Friday, December 26, 2008
Japan's capital city of Tokyo is a sprawling mass of concrete, asphalt and steel that holds 35 million people in its greater metropolitan area (the city itself including three surrounding prefectures), which is slightly less than the population of California. Because there are so many people living in close proximity, things are a little different in Tokyo compared with most other parts of the world. I'd never been in a McDonald's with multiple floors until I came to Japan, but in Tokyo it's quite common to see fast food restaurants with three stories, with the ground floor for the kitchen and two floors for patrons to eat on. Family restaurants are often built with the parking lots occupying the ground level and the restaurant essentially raised up on stilts allowing the cars to fit under the building, while convenience stores with apartments built over them for the owners to live in are common, too. The idea of "personal space" doesn't mean much in Tokyo, whether it's trying to squeeze behind the tiny tables at a coffee shop or traveling on a train so packed that breathing becomes difficult. J-List is located in a fairly small city about 100 km from Tokyo, so we're spared much of the stress of having too many people around us. But even our spacious city is quite different from back home, something I'm reminded of whenever I stop at the train station for a bowl of tachi-kui soba, the "stand-and-eat noodles" that are consumed while standing at a counter, since there's no room for seats in the tiny restaurant.
Tokyo is a large and complex place. Many areas of the city are famous for different things, like Akihabara for electronics and anime culture, Shibuya for urban street fashion, Kanda for used books and Shimbashi for old-style salaryman bars and open-air yatai food stalls. One of the more infamous parts of Tokyo is Kabukicho in Shinjuku, a dark area filled with bars, hostess clubs and other businesses of somewhat ill repute, making it the only part of Tokyo where a visitor might feel unsafe while walking. A trip down the main avenue in Kabukicho on a Friday night is quite an experience, with hundreds of yobikomi (guys who try to convince you to come into their bar to drink), including many Nigerians for some reason. The days of the area's status as the city's unofficial red-light district may be numbered, however, with Tokyo's Governor-who-can-say-no Shintaro Ishihara doing his best to clean up the shady region in order to strengthen his bid for the 2016 Olympics. The trend isn't new: ever since 44 patrons of a gambling hall died in a sudden fire in 2001, police have been watching some of the shadier businesses. Last week's closing of the historic Shinjuku Koma Theatre, where enka songs were performed live for half a century, has led to conjecture that a shiny new glass tower will be erected on the spot in the near future, further changing the face of Kabukicho. While cleaning up some crime is probably a good thing, some are concerned about the "Disneyification" of Tokyo's last rough spot.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Oops, one more post to the blog only. It's being reported that Ai Iijima, the former adult actress who pretty much defined the 1990s for me (um, long story) has died, apparently by suicide. Very sad. After joining the AV world, she had many ups and downs and amazingly landed on her feet, becoming an accomplished author and mainstream geinojin ("talent").
T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except at J-List, where we're still busy efficiently processing the hundreds of orders we're receiving from all corners of the globe. Let us know how we can serve you today, either with our always-fun products from Japan or our new, improved J-List Gift Certificates, which are printable PDFs that can be sent through email for speedy delivery to your lucky recipient, or to you (so you can present the gift certificate to them directly). Japan iTunes cards also make great gifts that can be sent quickly through email, in case you've run out of time this year.