Friday, October 22, 2010

More on "Joshiki" or Japanese Common Sense

One of the themes I write about often is the Japanese idea of joshiki, translatable as the knowledge that every (Japanese) person possesses by default, also known as "common sense." Joshiki is all around you in Japan, the list of knowledge and behaviors and attitudes that everyone possesses except us poor gaijin. Despite my best efforts, I still find myself violating these rules of common sense daily: trying to go to a restaurant on the one day during the week that it's closed; thinking it's okay to put a pair of clean socks on the dining room table for a moment (it's not, they're considered "dirty" even though they were freshly laundered); and sometimes sleeping with my socks on, which the Japanese never do. My daughter is currently sick, and I suggested she take a bath and go to bed, but this was breaking a "common sense" rule too: in Japan, someone with any cold symptoms is forbidden from bathing, and must get to bed instead. "Why don't you know this?" my wife asked, sure that there could only be one opinion on the subject possible. "What planet are you from that you think a person with a fever can take a bath?"
Do you take a bath when you're feeling under the weather?

High School Of The D&D

I'm a big fan of the anime and manga High School of the Dead, a story about a group of high school students who find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. One aspect of the story I like is the way the different characters come together, essentially forming a D&D style party of characters who must support each other with different skills, e.g. fighters (main character Komuro plus the uber-cool Saeko and kawaii Rei), a cleric (the teacher, who "heals" viewers with her fan service scenes), and so on. At one point the series jokes that the intelligent rich girl Saya is the mage of the group, I think the team's "gun otaku" Kohta serves that role better -- his extensive knowledge of the various weapons they come across and ability to support the others with missile attacks seems more wizard-like to me. Furthering the RPG-like elements of the show, experience is quite important. and when a characters picks up gun they've never fired before they'll have trouble using it effectively, just like in classic role-playing.
High School of the Dead is similar to a classic RPG party.

My Favorite Japanese Foods Often Aren't "Japanese"

Although I enjoy all manner of Japanese foods from sushi to sashimi to oyako-don (literally, "parent-and-child rice bowl" consisting of chicken and scrambled eggs eaten over a large bowl of steamed rice), I've also come to love a number of "Japanese" versions of international foods I didn't know about before I got here. The spicy pickled cabbage called kimchi is very popular in Japan, to the chagrin of Koreans who sometimes don't like their national food being enjoyed by their enemy across the Eastern Sea, and I can really appreciate a breakfast of kimchi on white rice with a bit of nori seaweed on the side. I'm also a big fan of korokke, the local version of french croquettes -- and like all fried foods, they're made even better by that dreamy Bull-dog sauce, which the Japanese call with the generic English word "sauce." The most successful culinary import in the history of food has to be curry rice, the Japanese version of the British version of Indian curry, which is eaten more than any food here except plain white rice. If you're interested in learning more about Japanese foods, J-List has some really cool cookbooks and related books in stock.
Japanese croquettes are quite different from the ones in France, or so I'm told.

J-List RSS Update + Anime Snacks Blurb

There are a lot of great ways to browse J-List's products: using the newly revamped categories, which let you find exactly the products you want and sort by update order, popularity, price etc.; using the new search feature, which lets you optionally limit your search to certain categories; or with our handy "view all new and updated products" link. You can also use our excellent RSS feed system to watch for all new products, see products that are added to certain categories, or even find products by keywords. It's easy to use: just access our updated RSS feeds page and view the feeds directly using an RSS-aware browser or right click and copy the feed URL into Google Reader or any other RSS reader (Reeder for iPhone and iPad is quite nice). We've made some improvements to the feeds, allowing you to opt for feeds that display product images or ones that don't.
J-List stocks hundreds of fun snacks from Japan, from Pocky and Pretz to bizarre local versions of Kit Kat and Doritos. We also have a page featuring anime snacks, drinks and other delicious things that appear in your favorite anime series, or are otherwise associated with anime in some way. We have gift boxes of snacks you can usually only buy at gift shops in Akihabara, all the snacks that appear in Studio Ghibli including Kompeito, and more. Browse our selection now!

Cool Products Friday, October 22, 2010

Here are today's "really cool products" that I've picked out for you, out of the 30+ new items we've added to the J-List and sites today. Note that some products may be "not safe for work" but that all links will allow you to redirect yourself either to the J-List or websites. To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the updated products link.
Goth Loli vol. 15  Handmade Gothic Lolita Fashion
Goth Loli vol. 15 ~ Handmade Goth-Loli Fashion The awesome gothic lolita fashion boom continues strong in Japan, and this is just the magazine to plug you hands-on into the scene.
Gothic Lolita Race Frill 2 Piece  size M (5 set)
Gothic Lolita Race Frill 2 Piece Dress Speaking of which, we've got a great new gothic lolita dress up for you today, a great piece to add to your fashion lineup!
Dengeki G's Festival vol. 18 **preorder**
Dengeki G's Festival vol. 18 Also: the new Dengeki G's Festival issue will sell out soon, which is always a festival of great omake free stuff for you.
Ultra Jump Sep 2010
Ultra Jump Sep 2010 The Tenjou Tenge manga is finally coming to an end after more than a decade, and this issue of Ultra Jump has the final chapter.
Poddities iPhone4 Strap  NETSUKE
Poddities iPhone4 Strap Adapter This is great! A new Poddities clamp that adds a phone strap to your iPhone 4, allowing you to attach any cool netsuke strap you like.
Electric Coro Coro Mini Takoyaki Maker  White
Electric Coro Coro Mini Takoyaki Maker ~ White Mmm, bite-sized takoyaki octopus balls pipin' hot and fresh from the griddle. Now they can be yours with this great mini-maker.
Totoro 2011 Calendar 'Sign Board'
Totoro & Jiji Calendars In Stock! Alright! The new Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service calendars for 2011 are in, and we've got them. Images updated, too.
Kodama Ball Chain Strap
Kodama Ball Chain Strap The cute and mysterious Kodama nature spirits from Princess Mononoke come alive in this cute accessory strap.
2011 Calendar -- Ami Maeda
2011 Idol Calendars Neat! We got a great bunch of calendars in stock, with a focus on beautiful J-POP stars like AKB48. Who would you like to spend 2011 with?
2011 Calendar -- Ikki Tousen  X Treme X Ecutor
Updated Photos for 2011 Calendars The J-List staff has been hard at work adding photographs to the calendars that have come in, and they look great. Click to see them all!
DOUGO ONSEN Bath Salt 6 Packs  Rose Scent  Orange
Rare Onsen Bath Salt from Famous Hot Springs Enjoy the feel of taking a real onsen (OWN-sen) hot springs bath in Japan with the bath salts we've posted to our new Health -> Bath Related page.
iTunes Japan Music Card
iTunes Japan Prepaid Cards Spotted at iTunes Japan: Ookami and Seven Companions, the full Cowboy Bebop OST and more!
Nestle Kit Kat Pack -- Caramel Pudding
New Japanese Kit Kat, Gum Don't look now, but there are two awesome large bags of Japan Kit Kat in Halloween Caramel Pudding and Black Sugar Kinako. Also, Astro Boy gum!
K-on!! Manju
K-on! Manju Gift Box A delicious way to say "thank you" or give the gift of K-On! to yourself, these sweets are individually wrapped for an authentic Japanese treat.
Colorful Ribbon Clip
Colorful Ribbon Clip Durable pastel plastic clips made to seal off bags for freshness or just an extra festive touch! Works great with bread or chips.
UME Chopstick Rest  Japanese Plum
UME Chopstick Rest ~ Japanese Plum The plum is a traditional icon of Japanese beauty, and this rich color will compliment your mealtime with this great reusable chopsticks rest.
Cute Sandwiches Mold  Heart  Fish  Tulip  Bird
Cute Sandwiches Mold ~ Heart & Fish, etc. Four new shapes to make lunch more exciting and spice up your sandwiches in a whimsical way -- tulip and bird too!
Warai -- Airi Nakajima
Warai ~ Airi Nakajima A super-cute idol on the gravure scene, Airi now graces the pages of this sexy photobook with her stunning smile and gorgeous good looks.
Kudoryafuka Nomi Japanese ASCII Keyboard  Kudo Wafter **Preorder**
Kud Wafter Keyboards, Coin Case *Preorder* Kudryavka Noumi is an uber-kawaii heroine of Little Busters and Kud Wafter. Now have her on your keyboard and more!
Asuka Langrey Face Towel  Evangelion 2.0 **Preorder**
Anime Towels *Preorder* Rei and Asuka from Eva on a pair of hand towels, and an extra-large towel of Sunako from the manga Shiki -- all preorders open today.
Honeneko Plush  Panty  Stocking with Garterbelt **Preorder**
Hitman Reborn, Panty & Stocking Products Two new character goods from Katekyo Hitman Reborn, and the new Gainax anime Panty & Stocking & Garterbelt.
Marvel Bishojo Miss Marvel 1/7 Figure Designed by Shunya Yamashita **Preorder**
Comics Girls Designed by Shunya Y. *Preorder* Miss Marvel and Wonder Woman are the two latest in the lineup from Kotobukiya's Shunya Yamashita designed bishoujo comics figurines!
Hello KITTY WAGARA Bento Set  Box  Buit-in Chopsticks  Bag
Today's Restocked Bento Boxes Today's restocked bento boxes include the really great Hello Kitty Wagara ("Japanese visual style") bento box, plus the MOTTAINAI Natural Leaf Eco Bento Box.
Alphabet DECO Bento Shaper Set  ( A  J )
Various Bento Accessories There's nothing like opening a bento to see your name spelled out, or "LOVE" or "STUDY HARD." You can write these messages with the popular Alphabet Bento Shapers we've restocked today.
Itazura Cat Coin Bank -- Tiger Cat
Itazura Cat Coin Bank Restocked The most popular kawaii item on J-List these days is the Itazura Cat Coin Bank, featuring a little cat who comes out of a mikan box to steal your money. Several models restocked today.
Totoro Wooden Music Box
Huge Restocking of Totoro Products See the Totoro Wooden Music Box that opens up so prettily plus several ceramic music boxes, the My Neighbor Totoro Doll Set, and more. Don't forget the 2011 calendars, either -- they are great this year!
Portable Paper Soap  Strawberry Scent
Portable Paper Soap ~ Take anywhere! Washing your hands in public restrooms is no fun if there's no soap. Never run into this problem, thanks to the portable "paper soap" we've restocked today -- the thin sheets turn into strawberry or apple scented soap when you wash.
Socks Glue
Authentic 'Socks Glue' From Japan For all those who love "Zettai Ryoiki," which is the space between the top of the a girl's over-knee socks and where her skirt begins, we've restocked the Japanese "socks glue" to hold up tall socks.
Japanese Disposable Vinyl Clear Umbrella
Random Products Restocked J-List to be your Wacky Things from Japan Headquarters, and today we're restocking the Generic Vinyl Clear Umbrella, fun nori cutters for bento (they also cut paper) and more.
Japanese traditional items
Restocked Traditional Items See some fun items back on the site, including an authentic wooden kokeshi doll for celebrating the coming winter season, traditional omamori charms, Fuku-chan Lucky Owl Pair Netsuke, Samurai Sword keychain and Lucky Cat with Seven Gods display.
Ame de Wata Ame (Cotton Candy Maker)
Cotton Candy Maker Restocked The most amazing invention we've seen from Japan in awhile, this cotton candy maker will create spun sugar confections from any hard candy placed inside. Kompeito cotton candy, anyone?
Refill for SUPPLIO Green  Aroma Fragrant Leads for Healing
Restocked Japanese Pens & More Today's awesome Japanese stationery items include the Naruto DX Evolution and Tyrant HABANERO pencil cases, the SUPPLIO aroma mechanical pencils + refills, and One Piece Fragrant Double Markers.
Lucky Star Chocolate Cornet Cookie
Restocked Japanese Snacks Finally, we've restocked some awesome restocked gifts, including the Lucky Star Strawberry Cake and Chocolate Cornet Cookies in the gift box sets, plus Akihabara Bunny Shrine Green Tea Cakes, Glico Pretz in Bacon flavor, Black Mint Candy for men and March of Koala.
Queen's Gate  Mina Majikina
Queen's Blade, Queen's Gate, Other Artbooks Some of our most popular artbooks are back in stock today, including our popular Queen's Blade and Queen's Gate combat artbooks, and more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And here's the video Meg Whitman supporters saw

The Otaku Nation

The word otaku has come to represent the culture both in Japan and around the world of embracing awesomely nerdy things, from anime to manga to video games and those wonderful prepainted anime figures. The word otaku is just a polite word literally meaning "you" or "your family" -- an example of how it's used might be a housewife talking to her neighbor and saying, otaku no ko wa yoku benkyo shimasu ne, meaning "Your child really studies really hard." The word possibly acquired its unique secondary meaning through the local dialect of Tottori Prefecture, home of several of the Gainax founders, where otaku is commonly used as a general second person pronoun, or maybe it's just because anime fans are overly aloof and polite when they talk. Although being a member of the worldwide nation of otaku-zoku (lit. "otaku tribe") is kind of cool, not everyone in Japan is keen on us a group, which is kind of silly since everyone has a strong emotional connection to something, even if it's so-called normal stuff like perfume or shoes or sports. In Apple's "Got a Mac?" ads there was one featuring a Japanese woman who represented "the latest digital camera from Japan." She looks at John Hodgman and says, "Who is this person? He kind of looks like an otaku, doesn't he?" I'd happy be counted with John any day of the week.

Speaking of otakus, our little corner of the Internet got some unexpected attention when Meg Whitman's campaign for governor of California accidentally sent a tweet with a typo which caused readers to go to a different link entirely: a YouTube video of a "Japanese" man wearing a tutu and playing rock music, which caused more than a little confusion. In reality it was H.J. Freaks, a Korean bassist who dresses up in (female) anime costumes and plays along anime songs for the enjoyment of YouTubers and whatever the hip slang word for users of the Japanese video site Nico Douga is. He's a damned good musician whose goal is "to be the world's greatest stupid idiot bass player."

The "otaku tribe" embraces nerdy things but are sometimes mocked by "normals."

My Son's Standard Deviation Value (Hensachi)

My son continues his juken studies, preparing for the difficult high school entrance exams he'll be taking early next year. Watching my fifteen-year-old son study in his room for hours then attend evening classes at a juku school until 10 pm fills me with pride as a father, and I wonder if the Japan-obsessed teenagers I meet at anime conventions would want to live here if they had to study like that. (Of course he doesn't have to work so hard, as there are easy-to-enter municipal and private high schools available to him -- he's just pushing himself to get into a high school with an excellent science program since that's what he's interested in.) Truth be told, we've told him he's going to the U.S. for college so Japanese high school doesn't matter that much, yet he wants to go to a good high school even though it means way more work and also leaving all his friends and his girlfriend forever. (Could you make such a grown-up decision age age 15?)

As an outsider to Japanese culture, it's been interesting for me to observe the year-long process of high school entrance-exam preparation, which is a scaled down version of the "test hell" that high school students wanting to attend university must pass through. One aspect of the process that was strange to me was hensachi, a number determined through a complex calculation of students' test scores that gives their standard deviation value, essentially is a number indicating their absolute academic ranking. If a student wants to go to Waseda University he'll need a hensachi number of 72, while a junior high school student looking to attend the famous Ochanomizu University Attached Girl's High School would need a number of 67. It's amazing that a person's life can be determined by a simple number.
My son is studying hard, a lot hardre than I did at his age.

J-List Notes: New Features, New Calendars

There are a lot of awesome new features on the all-new J-List website, and I'll tell you two of my favorites. First, I like the new option to view products in a grid form rather than a vertical list, which is very convenient for scanning items you think look interesting and clicking the image to bring up the product page. The setting is "sticky" too, remembering your choice for all other pages. Then, I'm positively in love with the new ability to sort your view order, by "newest" (newly updated items on top of older ones), "best sellers" based on popularity, "most wishlisted" based on how often our customers added the items to their wishlists, or price. What do you like about the new J-List?

We are loaded to the gills with gorgeous anime, traditional photo, art and other 2011 calendars from Japan. In addition to posting a bunch of really nice calendars which just came in stock, the J-List staff is adding photos to the calendar product pages. We've got the new Japanese castles calendar in, printed on gorgeous film rather than paper, plus a new Lucky Cat traditional art calendar. Anime fans have plenty of great calendars to choose from, including Bleach and Katekyo Hitman Reborn! One of my favorite calendars every year is the official Pixiv offering, and we've posted inside photos for you to check out (warning, they're pretty awesome).