You can't live in Japan without eating rice, the staple food of the Japanese, usually consumed with each meal. Rice is usually prepared in an automated rice cooker, a device that's as important to Japanese households as the refrigerator or television. Take a trip to a denki-ya (electronics store) and you'll see that many companies competing to bring the best rice cookers to market, from Mitsubishi to Sanyo to Zojirushi. Just as the Eskimos have more words for "snow" than the rest of us, there are quite a few words for rice, like uncooked rice (kome), unpolished rice (genmai), steamed rice (gohan, which also refers to all food), newly cultivated rice (shinmai, also used to refer to a new employee at an organization), and so on. The kanji for "rice" is one of the most basic ones and includes the characters for the numbers 88 inside it, a Buddhist concept that represents the 88 steps that go into each grain of rice. The essence of "living life as you should" seems to be to eat rice each day, and back when I was single and living in an apartment, I was often asked Chanto gohan taiteiru no? (Are you cooking rice for yourself properly?) -- i.e. was I making healthy food for myself, and not just eating cup ramen every night.
If you've paid attention while watching Japanese anime, you've probably picked up on the word ne. This is an interesting Japanese grammatical particle that usually goes on the ends of sentences and serves several purposes, mostly related to asking for confirmation of information or agreement with an opinion. Here are two examples:
Aisu kohii futatsu desu ne? Two glasses of ice coffee, is that right?
Kyou wa atsui desu ne. It's hot today, isn't it?
Other functions of the all-purpose Japanese particle ne include softening a sentence so its meaning it less harsh (Chotto furotimashita ne. You've gained a little weight, haven't you?); emphasizing what you want to say (Kondo chanto kiite kudasai, ne. Please listen closely next time, alright?); working as a pause in sentences; and to get the attention of the listener before saying something. Girls use ne more often than guys and with a higher intonation, so males should use the word with caution lest they appear effeminate.
We had a few problems with the website on Monday and Tuesday evenings, which caused products to disappear from the site for a couple hours (all categories reported "no products found"). We're very sorry about the interruption -- everything's working now, and hopefully the problem, a glitch in our server setup, will not come back.
J-List is hiring again in our San Diego location. We've got a job opening for a shipping clerk to fill web and wholesale orders, handle receiving of products, and so on. If you're interested in helping evangelize our brand of Japanese pop culture, we'd love to work with you. See here for details. (Unfortunately, we can only consider people currently in the San Diego area for this position.)
It was Easter last Sunday for us, even though we're well past the real date. I brought some Easter Egg decorations to share with the girl scouts here in Japan.
The eggs came out quite good, although I am not much of a teacher when it comes to these things.
I bought cheap baskets for the kids to decorate. My mother had also dutifully sent chocolates from the U.S. which I passed along.
The Hello Kitty stickers I had brought along were also quite popular.
We wanted to have an Easter Egg hunt, but Japanese aren't too big on putting food that you're going to eat on the ground (the eggs). So we had a Kit Kat hunt instead, and it was a big success.