The Japanese are very good at taking an idea and improving on it, and the entire history of modern Japan involves observing the nations of Europe and the U.S. and seeing what they could adopt and make better. This is known as wakon yosai or "Japanese Spirit, Western Know-How," a phrase that was coined after the Meiji Restoration, meaning that Japan should combine the technology of the West with that "extra something" (which the Japanese insist on calling "plus alpha") that only Japan can provide. My first introduction with Japanese innovation upon arriving here was in one of the most uninteresting places imaginable, the toilet. Most Japanese toilets in homes have a little sink on the top that lets you wash your hands with clean water as it flows into the tank after you flush -- very logical in a country that's both starved for elbow room and very conscious about cleanliness. One of the fun things of living in Japan is keeping mental count of the little innovations there are around me, from vertical parking "elevators" for your car to single-serving drip coffee that sits over your cup to cola vending machines that are only a few centimeters thicker than the length of a can so that they can be placed along the narrow roads in Tokyo. Oh, and those dreamy massage chairs.
There's a wacky thing that Japanese do to money: fold a 1000 yen bill so that 19th century novelist Souseki Natsume (or whoever -- it works with just about any bill) makes sad or happy faces, depending on which way you look at it. I'll teach you how it's done so you can amaze your friends with this great Japanese trick. First, take a bill and make an outward fold where each of his eyes are. Make an inward fold through the middle of his face, so that his eyes are higher than his nose (like little mountains). If you look at the bill from above, the face will look sad; from below, and he'll look happy. Virtually all Japanese known this silly trick, and would probably be surprised if any non-Japanese knew it. Here is the result:
Remember that our newest PC dating-sim game, YUME MIRU KUSURI :: A Drug That Makes You Dream, has gone "Golden Master" and will be on its way to the duplicators soon. We've got some other happy announcements for H-game fans, too. First, we've lowered the price of Yin-Yang! X-Change Alternate by $10, so if you haven't picked up this extremely popular title yet, you have a great excuse to do so now. Then, two of our popular game releases are now available in a new Internet Download Edition: the gorgeous Legend of Fairies and Fairy Nights, fully translated into English and compatible with Window as well as Mac (OS 9/X).
The summer conventions are not too far off. Have you ordered your Matsukameya high school uniform yet? We're starting our convention lineup earlier than normal this year by attending the Star Wars Celebration IV convention in Los Angeles May 24-28. This is only the fourth official Star Wars convention ever held, and my first. It'll be great to rub elbows with Star Wars fans from all over, and we'll have lots of fun and interesting products from Japan for you. So if you can make it to the show, be sure and look for us! See this page for info on the show.