Friday, April 29, 2011

My Life as an Otaku Dad

It must be strange, having a professional otaku for a dad. Just by living in Japan, my kids (daughter aged 14 and son aged 16) naturally consume a certain amount of anime, manga and related popular culture, playing games like Monster Hunter or reading the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, and it's got to be odd for them to have a father that can follow their interests so closely. I regularly freak my daughter out by knowing the name of the artist of the manga she's reading, or by showing more knowledge of the individual Hetalia characters than most fathers probably should be able to, and when my son sends me a link to the newest Miku Hatsune song I've probably already got it ripped on my iPhone.
It's convenient having kids who are plugged into Japan's pop culture world, since I can find out what's happening in Japan's online world through them, and report it to you. For example, recently my daughter has been reading websites on her iPod touch (and reading, and reading -- if anyone at Apple is a fan of J-List, please add some parental control options to iOS, m'kay?) -- giggling to herself while she read. I asked her what was so interesting and she said, "I'm reading a yume shosetsu...a 'dream novel.'" This is an online phenomenon where a website will ask a reader their name and insert it into a story, allowing visitors to read a fascinating adventure story about themselves. The other day my son turned on the TV and sat down at his computer, telling me, "I'm going to do jikkyo on Nico Douga." This refers to the new trend of watching an anime on TV while typing live comments which are visible to other users of video sharing site Nico Douga, allowing you to bat comments around with other anonymous users, which adds a layer of fun to what you're watching.

My kids help me keep up with the latest trends in Japan.

Japan's Peter Drucker Boom

I started watching the new anime MoshiDora, also known as Moshi Nihon no Joshi Manager ga Drucker no 'Management' o Yondara or, "What if a Japanese Female Baseball Manager Read Peter Drucker's 'Management'? It's one of the most unlikely anime series ever: riding the wave of moe books that use cute characters and manga art to illustrate everything from economics to atomic theory to cooking, the book the series is based on became a smash hit in 2009. It's the story of Minami, a high school girl who takes over as manager of a baseball team as a favor to her friend who is in the hospital. Not knowing anything about how to be a baseball team "manager" -- a word which in the context of high school sports clubs means "female member of a team who does odd support jobs and washes the team's uniforms" rather than any kind of guidance role -- Minami goes to a bookstore to get help. Confusing the words "manager" and "management," she accidentally purchases Peter Drucker's famous tome on how well-run organizations are managed, but decides to see if the ideas in the book can help her bring her team to Koshien, Japan's national high school championship. It's certainly one of the more unique ideas to come along, and I might learn something about how to manage J-List from it, too.

"What if Japan's Light Music club members read Peter Drucker's 'Management'?"

For Mother's Day, Think J-List

Mother's Day is a very important time for all of us to do something special for our mothers, and it's not far off (May 8 this year). If you have one of those cool mothers who is interested in Japan, we might just have something for her. From kawaii things for the kitchen like Panda chopstick rests or our famous onigiri sponge to awesome items to display in your home, plus amazing Totoro products -- there's something for almost every mother on our site. Perhaps a good place to start looking might be the most popular traditional products from Japan?

Cool Products Friday, April 29, 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.
Study English with Haruhi 1  The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya -- Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu de Eitango Jyo
Now you can study Japanese (or English) with the help of this official bilingual version of the first Haruhi novel! Journey with Haruhi Suzumiya through many of the familiar events from the anime while sharpening your Japanese skills with the text on the opposite side of the page. Great new book for the Haruhi fans!
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Figure King No. 158
Figure King No. 158 Next, indulge your inner figure lover's burning passion with all things moeteiru (blazing) in the latest issue of Figure King! We love selling stuff like this.
Manga Character illustrated Book  Onnanoko ver.
Manga Character illustrated Book ~ Onnanoko ver A great guide to the moe female character comes from the Manga Character Illustrated Book collection, great for new artists and veterans.
Anime Song Guitar Code Book  Nessho Anison
Anime Song Guitar Chord Book The popular book of anison (anime songs) for guitar is restocked today, so you can learn to play your favorite songs. Aim for the Budokan!
High School of the Dead 7 Limited Edition with Blu-ray
What's this? More High School of the Dead anime? That didn't air on TV?! That's right, an all new episode of the sexy fanservicey zombie apocalypse anime is here for you in all its Blu-ray HD glory. Comes with the new 7th volume of the awesome manga.
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sandwich shaper
Hello Kitty Stuff Restocked Say no to boring square-shaped sandwiches and yes to kawaii Hello Kitty shaped ones. This popular item is restocked today.
Japanese Shoulder Bag  Purple
Japanese Shoulder Bag A great new item of 'utility fashion' from Japan, a slick shoulder bag that's perfect for carrying notebooks, netbooks, and other supplies.
Jiji Gamaguchi Pouch -- Kiki's Delivery Service
Restocked Ghibli Products J-List fans know that we love Totoro and all Ghibli products, and we've restocked some nice ones today, incl. the Nausicaa Fox Squirrel and more.
Totoro Thermal Bento Box Set Flower in Garden
Totoro & Ghibli Bento Boxes Restocked We also got more Totoro bento boxes in, too, including the amazing Totoro and Jiji the Cat Thermal Bento Box series.
Mushiro Setta  with Black Assortment Strap
Mushiro Setta with Black Assortment Strap Some lovely authentic Japanese sandals, back in stock in time for the spring and summer months. Tatami mats for your feet!
Traditional Court Patterned Handkerchief  Red
Traditional Handkerchief (Furoshiki) A great cloth for holding and carrying bento, displaying for its beauty, using as a hair tie, or anything else, with a wonderful Sakura pattern.
Meiji Tasty 'Feel Mint' Chocolate
Yummy New Japanese Snacks Enjoy the new Meiji "Feel Mint" Chocolates, awesome Chocolate Anpan from Bourbon, Matcha Latte green tea and milk ice drinks, plus new bubblegum.
Viva Paella Cheetos **Preorder**
Viva Paella Cheetos *Preorder* "Strawberry Cheetos" was all over the place on Twitter today. While it's an old product from a few years back, we do have interesting Japanese Cheetos!
Sapporo Ichiban 'Shio'(Salt) Ramen
Big Restocking of Ramen Noodles As Japan recovers its balance after the earthquake and tsunami, ramen noodles are back in stock and available for shipment outside the country!
Neri Ame - Traditional Liquid Candy w/ Chopsticks
Other Restocked Snacks Enjoy Suntory Chocolate Soda (if you dare), plus Calorie Mate, Ramune Mochi candy, plus fun "Neri Ame" liquid candy you knead with chopsticks.
Mt. Fuji  Rabbits Lacquered 2 Tier Bento Box  Elastic Band  Microwave and Dishwasher Safe
The sight of Mount Fuji is a defining vista for all Japanese, especially those living around Tokyo. Now you can see it on this beautifully illustrated traditional bento box, along with a rabbit motif (great for the year of the rabbit) that takes you away to a spot of beauty with nature. Another outstanding bento box from J-List.
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Rabbit Slim Thermos Bottle 250ml  Black
Rabbit Slim Thermos Bottle 250ml ~ Black Speaking of rabbits, this slim thermos will keep your drink hot or cold and look cute doing it! A simple, elegant design for fans of Japanese art.
Delicieux 2 tone 2 tier Bento Box Set  Elastic Band  Chopsticks  Bento Bag
Restocked Bento Boxes, Too We've got more of your favorites back in stock, too, with awesome 'brick' shaped modern bento as well as bento styled after European motifs.
ONIGIRI / Rice Ball Maker  Triangle
Restocked Onigiri Shapers Restocked Say goodbye to improperly shaped onigiri rice balls with the shapers we're restocking, plus the vegetable shaper and bamboo "cooking chopsticks."
Animal Friends Picks (10pcs)
Restocked Bento Accessories You can never have too many fun bento accessories. Enjoy cute bento picks, onigiri shapers, soy sauce bottles and more.
Tyrant  HABANERO  Water-in Pencil Case
Restocked Japanese Pencil Cases, More See the popular HABANERO and Natchan! "Water-in" pencil cases, plus Japanese correction tape and awesome Japanese pens!
JAPAN illustrated Conversation Book in English and Japanese
Restocked Japanese Study Books Several popular Japanese study books restocked, including Japan Illustrated Conversation Book, Doraemon Bilingual Comic and more.
Black 24.5cm Genuine Tabi (Ninja Shoes)
Genuine Tabi (Ninja Shoes) To be stealthy and light on your feet, there's nothing better than a pair of genuine 'ninja tabi' of the kind still used by Japanese workers.
KAIUN Triple Lucky Cat Strap
Japanese Keychains, Phone Straps Enjoy our restocked "Three Lucky Cats" phone strap, Natural Stone Magatama Strap, Lucky Rabbit, Daruma Bell keychain, awesome samurai sword keychain and more.
Madoka Kaname Nendoroid Figure  Puella Magi Madoka Magica **Preorder**
Madoka Kaname Nendoroid Figure *Preorder* The adorable Madoka from the self-named Madoka Magica anime is here in Nendoroid form -- Kyubey included! No contract required to order!
Salary Man Dogeza Coin Bank **Preorder**
Salary Man Dogeza Coin Bank *Preorder* If you've ever felt despair over your ability to save (or that of someone else), this 'prostrating salaryman' coin bank makes the perfect gift. orz!
Airu Furi Furi Mascot Keychain w/Poogy  Monster Hunter **Preorder**
It's a Monster Hunter bonanza in the preorders section today, with several types of phone straps (bobble-headed Airu straps and cute plush straps too), along with two large, cushy donut-shaped cushions just right to help you relax! Nice to see some awesome MonHan products coming out.
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H Cup ANNA -- Anna Natsuki
H Cup ANNA ~ Anna Natsuki  A beautiful new photobook featuring one of Japan's most charming and busty up and coming models, showing us all her best sides.
The Scene of Hips  Onnanoko no Iru HIP Kei
Restocked Photobooks Several photobooks restocked, including Scene of Hips and Scene of Busts, which show normal Tokyo girls showing their oppai and oshiri in unlikely places.
Yulia Nova Trading Card
Yulia Nova Products, Too Here's a rare treat for Yulia Nova fans: those ecchi trading cards have come in stock. Also see restocked DVDs of the Russian angel.
Resort BOIN Happoubi Jin Artworks
Resort BOIN Happoubi Jin Artworks  The legendary Happoubi Jin (the name means "eight direction beautiful face" and is a linguistic joke) has a truly epic new artbook out. We'll be in our bunks.
USB Chargeable High Grade Vibrator  Tsuya Hime
A truly awesome personal massager for our stressed out female customers, it wins nerd points by being chargeable via USB. With a great design and a large number of modes, this will get the job done.
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The Dignity of Great 'Maria Ozawa'
Amazing Stress Relief Toys Bring your fascination with Maria Ozawa to a new level with the products we've restocked today, including her super realistic "dignity" toy.
Pepee Lotion -- Japanese Standard Lotion
Japanese Lotion, Other Personal Items Restocked Also, enjoy the awesome Pepee lotion plus slippery, sliding lotion based on your favorite JAV actresses, and more.
Inyouchuu -- Ryoushoku Gakuen Taimaroku  UMD PSP Game
Inyouchuu ~ Ryoushoku Gakuen Taimaroku ~ PSP Game The new NSFW PSP eroge titles are very popular with our customers. Enjoy today's new release.
Aiyoku no Eustia
Aiyoku no Eustia ~ Eustia of the Tarnished Wings Then, one of the most popular eroge visual novels even after just coming out, this is a great game that comes with tons of extra in the box.
Nitou oumonoha ittou mo ezu ***Doujin Soft with Doujinshi***
Nitou Oumonoha Ittou mo Ezu **Doujin Soft/Doujinshi* A popular doujin game that comes with an included doujinshi for collectors. We love the art and attitude of this work!
BOIN  Super Pack
Restocked H-Games, Too We've got some awesome import eroge for you, incl. Kyonyu Slave Class President, BOIN Super Pack, Devil on G-String and BALDR SKY Dive 2.
Demonbane *preorder*
Demonbane is Coming Soon! One of the most epic eroge ever is coming in English, the Cthulhu-mythos title Demonbane. This is your last chance to preorder -- do it now!
Cattleya 1/7 Figure Bikini ver.   **Preorder**
Awesome 'Cast Off' Figures Posted for Preorder Check out this blazing hot and busty new Queen's Blade Cattleya figure, along with a great new figure of Yagyu Jubei from Samurai Girls!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Japanese Verbs Work

Like Turkish, Basque and Korean, the Japanese language is an "agglutinative" language, which just means that a lot of information is stored in the verb's conjugation. This is good in a way, since some of the ridiculously complex grammar in English -- "she would have been able to go if her car hadn't been stolen" -- just plain don't exist in Japanese. But it unfortunately means that for every given verb, you've got quite a few different forms to memorize. For a word like "to eat" you have 食べる taberu (the "informal" or dictionary form, since that's what's listed in a dictionary, which covers both "I eat (everyday)" and "I will eat"), and 食べます  tabemasu (the "formal" form, used in situations when more politeness is called for), 食べない・食べません tabenai / tabemasen (negative informal/formal forms meaning "I will not eat"), 食べた・食べました tabeta / tabemashita (informal/formal past tense, "I ate it"), 食べよう・食べましょう tabeyo / tabemashou (informal/formal forms meaning "let's eat"), and 食べろ・食べなさい tabero / tabenasai (informal/formal command forms, "eat!"). There are other forms that express "to be able to eat," one for passive voice ("the food was eaten by me"), plus a few I'm probably forgetting. Learning these forms seemed daunting to me at first, but they all follow easy-to-pick-up patterns that you can tackle one at a time. Incidentally we have some pretty cool study books for anyone wanting to learn Japanese, including an awesome monthly magazine published in English and Japanese plus a book that specifically helps you memorize verb forms.

Conjugating verbs like "to eat" is one of the more arduous tasks of learning Japanese.

The Meticulous Japanese

After living in Japan for nearly two decades, I've made certain observations about the Japanese people. They are, for example, the cleanest people in the world, and probably the most polite. I've also met more than a few Japanese who struck me as incredibly meticulous, able to focus on something intensely for a long time. While my son studied for a year to get into a good high school, I've taught students who thought that studying was the entire reason for being alive, and they'd been preparing for their university entrance exams since the fourth grade. Near J-List there's a guy who loves to fly RC airplanes on Sundays, and he's been doing it every week without fail for a decade and a half -- how does someone keep up that kind of intensity? In the fun anime B Gata H Kei, there's a girl (Mayu) who's loved the main character all her life, but she's to shy to work up the courage to tell him. It sounds like a quaint anime archetype, but I taught a girl like that back in my ESL days. Every week in English conversation class we'd talk about this boy she'd liked for years, yet she could never bring herself to confess her love for him.

Japanese can be meticulous and obsessive at times.

Cool Western Brands on Japanese Bicycles

The other day I went to buy a bicycle. (Random aside, in Japanese the English word "bike" always refers to a motorcycle, and I've lived in Japan so long that my brain becomes uncomfortable thinking of the pedaled version using that word.) For some odd reason, many bicycles sold in Japan have famous foreign brands printed on the sides, making it possible to buy your very own Hummer® branded bicycle, or one with the Jeep® or Chevrolet® logo on it, or even Ford Mustang® if you like. They have European luxury bicycles, too, like BMW and even a Jaguar bicycle with a chromed plastic jaguar attached to the front, just like the cars. If you're a collector of Zippo® lighters, you can add to your collection by getting an authentically licensed Zippo® bicycle, and many Japanese like to experience the great outdoors by riding a Coleman® bicycle around on weekends. The reason Western brands help sell products is the sense among Japanese consumers that things from America and Europe are kakko ii (good style, cool).
So they would think the brands around this awesome girl are "cool" but most Westerners I know would be focusong on the awesomeness of the girl.

You can buy a Zippo brand bicycle in Japan.

Chocolate is Going Away Soon

J-List carries a lot of awesome food products from Japan, including lots of Japanese chocolate. When summer approaches, we unfortunately have to remove all chocolate from the site since it would turn to so much Meltykiss in the summer. We never know for sure when it will get hot enough to warrant removing chocolate, but it's really starting to get warm already, so it might only be another week or so. If you dig our fun chocolate from Japan, we recommend you make an order now, or bear the agony of having to wait until September to eat chocolate from Japan.