japanese Homestyle Dishes. Learn some Japanese cooking with this nice book.
Natsuki Kuga 1/10 Scale Figure -- Mai-Hime. If you haven't watched Mai Hime, I hope you will -- it's just about the best anime to come along in a long time. My favorite character is Natsuki, and this is a figure of her.
Snoring Totoro -- Inemuri Totoro. It's a plush Totoro that's sleeping...and he snores.
Hana to Hidamari no Tami -- White *Shiro* ~ Flower w/ Sunshine People. A deluxe Hidamari no Tami solar-powered toy that's a beautiful flower. Watch it rock back and forth, through the miracle of solar power.
Hard Type DICT *Black* ~ Elecom Electric Dictionary Case. Protect your precious Wordtank with this cool hard case from Elecom.
Megami Magazine vol. 69 Feb. 2006. Nice new issue of Megami Magazine, loaded with cute characters.
Ochaken Tea Dog "Make a Wish" Mascot. Ah, good old "Tea Dog," the character line that brings in a dog for every type of tea (including Sakura Tea Cat, too).
Hello Kitty Suitcase Belt. Make sure your suitcasae stays closed with this cute suitcase belt -- kawaii!
The Love & Berry machines at Toys R Us.
Lots of kids gathered around, and lots of impatient mothers.
There are spin-offs, too, of course. This is Dino King, where you fight against dinosaurs instead of bugs.