Friday, November 12, 2010

Japanese Love Extravagant Weddings

One interesting area of life in Japan is weddings, and Japanese really take the subject of getting married seriously. One of my first instances of culture shock in Japan happened when I was riding my mountain bike (foreigners always ride mountain bikes in Japan) and came across a sprawling palace that looked like it had fallen out of a time warp from Czarist Russia. Turns out it was a wedding hall, a giant facility created solely for marriage ceremonies and receptions, which are quite common in all corners of Japan. In our prefecture, various companies compete ferociously to capture the largest share of the local wedding market, coming up with interesting themes such as Georgia House, which recreates an Antebellum plantation house from the American South; Lockhart Castle, an authentic castle that was imported from Scotland; and Sharon Gospel Church, a U.S. style Southern Baptist church in the heart of Japan.

You can also get married in Disneyland, naturally.

Easy vs. Difficult Japanese Language

There are times when Japanese as a language is surprisingly easy. While poor Japanese people have to memorize the names of the twelve months, going the other way is easier, since the months are simply ichi-gatsu, ni-gatsu (lit. "1-month, 2-month"), etc. Also, a lot of the really nasty grammar that exists in English, such as conditional statements like "if she hadn't gone to university, she wouldn't have met her future husband," simply don't exist in Japanese, making it easier for foreign learners. Then there are areas of Japanese that are decidedly more complex than we'd like them to be. While kanji fundamentally have two readings (the kun or Japanese reading and the on or Chinese one), there are exceptions, and one of the worst is the kanji for "life" which has many different ways to read it. The verb "to live" (as in, to be alive) is ikiru, while "life" can be seikatsu (someone's daily life), seimei (the biological term), inochi (a person's precious life), or jinsei (the span of a person's entire life). Oh, and the same kanji also expresses nama, meaning "raw" (as in sushi), "draft" (as in beer) or "live" (as in a live news feed on TV). The simple word "to wear" can also be a challenge, as there are several different words, including kiru (to wear around your body, like a T-shirt), kaburu (to wear something on your head, like a hat), suru (to wear things like rings or gloves), and haku (for anything work below the waist, like pantsu, socks or shoes), and it seems foreigners will always pick the wrong word. (If you accidentally said pantsu o kaburu it'd mean wearing your underwear on your head.) In the Strike Witches anime, they use the word haku when "wearing" the Striker Units that let them fly.
Expressing certain ideas in another language can be quite complex.

How Japanese Perceive America

I recently wrote about things that gaijin focus on when they visit Japan, like wacky vending machines or maid cafes or love hotels. One of my Twitter followers asked me to write about the reverse, what Japanese people pay attention to when they go to the U.S., so I thought I'd write about that today. Seen from Japan, America is very hiroi (wide and spacious), and Japanese are always oo-ing and ah-ing at how big everything is. Items sold in stores are also much larger than Japanese are used to back home, and giant watermelons or the "buckets" of Coca-Cola (32-oz Big Gulps) stand out to them. Often Japanese will not see the real America for all the preconceptions they have in their minds, which is why every woman in the U.S. is perceived as "blonde" and every man as "tall," even if they're not. Except for hunting in rural areas, there are no guns in Japan, and Japanese often obsess over them, asking people how many guns they keep in their house or visiting the many shooting ranges that cater to Japanese tourists. There are very few curse words used in Japanese -- most insults are variations of baka, meaning stupid -- and sometimes Japanese people develop an affinity for the rather picturesque anatomical swearing that English is so good at.
Japanese are always shocked at how large drinks are in the U.S.

J-List Holiday Guide Update

If you browse the new J-List Holiday Gift Guide, you'll find a host of products the J-List staff thought would make pretty nice gifts for the special people on your list. One thing we try to do very hard at J-List is act like a mirror reflecting back the country as it really is. That's why we carry so many different products, since Japan is such a deep an interesting place. We welcome you to browse our humble site and find whatever awesome items you can find on our site this Holiday season!

Cool Products Friday, November 12, 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.
Newtype Dec 2010
Newtype Dec 2010 First up today, the latest issue of Newtype with the exclusive scoop on the Sora no Otoshimono movie, plus great poster extras.
Shonen Ace Oct 2010
Shonen Ace Oct 2010 One of the best manga magazines around, with Eva, Haruhi, Keroro Gunso (Sgt. Frog), Bakatest, and more. Note: stock is limited, apologies if it sells out.
Soryu Asuka Langley 1/7 Figure Creator's Labo CL026 Designed by Shunya Yamashita
Soryu Asuka Langley 1/7 Figure Asuka has never looked quite as sexy as she does in this Yamashita Shunya-designed figure from Yamato! In stock and ready to order!
Sci-fi Revoltech No.017 Jack Skellington Santa
Awesome Figma, Revoltech Toys and More The epic Jack Skellington dressed in his Santa Claus suit, the King Kazama from Summer Wars, and that gorgeous Halo figure.
2011 Calendar -- GACKT
Awesome JPOP and Idol Calendars We've updated the entries for many of our idol calendars with photos from the real thing -- Aya Hirano, Yuko Ogura, T.M. Revolution, Gackt, much more!
2011 Calendar -- Toaru Kagaku no Rail Gun
2011 Anime Calendars, Too We have all the best calendars from the newest popular anime in stock, too -- Railgun, Gundam and more in stock today!
Gakken Otona no Kagaku vol. 20  Science Projects for Adult -- The Bird Organ
Otona no Kagaku vol. 20 ~ The Bird Organ Another amazing issue of the science project magazine. Build a recreation of a working 'bird organ' from 18th century France!
Townscapes in Japan  Machinami -- Nihon no Meikan
Townscapes in Japan ~ Nihon no Meikan See the most famous and beautiful town landscapes in Japan with this photobook showing a glimpse of the country's natural and man-made beauty.
Tomoyo After  It's a Wonderful Life  Memorial Edition
If you've ever wondered what happened after the events of the Clannad anime and game from Key, you'll love this sequel from writer Jun Maeda that explores Tomoyo's life after high school (an English fan translation is currently in progress). This is the just released new "Memorial Version."
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Quarterly Pixiv vol. 02
PIXIV Artbooks Restocked Some of our most popular artbooks are back! The Pixiv series from the hottest artists in this thriving net community with their best work on display.
Miffy Face Die-Cut Coin Purse
Miffy Face Die-Cut Coin Purse Created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna, the Miffy character is super popular in Japan. Now you can get this cute coin rabbit-eared purse just like her!
Kitty Japanese Doll -- Ao Momiji *Blue Maple*  Kimono
Fantastic Hello Kitty Traditional Dolls The epic Hello Kitty traditional kimono dolls are back in production after a several year hiatus. These high quality items are super for collectors!
Oppai 'Nyotai Mori' Plate
Oppai 'Nyotai Mori' Plate, Sake Cups, More Awesome new "oppai" coffee cup, sake server and a plate that looks like a woman, for eating hadaka style. (Please view from the J-List side.)
Totoro China Tea Cup Pair Set
Totoro China Tea Cup Restocked Christmas is coming, and we know some Totoro fans who would love to receive this very special china cup set from Noritake. Made in Japan.
Gothic Lola Armcover
Gothic Lolita Complete Dress, Arm covers Then, add some awesome to your daily life with the authentic Gothic Lolita complete frill dress and awesome arm covers.
Ninja Driver 4GB  Black -- USB Flash Memory
Ninja Driver 4GB ~ USB Flash Memory This ninja-themed USB memory stick will protect your valuable data with ruthless efficiency and stealth. Also acts as a luck charm against pirates!
Value Pack Mini Memo Pad  3pcs
Kawaii Japanese Memo Pads Just about everything in Japan is somehow more awesome than the normal stuff back home. Here are two really unique Japanese memo pads with Engrish on them.
MAMESHIBA / Edamame Animal Aluminum Pencil Case
Japanese Pens and More! Or check out the restocked pens and more. Mameshiba pen case and notebook, "smoky" color highlighters, erasers and study flashcards!
Meiji Creamy Air Chocolate w/Mushmarrow
Got an excellent lineup of J-Snacks for you, just in time for the weekend. From a large bag of special Hi-Chew soft candies to Meiji's Creamy "Fuwa Fuwa" Marshmallow Chocolate to Meiji Xylish Morning Citrus Mint and Pinky Mints, we have an awful lot of cool items in stock.
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Aurora Biscuit -- Monster Hunter
Restocked Japanese Snacks & Gum, Too Monster Hunter Aurora Biscuits, Black Sesame Caramels, Meiji Pick Up in BBQ Flavor, Lotte My Cube Gum and Sasha Chocolates, plus Gundam water cookies!
UCC 250ml  Mari Figure Set *Preorder*
Big Restocking of Evangelion Items We love Evangelion, and have restocked many items for Christmas. Headphones, UCC coffee + figures, the Eva Desk Mat and more.
Hello Kitty 'Wagara' Face Bento 2-Tier Bento Box -- Pink
Colorful kimono-style flowers decorate the face of the timeless icon of cute that is Hello Kitty in these new gorgeous, stylish bento boxes from Sanrio. Sturdy and perfectly sized for all your meal needs on the go, and sure to get exclamations of "cute!" when you take out your lunch to eat.
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Winter Rabbits Round Shaped Wood Grain Bento Box
Winter Rabbits Round Wood Grain Bento Box  A lovely natural wood-style finish and cute rabbit design on top makes this a kawaii understated look for a lovely new style of bento!
NATURAL LUNCH TIME Green Tight Sealed Bento Box
NATURAL LUNCH TIME Green Bento Box  In addition to the popular Pink & Black Sakura bento, we've restocked the Natural Lunch series, one of the best places to start your bento collection.
Hello Kitty Bento Sauce Bottle
Awesome Hello Kitty Bento Products "Kittify" your lunch today with our large selection of Sanrio official goods, from sauce bottles, picks, onigiri shapers, to bento boxes themselves.
Black KEITAI HASHI  ECO My Own Chopsticks
ECO My Own Chopsticks Make the world a slightly better place by avoiding the use of disposable chopsticks, which are made from trees after all. Handy chopsticks restocked today!
Pan Pita  Square  Push Style Sandwich Maker
Restocked Japanese Sandwich Makers, More Sandwich makers that create cute shapes, an oil brush for making takoyaki, plus cute nori cutters for bento.
Tarako Furikake - Cod Roe
Authentic Furikake, Wasabi Powder, More Delightful restocking of traditional Japanese foods, including furikake you sprinkle over rice, mugi tea bags and real wasabi powder!
Kamikaze Headband -- Kamikaze Hachimaki
Japanese Hachimaki Headbands Show your determination with our cool Japanese hachimaki kanji headbands. We've restocked a bunch of them today.
SENKYAKU-BANRAI   TORA Lucky Cat Happy Message Mini Display
Amazing Restocked Traditional Products Those Lucky Cat figures with good luck messages written on their tummies, rubber Ninja Shuriken, delightful kokeshi dolls for all four seasons!
Japanese T-Shirt - 'Looking for a Certain Japanese Girlfriend'
'Seeking a Certain Japanese Girlfriend' Shirt J-List has awesome kanji and anime T-shirts for you. Enjoy our new "Japanese Girlfriend" shirt color for fans of Love Plus or Japanese women in general.
Tamaki Kousaka 1/7 Figure Black Underwear ver.  ToHeart2 XRATED **Preorder**
Today's New Preorder Figures Gorgeous Tamaki and Sasara figures to warm you this winter, plus a new Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS Figma. Preorder them all!
Coffee of Yuki Nagato Set of 3
Coffee of Yuki Nagato Set of 3, More On our fun Anime & Gift Snacks page see the upcoming Yuko Nagato coffee from Pokka, which you can preorder. Also, Ika Musume rice crackers!
Tony Works Ciel Chronicle
Awesome Ero Artbooks from Japan Master illustrator Tony Taka's epic artbook is back in stock, truly one of the greatest hentai artbooks ever published...
Huge Restocking of TENGA Products J-List sells tons of TENGA stress toys, and today we've restocked the most popular item, including Flip Hole, Hole Warmer and all lotion types.
Doujin Dakimakura Hug Pillow Cover -- Miku Hatsune (Naked ver.)
Doujin Dakimakura Hug Pillow Covers Restocked! If you're looking for a lovely sleeping companion we've got all the warmth you need in these large "body pillow" cases with your favorite characters.
Sexy Beach ZERO
In addition to publishing awesome Japanese dating-sim games in English, J-List stocks a great selection of Japanese import games. The popular 3D game has been restocked, plus the epic Real Kanojo, a moving polygon girlfriend for you. Also, the Fate/stay night games.
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Mission BOYD CHASER Hakubi Figure **Preorder**
Mission BOYD CHASER Hakubi Figure *Preorder* Wow, is all we have to say -- a hawt cast-off figure with a long samurai sword, does it get any better than this?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Being an Expert in Japan

The other day I was at the local hot springs bath, washing myself after getting a haircut. (Barber shops located on the premises of hot springs public baths, allowing you to get clean immediately after cutting your hair, are one of the greatest advancements of human civilization so far.) I was washing my hair with the little showerhead wedged under my knee while I grabbed items from my expertly-packed furo basket, which caused the man washing next to me to turn in surprise and say, "You seem quite experienced at using Japanese baths. You are a real tsuu." A tsuu (note the long vowel) is a word that means connoisseur or expert in a certain field, and yes, I am a bit of an onsen-tsuu after going to hot springs for so many years. The word can be used for just about any field, and if you fancy yourself a serious fan of sushi you might be a sushi-tsuu, while someone who really knows baseball is a yakyu-tsuu. In Kabuki and Takarazuka, traditional Japanese theatre performed by men and women respectively, there is a class of fan who really knows the ins and outs of each performance well, and they have special seats available for them. So, what are you a tsuu of?
A soba-tsuu for example always knows where to find the most expertly hand-rolled Japanese noodles.

Japanese Population + 1

A lot of people talk about increasing the population of Japan, but J-List is doing something about it. The newest addition is little Motoharu, the son recently born to Tomo, the J-List staff member who keeps our site stocked with DVDs, import dating-sim games and those wacky Hello Kitty shoulder massagers. As a new father in Japan, Tomo has a lot to look forward to, including making the official visit to a Shinto shrine a month after the baby is born (the equivalent of a Baby Christening) and spending the next ten years taking baths with his son, since it's usual for fathers to bathe with their kids until they reach late elementary school or so. (The awesome word for this is "skinship.") He'll likely celebrate his son's first birthday the traditional way, by tying 2 kg of mochi rice cakes to the child's back then placing an abacus, a writing brush and money on the floor. Whatever object the baby grabs first supposedly determines his future job (e.g. a merchant if he grabs the abacus, an artist or writer if he goes for the writing brush, a wealthy man if he takes the money). One of my favorite customs related to raising kids in Japan is called Shichi-go-san, literally "seven-five-three." At age three and seven (for girls) and five (for boys), parents take their kids down to the local photo studio and get them dressed up in beautiful kimono and have their picture taken, then visit the family Shinto shrine to pray for their continued health and good luck.
Shichi-go-san is one of my favorite customs as a parent in Japan.

Something I Want To Try: Getting Smashed on a Floating "Yakata-bune" Boat

I've done many things in the nearly two decades I've lived in Japan. I've hitchhiked from Hiroshima to Sapporo, sleeping in capsule hotels and 24-hour "saunas" (including one in Kyoto that was full of scary yakuza gangsters). I've crossed the Tsugaru Strait between Japan's main island of Honshu and northernmost island of Hokkaido with sad enka music playing in my ears, and watched the sunrise from Mt. Fuji. Still, there are some things I'd like to do in the future. I think it'd be cool to visit Yakushima, the beautiful topical island that served as the inspiration for the forest in Princess Mononoke, or maybe Tanegashima, where Westerners first encountered Japanese some 500 years ago. I also want to catch a Hanshin Tigers vs. Yomiuri Giants game at Koshien stadium near Osaka with my son -- I'm always worried they'll tear down the stadium, Japan's oldest, before I get a chance to go. I'd also like to take a dinner cruise on one of those awesome yakata-bune boats, traditional floating restaurants which cruise around Tokyo bay while you and your party eat and drink. The boats have been around for a long time, dating back to the Heian Period or so, and the idea of enjoying hot sake in a traditional setting like that really appeals to me. If you're ever in Tokyo looking for something interesting to do, pencil in a yakata-bune cruise! (Many companies offer service in English, too).
A floating yakata-bune restaurant in Tokyo, though they have them in other cities too.

Pocky Day is November 11 and J-List Holiday Guide

November 11 has been designated by "Pocky Day" by the Glico corporation, due to the fact that 11/11 looks like four sticks of Pocky. This year the company has been promoting the special day heavily, with press events in Tokyo and on its website. This year the legendary Yellow Magic Orchestra and Ryuichi Sakamoto are the main spokesmen for Pocky products. It's a great time to browse the site for some delicious flavors of Pocky and Pretz -- click here to browse all our stock.

Announcing a new section at J-List: a special category where you can see the products hand-picked by the J-List staff as good potential gifts this Holiday season. From rare Hello Kitty items sold only in Japan to very special Totoro and One Piece items to special gift-able anime snacks, J-List is a great place for all your Christmas shopping. If you're a parent of Japan-obsessed kids, it's especially good, since you can find all the hip things from Japan and make your kids wonder how you knew what to get them. The list will be updated daily by the J-List staff, too. Browse our new 2011 Holiday Guide now!