Friday, April 15, 2011

About The Japanese Staff of J-List

When new Japanese employees come to work at J-List it's an interesting learning experience for them. First of all, they're amazed at our customers, and the collective passion they have for Japan and its various forms of popular and traditional culture. Japanese know that there are fans of anime and manga around the world, but encountering customers who have more knowledge about a subject like Gundam mecha than 99.9% of Japanese fans amazes them. Another thing they're surprised at is that not all of our customers write perfect English in their emails, since we have customers from all over the world. Japanese have a strange compulsion against making errors when using English, and assume that everyone outside Japan uses the language perfectly. After a few weeks of replying to imperfect emails from customers in Europe or Asia who are themselves using English as a second language, they relax about their own language skills. I think that working at J-List is good for our Japanese employees for another reason: it helps them see their own country from the outside, through the eyes of foreigners who really love Japan, and that gives them a new way of thinking about their own country.

Japanese who work at J-List get an interesting view of Japan from the outside.

Perception of Words in English and Japanese

It's funny how words are perceived by people in different ways. My wife asked me how to say the word meinichi in English, and I told her, "That's 'the anniversary of a person's death.'" She was shocked. "How can you use the word 'anniversary' for that? Anniversaries are happy times, not solemn occasions for family to remember loved ones." When words are borrowed from one language to another, their meanings change slightly to fit the needs of the new group, and in this case only the happy, celebratory meaning of "anniversary" was brought over. In the new anime Hanasaku Iroha, the main character is told she must go live with her grandmother, and she says, "To live in a Japanese inn, that's very dramatic!" However, this word doesn't mean the same thing to the Japanese as it does to you and me: doramachikku is closer in meaning to "just like a story in a TV drama." (They also have an odd tendency of taking the tic (pronounced "chikku") ending from "dramatic" and putting it onto other slang words, like otome-chikku "girly" or otaku-chikku "fanboyish.") Words meaning different things isn't limited to English. I've heard that Chinese are often surprised at the Japanese use of the kanji matsuri (чен), which means festival in Japan, but is used for funerals in China.

Words "feel" different in different languages.

Taking Inspiration from Japan: the iPad 2 Cover Edition

While Japan has always had a reputation for taking ideas from the West and improving on them (sometimes beyond recognition), the reverse is often true, too, and Japan has long served as a well of inspiration for various creators from the West. I read a lot of science fiction books, and it often seems I can't pick one up that doesn't have Japanese themes in it somewhere, with the best example being William Gibson, who built his career by weaving ideas he strip mined encountered in Japan into his books. Star Wars is filled with Japanese cultural and visual elements culled from Japan's films and history, from Jedi Knights to the Force to the design of Darth Vader, whose helmet and "first name" come from famous warlord Date Masamune. (I remember my son once asking me why Obi Wan Kenobi was wearing a kimono and bowing like a Japanese person.) When the new iPad was announced, people here observed that the fancy magnetic "Smart Cover" looked exactly like the covers used to keep the bath water warm in between use.

The iPad 2's cover was inspired by Japanese bath covers (maybe).

Bento Boxes & More at J-List

J-List has always loved Japan's tradition of bento boxed lunches...we love to make them, and we love to eat them. That's why we carry hundreds of gorgeous bento boxes and related bento accessory items, including fun Hello Kitty bento and onigiri items. We like to surprise our customers by finding cool things they don't expect to find, like chopsticks that look like delicious Pocky sticks. Click here to view the most popular bento boxes and related products, as chosen by J-List's customers.

Cool Products Friday, April 15, 2011

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 May 2011
The brand new issue of Newtype is here, the magazine that brings you the best of Japanese animation all year round. This issue includes a special bonus magazine (!) of 130 pages with a focus on Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and Dog Days, plus great posters from Hanasaku Iroha and K-On!
View products »
Dengeki G's Magazine May 2011
Dengeki G's Magazine May 2011 Next, check out the great new issue of Dengeki G's, the magazine for all your bishoujo needs. New Key game Rewrite is featured, figure too!
Cos Craft  COSMODE Special Magazine
Cos Craft ~ COSMODE Special Magazine You'll love the new issue of CosCraft, the special edition of Cosmode that provides the photos and how-to knowledge for all your cosplay needs.
Little Devil Ageha  Koakuma Ageha April 2011
Little Devil Ageha ~ Koakuma April 2011 If you want to add more glamor to your fashion life, Ageha is the magazine that has everything you need! Glitter and sparkle with the pro tips inside.
Boa Parka with Bear ear  Brown
Boa Parka with Bear Ear ~ Brown, Black Speaking of fashion, we've got the great "bear ears" boa parkas back in stock, a light outerwear perfect for spring or lounging comfortably.
Bakemonogatari Nendoroid Petite Set of 4
Bakemonogatari Nendoroid Petite Set of 4  If you like the Poyoyon Rock designs of Bakemonogatari like we do, you'll love these cute Nendoroid Petit figures, now in stock!
Re-ment Onsen Yado no Gohan
Re-ment Onsen Yado no Gohan Miniature Toys One of the features of Japanese hot spring inns is the opulent dinners they serve, and now you can recreate them with these great miniatures!
Onnanoko Database  School ver. -- How to Draw Manga for Creator
Onnanoko Database ~ School ver. ~ How to Draw Manga The study of the Japanese school uniform is a discipline in itself, and if you're going to draw them it's best to come prepared. This book has it all.
Moe Moe Ikusa Otome Encyclopedia  Ikusa Otome Jiten
More Moe Moe Encyclopedia Books More fun with the Moe Moe Encyclopedia books, with fighting women of war, moe weapons in history, and more. We love this great approach to spreading knowledge!
Shell Cover for iPhone 4  Miffy Yellow
Shell Cover for iPhone 4 ~ Miffy Next, experience the ever cute and nostalgic Dutch-designed Miffy the rabbit character on your iPhone -- very popular in Japan.
Elecom *Small* USB Keyboard -- White
Handy Katakana Keyboards from Elecom There's something about a computer keyboard with the Japanese katakana on the keys. Several popular Elecom keyboards restocked today.
Gakken Otona no Kagaku vol. 30  Science Projects for Adult -- Theo Jansen's Mini Beast (Animaris Ordis Parvus)
Rekindle the spirit of adventure and inquiry with this deluxe series of science project magazine for adults, produced with loving care by Gakken publishing. Each issue comes with a unique science/engineering project kit that includes everything you need to assemble your own working gadgets -- English instructions available!
View products »
iTunes Japan Music Card
iTunes Japan Prepaid Music Cards In addition amazing JPOP and anime songs, you can play visual novels on your iPhone and iPad, like the gorgeous new Otome Smile.
Bee Kawaii earphone  Pink
Bee Kawaii Earphones Those darling bee-shaped earphones are back in stock, too. They're fully compatible with any music player you may have, and are cute as heck.
Onechanbara Special
Onechanbara Special The (in)famous "bikini zombie" series is here for the PSP! Play as any of the characters from the original Onechanbara games, co-op & more.
Queen's Blade  Spiral Chaos
Other PSP Anime Games Restocked The Hetalia PSP game is restocked, plus A Certain Magical Index, Macross Triangle Frontier, Ore no Imouto, and the ecchi Queen's Blade.
Hello Kitty 70's Style Pencil Pouch
Nice Hello Kitty Products Restocked We always have a large selection of Hello Kitty products direct from Japan, and today we've restocked several nice ones. Click to see.
Rilakkuma Silicon Ice Maker Tray
Rilakkuma Silicon Ice Cube Maker There's no better way to relax than in the company of Rilakkuma, San-X's kawaii character. These "Relax Bear" ice cubes would go great in a glass of bourbon.
Chopper Furry Pen Case
Cute One Piece Products Restocked Adorable, wacky and awesome One Piece goods in stock today, incl. the Chopper Man Furry Pen Case, Rubber Key Cover and more.
Totoro Soft Fluffy Plush -- Medium
Restocked Totoro and Ponyo Products Neat: fresh stock of Totoro plush toys, traditional chirimen "Gamaguchi" coin purses, plus those nice Ponyo cushions.
Honda Sauce Sembei
We love bringing Japan's culture of unique snack foods to you. Today we've got awesome Curry Korokke (Croquette) flavored chips that are heavenly, plus 'Honda sauce' senbei rice crackers (no relation to the Street Fighter character). Also: UHA Zerosh tart gummy from Shigekix, which are really fun to eat.
View products »
Neri Ame - Traditional Liquid Candy w/ Chopsticks
Fun 'Neri Ame' Traditional Liquid Candy This is a unique candy confection that requires chopsticks to knead until it's ready to eat. The official traditional Japanese candy of K-On!
Lotte March of Koala -- Cheese Cake Flavor
More Restocked J-Snacks Enjoy Glico Cratz (goes great with beer), Sweetie Gum, Japanese Frisk Mints, Lotte March of Koala, plus the only ume-flavored Cheetos balls you will see.
OURAN  Red Sakura Bento Box With Chopsticks  Elastic Band
OURAN ~ Sakura Bento Box With Chopsticks (red or black) We carry a lot of complete bento sets, which come with everything you need including chopsticks. See these traditional bento boxes today.
Penguin Mayonnaise Case with Soon  DECO Sticker
Restocked Bento Items See Penguin and Monkey bottles that hold mayonnaise and other condiments for your lunch, bento cups that teach you Japanese and more!
Kawaii Animal Die-cut  Bento Sauce Bottle
Kawaii Animal Die-cut Bento Sauce Bottle  Then, fresh stock of those cute little bottles for carrying soy sauce in your lunch, which look like little animals or trains.
100 Recipes from Japanese Cooking  Eigo de Nihon Ryori
Restocked Bilingual Cookbooks, More The popular "bilingual" Japanese Cooking book is restocked -- 100 recipes for great Japanese foods, in English and Japanese!
New SAND de PANDA -- Clover  Push Style Easy Sandwich Maker
New SAND de PANDA ~ Easy Sandwich Makers You haven't eaten a sandwich until you've had one that's been cut and shaped, with the insides "sealed" for you. We love Japanese sandwiches!
Cinnamoroll HIRAGANA Learning Book with HIRAGANA Chart
Learn Hiragana the Kawaii Way Cinnamoroll and Sanrio will help you study Japanese hiragana characters with this handy workbook guide!
Simple Black Green Tea Leaf Container
Simple Black & Green Tea Leaf Container We like to carry products that help you appreciate Japan in new ways. Today we've restocked our Green and Black tea containers.
Kyoto SAKURA Tea Assortment Set  Sakura Sencha  Salted Sakura Petal  Sakura Shaped Cookies  Sakura Candy
Kyoto SAKURA Tea, More Restocked Also: our popular lineup of Kyoto Sakura Green Tea is restocked, so you can sample some of the best tastes in Kyoto this spring.
Panty  Stocking with Garterbelt with Chuck **Preorder**
New Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt Figures *Preorder* Can't choose between Panty & Stocking or Scanty & Knee-socks, the girls who want us all to follow the Rrrrrules? Preorder both sets.
Black Butler iPhone 4 Cover -- Ciel Phantomhive   Sebastion Michaelis **Preorder**
Black Butler iPhone 4 Covers *Preorder* The enigmatic bishounen series Black Butler comes to life on these dark, gorgeous iPhone 4 covers. Preorders open today.
Minna Dietlinde Wilcke 1/8 Figure  Strike Witches **Preorder**
Other Preorder Toys *Preorder* Other new preorders available today include Minna from Strike Witches, Mayoi Figma from Bakemonogatari, and a new One Piece coin bank!
Black Rock Shooter Strength 1/8 Figure -animation version- **Preorder**
Black Rock Shooter Strength 1/8 Figure *Preorder* Oh, and then there's the 1/8 scale figure of Strength from the Black Rock Shooter anime, who is so bad-ass words just fail us.
Avion -- Mihiro (5000 Limited Edition)
Avion ~ Mihiro (5000 Limited Edition) Fresh stock of the dreamy photobook of one of Japan's most beautiful angels ever, Mihiro. Caution, may cause nosebleeds.
Bible Black Memorial -- Kurumi Imari
Anime-themed Onahole Toys If you're looking for a more straightforward 'love hole' experience, characters from your favorite "H" anime have their own toys ready for you too!
Flyable Candy Heart  The future is always connected.
Flyable Candy Heart ~ The future is always connected The Flyable Heart 'after story', sequel and (Haruhi character designer) Ito Noizi extravaganza is here! Enjoy all your favorite characters from the original, plus tons more.
Anti-Demon Ninja Asagi  Taimanin Asagi (region 2)
Hitomi Tanaka's Blu-ray debut, Actress Tsugumi, Female Announcer Bukkake, Lesbian Night Crawling, the shocking Pussy Wall, Exchanging Positions Hospital, plus the sentai-themed Anti-Demon Ninja Asagi. Enjoy them all, and have a great weekend!
View products »

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Japanese [heart] Tea

One thing I can say about living in Japan is, it has made me appreciate the amazing variety of delicious types of tea that exist in Asia. Before coming here there were three kinds of tea in my vocabulary: "tea" (the stuff that comes in a Lipton tea bag), "herbal tea" (the kind that doesn't have caffeine, so why would I drink it?), and "green tea" which the Japanese drink. The basic "green" tea (ryoku-cha) is usually sencha or bancha, with the best tea coming from Shizuoka Prefecture, where Mt. Fuji is located. When you buy products like Green Tea Caramels from Morinaga the flavor used is matcha, which is a thicker and more bitter green tea made from a powder, and this is also the tea used in traditional tea ceremony. The are other distinct kinds of "green" teas, including hoji-cha (made from leaves that have been roasted over charcoal) and genmai-cha (green tea with roasted rice that's commonly served at sushi restaurants). Other teas commonly consumed include Chinese teas like oolong and jasmine tea plus the delicious mugi-cha barley tea which the Japanese drink as often as American teenagers drink Coke. (I daresay if there's one bit of data that tells why Americans have more problems with obesity than the Japanese do, it's to be found here. Americans drink 600 cans of soda per person per year, and the Japanese probably drink 1/100 of that amount.)
In addition to Asian teas, the Japanese are also fans of Western style tea, called kocha or "red tea" (though we call it black tea). Though green, black and oolong teas all come from the same plant (the differences arise from how the leaves are processed), there's an interesting cultural line between all Asian teas and black tea. The Japanese closely associate black tea with the West, and it's nearly always sold as a ridiculous parody of British tea, with oldey timey image images of Victorian-era women drinking tea from a dainty china cup. I've been known to have fun pushing my wife's cultural buttons, drinking black tea from a traditional yunomi cup for green tea, and vice versa, which no one in Japan does -- the two tea cultures are always completely separate.

The Japanese have a great affinity for various types of tea, from East to West.

Disasters and Technology

It's funny how technology shapes the way we get information during disasters, wars and other times of great trial. During the Gulf War in 1991, we all marvelled at the convenience of CNN, which brought the action to us in a way that had been unthinkable before. When the Northridge Earthquake happened in 1994, I was watching the live feeds from Japan as I called my mother to make sure she was alright, finding out about the quake before she did despite being on the other side of the world. During the terrible events of the past month, I've been watching CNN again, but this time it's been on my iPad while shopping -- that's quite a change. Another innovation that's made itself useful during the current crisis has been Earthquake alarm apps for iPhone and Android phones like Yurekuru (iTunes Japan link), which alert you a few seconds before a quake arrives. The entire staff of J-List runs these apps on their phones, and right before a quake hits a great cacophony of beeps and whistles sounds from every corner of the office.

Presenting the age of Earthquake warning apps.

Anime, Manga, Fashion & Other Japanese Magazines @ J-List

J-List offers convenient monthly subscriptions to the best anime, manga, hobby, fashion and other magazine in Japan, which are extra convenience because you can pay month-to-month, and cancel or change subscriptions any time. From the gorgeous Megami Magazine and NyanType (both dedicated to showering readers with free posters and other awesome items every month) to popular fashion magazines like Egg or Gothic Lolita Bible, we've got a great selection. There's even a magazine to help you learn Japanese. While we sell individual issues of these magazines, it's best to subscribe if you like the content, since our magazines are very popular and tend to sell out quickly. All free items are always sent with your magazine, and your card is never charged until the next issue is ready to be sent. Click here to browse the most popular Japanese magazine subscriptions!