Friday, December 17, 2010

Tidbits of Japanese Grammar

One of the biggest challenges for learners of Japanese is dealing with what isn't stated in a sentence. My German-fluent sister once told me that the purpose of German grammar was to get the subject and the verb as far from each other as possible (to confuse people trying to learn the language, I guess). In Japanese, the goal seems to be removing as much information from a sentence as you can, and one of the first things a student learns is that the formal sentences in the textbook like watashi wa anata ni tegami wo kakimasu ("I will write a letter to you") are nearly always reduced to almost nothing by Japanese speakers (e.g. tegami kaku ne), since everything else can be implied. There are other linguistic concepts that take some getting used to, too. For example, ageru and yaru, which both mean "to give" and are for use with people above your level (your boss, your senior in an organization) and below your level (a child, a dog), respectively. When connected with other verbs, the recipient of an action can be inferred without it being openly stated, which can take some getting used to for foreigners learning the language.
You say "yaru" when referring to a dog, although no one follows this.

Hate SF Show Cancellations? Become an Anime Fan!

I saw that NBC and SyFy has cancelled Stargate: Universe series after two seasons. Since I'm currently (and belatedly) watching Firefly, the outstanding science fiction show that was also cancelled prematurely, I feel the pain of SGU fans right now. Being an aficionado of science fiction on television has never been an easy thing, and I still bear childhood scars from when the soul-less suits at ABC cancelled the original Battlestar Galactica in 1979. It occurs to me that having a series you really wanted to watch be cancelled or ended prematurely is not usually something anime fans have to deal with for the most part, and I wonder if I wasn't pulled into anime in part because of my subliminal desire to avoid having my heart broken by cynical TV producers again and again. Of course anime is far from perfect, and I've watched many that had horrible non-endings with no resolution at all, especially when there's a manga story still running (I'm looking at you, Ladies vs. Butlers). (Some exceptions exist, like the original Gundam and KareKano.) Still, since anime series are usually pre-planned runs of 12 or 24 episodes rather than the "run it into the ground if you can, then pull the plug if the ratings drop a little" approach U.S. television takes, I think it's a little easier being a fan of anime.
SF fans know the pain of having your favorite show cancelled.

Bonenkai, the "Forget-the-Year" Parties in Japan

We've entered that hectic period near the end of the year the Japanese call "Shiwasu," and it seems no one has enough to time for all the stuff they need done. December is the month for bonenkai, a year-end gathering of employees of companies, members of clubs or any other group of friends, which literally means "forget-the-year party." A tradition going back to the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), a bonenkai party is a good time to reflect on the events of the past year while eating good food and imbibing large amounts of alcohol, or oolong tea, if you prefer. As with just about any aspect of Japan, you can find interesting cultural tidbits hidden inside. Formal events like bonenkai are reaffirmations of the group itself, and it's quite important for everyone in the organization to participate in the party to avoid being seen as an outsider and damaging the wa, or harmony. While I love any excuse to visit a traditional izakaya bar, the year-end-party season can be a little rough on a person. If you've got a lot of friends and business associates, you may find yourself invited to more parties than you would like to attend, and just about every bar and restaurant is filled to capacity. Also, going home on packed trains with extra-drunk salarymen is just no fun.
Bonenkai season is drunk salaryman season.

iTunes Japan Prepaid Cards @ J-List

J-List caries the iTunes Japan prepaid cards, which are the best way to get cool anime and JPOP songs as well as Japan-only apps for your iPhone and iPad without having a Japanese credit card. We're seeing more and more cool anime-themed apps being released only to fans here, and since the prepaid cards allow you to buy them and use them on any iPhone, iPod touch or iPad in the world, we think our iTunes cards are pretty cool. Some games we like are the new Gundam Fighting Spirits game and the port of Chaos;Head, a rip-roaring awesome game from Nitroplus. Many of the apps are free as long as you have an iTunes Japan account (i.e. if you've bought and used at least on prepaid card from us). The virtual Kirino from "There's No Way My Younger Sister Could Be This Cute" is a great app, and when I need to calculate numbers I do it with "Calculator Girl," who reads the answers back to me in a cute moe voice. I also like the free Evangelion wallpaper app Gainax just released. iTunes Japan accounts are fully compatible with all iDevices, and work alongside your normal music and apps seamlessly. Note: Links above go to the iTunes Japan store. You may need to log out of your current iTunes account to access them.

Cool Products Friday, December 17, 2010Friday, December 17, 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 JBOX.com 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 JBOX.com websites. To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the JBOX.com updated products link.
Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya  Limited Edition (Blu-ray Disc)
The movie event of the decade, the long-awaited Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is here, in both the limited Blu-ray deluxe boxed set and the normal Blu-ray! When Kyon discovers that Haruhi no longer attends his school, and has in fact been erased from everyone's memory, he must find a way to fix things without breaking the universe. READY?
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Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls Special Box 01  (Blu-ray Disc)
Samurai Girls Special Box 01 (Blu-ray Disc) Get the special limited edition Samurai Girls Blu-ray box too, complete with "kissing pillow" and other great extras!
Project DIVA Presents  Miku Hatsune 39's Giving Day  (Blu-ray Disc)
Awesome Anime Blu-ray Restocked We have other great anime in glorious high definition for you, including Nanoha The Movie 1st and Hatsune Miku's Project Diva live concert.
COSMODE Jan 2011  Super Cosplay Magazine 037
COSMODE Jan 2011 ~ Super Cosplay Magazine 037 The first issue of Cosmode in 2011 comes with photos and "making" tips for costumes from all the hot new shows. See Japan's cosplay culture here!
Dengeki Girl's Style Jan 2011
Dengeki Girl's Style Jan 2011 If you follow Otome games (female protagonist with male romance interests) or yaoi/BL games, this is the magazine that gives you everything you need.
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wakeganai vol. 3 **Limited Edition Figure Set**
There's no way Ayase could be this cute! Volume 3 of the gorgeously drawn Oreimo (Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii wake ga Nai) manga is here, in a special limited edition complete with "Nitengo" style chibi figure of Aragaki Ayase included. This is a limited edition that can't be restocked, so be sure to get your copy soon!
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Aigis Action Figure -- figma Series   Persona3 *Preorder*
Hetalia, Persona Toys In Stock Check out the new toys in stock today, including medallions from Hetalia and the Aigis figma from Persona 3.
Hello Kitty iPhone 4 Cover -- Black
Hello Kitty iPhone 4 Cover ~ Black  She's black, she's chic, and she looks great on an iPhone case - it's Hello Kitty sleekly in the prowl! An official Sanrio licensed product.
Hello Kitty Eye Glasses Case  Leopard Print
Cool Hello Kitty Items Fun items from Japan: Hello Kitty eyeglasses cases (she's wearing glasses again!), a Hello Kitty 'hair turban' for after the shower, and more.
Yotsubato 2011 Calendar **preorder**
New and restocked Japanese Calendars Good news! We have new kanji, dog and cat calendars from Japan, which we've posted to the site. Also: a surprising restocking of Yotsubato calendars!
Touhou Project  Immaterial and Missing Power
Touhou Games Restocked The doujin shoot'em'up craze that gripped Japan's 2D fans by storm is back! Now you can play the original, authorized versions of Touhou games!
Mamegoma Kuttari Plush Medium -- Shiro-goma
These bean-shaped large plush seal pets are just what the doctor ordered for a fun, soothing position in among your plush collection, or just because they look so darn cute!
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Rilakkuma Stamp Set
Rilakkuma Stamp Set Speaking of fun designs, check out these lovely stamps featuring everyone's favorite bear who knows how to "take it easy," from San-x.
My Neighbor Totoro Doll Collection -- Neko Bus
Restocked Studio Ghibli Toys Christmas is Totoro Season at J-List. Enjoy the Cat Bus Totoro Doll Collection, awesome Totoro stamps and plush keychains, and huggable Ponyo dolls too.
Gotouchi Musume Hyakka
Moe Business Guide Are you looking for the secrets of business in Japan or just enjoy tons of great moe art? See how it's used by companies around Japan!
Moe Moe Weapon (Sword) Encyclopedia  Buki Daizen
More 'Moe Moe Encyclopedia' Books While you're at it, check out our other books bursting with fascinating information and cute moe designs to back it up!
Gothic Lolita Ribbon Skirt
Gothic Lolita Ribbon Skirt We have to say, we like this look very much. This skirt is now in stock, the hottest thing in Tokyo this season.
Black Sexy Mesh and Cross Leggings
Black Sexy Mesh and Cross Leggings Also, check out these daring strappy leggings, with a dark mesh that highlights the curve of the legs. Great for goth-loli outfits!
Buden Waist Hip Bag -- Navy
Buden Waist Hip Bag Both fashion and utility are combined in this hip bag, that will hold your gear easily accessible and looks great with this retro kanji design, too!
DECOTTI  Doughnut set
DECOTTI Japanese Crafts Discover the joy of modeling in clay as you enjoy the dozens of craft projects provided by this kit! Make keychains, straps, and decorations galore.
Pop-up Hello Kitty Oil Absorb Paper 50 Sheets  Heart
Pop-up Hello Kitty Oil Absorb Paper 50 Sheets The cutest makeup accessory to maintain the cutest skin, press gently to absorb unwanted natural oils and preserve your perfect look. Kitty approves!
Portable Paper Soap  Rose Scent
Portable Paper Soap Restocked Then there are the sheets of soap you can carry with you, so you can always clean your hands no matter where you find yourself. Back in stock today!
Black Sesame Marshmallow
Amazing Japanese Snacks Famous "Country Ma'am" cookies with kuri (chestnut) inside, , Meiji "Crunch Biscuit Chocolate" plus awesome marshmallows with kuro-goma (black sesame seed??).
Calbee Pizza Potato
Restocked Snacks, Too Mmm, Hershey's Ball Caramel, Calbee Jagabee, Morinaga Choco Ball, Watering Kiss Mint (love that name), Pizza Potato Chips and more.
'Honoka' Pink Sakura  Rabbit Bento Box With Chopsticks set and Elastic Band
'Honoka' Sakura & Rabbit Bento Boxs Sets Whether ringing in the new year of the Rabbit or looking forward to cherry blossoms in the spring, these new bentos have the perfect designs for you.
'WA' DECO Bento Set Type B  vegetable Shaper  BARAN / Partition
Tons of Bento Decoration Accessories Also, many bento accessories incl. Deco Bento Sets, Lovely Bento Picks, vegetable and rice shapers and more. Awesome stuff in stock!
Miso Soup Cup with Lid
Fun Things for your Kitchen Miso soup bowls for enjoying the healthy Japanese food, plus garbage corners for your sink for composting and organizing your nama-gomi ("raw garbage")
Evangelion Entryplug Chopsticks -- Shinji Ikari ver.
Evangelion Entryplug Chopsticks Restocked The first entry plugs that don't have to be immersed in LCL to be fully functional, we've restocked the Evangelion chopsticks today!
Hello Kitty Wagara Tea Cup  Pot Set -- Pink
Traditional Hello Kitty Awesomeness We love traditional Hello Kitty items, and some of the coolest in stock are the "Wagara" tea pot and cup set and 3-tier bento boxes.
Lucky Lover's Cat Display  Invitation for Good Karma
Great Traditional Items Restocked See a huge restocking of traditional items, incl. the Lucky Cat Lover's Display, sake cups, and awesome Kyoto fragrant bath tablets.
Catchy Japanese Phrases  Nihongo Maruanki Cho
Japanese Study Books Restocked Today we're restocking Catchy Japanese Phrases, which present a "situational" way to learn the language that's something, which I recommend a lot.
Zebra Sarasa Ball Point Pen 0.5 Set of 3 Colors
Awesome Japanese Pens Restocked More fun Japanese pens, too, including the Sarasa Ball Point Pen (the best pens from Japan, trust us), plus Zebra Check Set for studying anything!
Kuroneko Lucky Charm Ore no Imoto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai **Preorder**
I Can't Believe My OreImo Goods are This Cute If you've been following the Oreimo anime like we have you'll love these new goods, from a coffee cup to the great omamori luck charms.
Michael Jackson Figma Action Figure Thriller ver. *Preorder**
An awesome figure of Black Magician from Yu-Gi-Oh, a line of Disgaea figures, Hegalia figure re-issue... and a new figma of Zombie Michael Jackson? We shudder to think of the memes 4chan will come up with...
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Recall -- Riko Yamaguchi 2nd photobook
Recall ~ Riko Yamaguchi 2nd photobook What's such a darling cutie of the AV idol circuit doing here? Baring her all in a super sexy photobook, that's what! Be sure to check out the samples!
Departure -- Riko Yamaguchi (Rina Nakanishi)
Awesome Restocked Photobooks Enjoy the former AKB48 member Rina Nakanishi's first photobook, plus Tsubasa Amami's smash hit photobook!
2011 Calendar -- Tsubasa Amami
Super Awesome Ecchi Calendars If you're looking for that last perfect calendar for the upcoming 2011 year, check out the ecchi offerings we've got for you.
Monster Hunter Unofficial Fanbook  Monhan no Erohon 9
Two new volumes of doujinshi are in today as we ramp up before Comiket (plenty more soon!): an epic look at Monster Hunter from circle Udon-Ya, and a side story that didn't make it into the Highschool of the Dead manga for some reason from a circle called Gift. When you see the book we think you'll know why...
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PIECES 3  Wild Wet Quest **preorder** -- Masamune Shirow
Also, Awesome Shirow Masamune Artbooks Always a hot and heavy seller, we have trouble keeping Shirow's sexy artbooks on our shelves. Good thing we got this batch in stock again today!
ONA BEAT mini! vol. 2  K-On! Parody Toy
Restocked ONA BEAT toys for K-On! fans, the ultimate item for Miku Hatsune lovers, great lotion for couples, and the most deluxe girlfriend simulators ever. Plenty of items for both guys and girls, a great way to lay down your burdens at the end of a hard day.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Hate it when Someone Smorks in my Face

"I hate it when someone smorks in my face." For whatever reason, the English word "smoke" is often rendered as "smork" in Japan. Because Japanese is a syllable-based language in which you can express sounds like ka, ki, ku, ke or ko, but not the consonant "k" by itself, English words like "hello" "goodbye" or "beer, please" must be forced through an alien phonetic system, with some rather odd results. The very first fast food I ate in Japan was a McDonald's clone called First Kitchen ("the City Convenience Restaurant" whose hilarious nickname is Fa-kin), and I remember confusion as to whether the restaurant was First Kitchen or Fast Kitchen. Eventually I learned the strange system of remapping English sounds to Japanese, but it took a while. And I still hate it when someone smorks in my face.
No smorking! And no tout, either!

There Are More Artists in Japan Than Lawyers

Japan is a very different country from the United States, with its own unique culture and traditions, and one thing I like about the country is that there are more artists than lawyers here. The fact that there's one lawyer for every 320 people in the U.S, and one for every 8195 in Japan should give you an indication of how little lawyers and the law come to play in daily life here. (I have yet to meet a single Japanese lawyer.) Oh, the law works the same in Japan as it does in other countries, and there are even lawsuits, but to a certain degree Japanese watch the litigious culture in the U.S. and take conscious steps to avoid emulating it themselves. (The character Kaede Kimura in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei parodies this deliciously.) Still, there are times when a cadre of smart lawyers would come in handy. In the U.S. when a new law is passed that people disagree with, you know there will be legal challenges and appeals and a likely reversal of said law, as the judicial arm works its important role as a check and balance on the legislative side. Sadly, U.S. style legal challenges aren't the norm here, and the newly passed bill allowing the Tokyo government to butt into what kind of themes are put into anime, manga and video games -- but not, say, novels or movies -- has some of us wishing there were more a few more lawyers in Japan.
There are more artists than lawyers in Japan.

My Daughter Is Not That 'Rotten'

One of my favorite weekend activities is hitting an onsen, or hot springs bath, and I'm fortunate that J-List is about fifteen minutes by car away from several. These aren't quite the same as the 100% natural volcano-fed hot springs in famous towns like Kusatsu or Atami, but I still love them just the same. I often ask my daughter if she wants to go to the bath with me, but she's at that age where she'd rather do angsty teenager things like watching Katekyo Hitman Reborn on YouTube (she's turning into quite a little otaku) rather than hanging out with her Dad. This time she surprised me by coming with me, though, and we had a nice father-daughter day together. (Of course the men and women's baths are separated. Kids bathe with either parent while they're very small, then from around the third grade of elementary school start going into the proper bath on their own.) Driving home, were talking about the newest videos on Nico Nico Douga and I happened to mention the indie game and subculture meme generator Touhou, wondering if she knew what it was. She said, "No, I don't know that. I'm not that 'rotten,' yet, you know." This choice of words amused me -- it was a reference to fujoshi, lit. "rotten girl," which is what female otaku call themselves.
I am always down with hitting an onsen.