Friday, June 03, 2011

Japanese Words You Already Know

It's time for another installment of Wacky Japanese You Already Know, featuring Japanese words that happen to have the same pronunciation (e.g. are homophones) with English words, like hen, a word for a female chicken which happens to mean "strange" in nihongo, or the Japanese word for "good," which is ii, pronounced just like the English letter "E." In American English, "honky" is an impolite word for a white person, but in Japanese honki means "serious," e.g. honki desu ka? "Are you serious?" The word "kinky" might make you think of something creative in the bedroom, but in Japan the region of the country containing Kyoto, Osaka and Nara is designated as the Kinki Region -- I wonder if girls are kinkier there? If you've ever seen one of the Rambo movies, you know how to say "violent" or "violence" in Japanese, since that's what the title means -- rambou. You might hate having a friend who is "emo" but in Japanese this would is...a potato (imo). Other fun accidental matching words include psycho (saikou, pronounced sai-KOH), which means "the best thing ever" in Japanese, and "bimbo" (binbou), which happens to mean "poor" (i.e. someone lacking money). Now you know some more Japanese words. Wasn't that easy?

"Bimbo" means someone who has no money in Japanese.

Of Welcome Parties and Thinly Sliced Beef

Today the J-List staff is taking off work a little early in order to have the kangei-kai or "welcome party" for a new employee, Nicholas, who will help us in our mission of covering the world with strange and kawaii things from Japan. We're going to a local shabu shabu restaurant, where we'll enjoy a Japanese dish I like a lot, although it's not that well-known outside Japan. Shabu shabu is thin slices beef (the same kind used in making sukiyaki) which you grab with chopsticks and dip into a pot of boiling water, cooking it in a few seconds since it's so thin. (As you swish it around in the water it makes a sound like shabu shabu, which is where the name comes from.) You then dip the meat in a tangy sauce and eat it over rice, then repeat until full. Although it's less common than Korean barbecue or Western-style steak restaurants, I like shabu shabu because it's so much healthier. As you cook pieces of the meat in the water, fat and oil accumulate in the boiling water rather than inside your body.

One of my favorite Japanese dishes, shabu shabu, yum.

Television in Japan

Whenever I'm back in the U.S. I'm amazed at the huge number of channels available to cable TV viewers. While I guess it's cool to have 140 channels of content available 24 hours a day, in practice only a few of them are worth my time, especially as there's usually something more interesting happening on the Internet. TV in Japan is a simpler affair, with five main "civilian" (privately operated) networks plus NHK, Japan's clone of the BBC, along with a scattering of local broadcasters in larger cities and a few more options for people with BS ("broadcast satellite") dishes. Cable TV is a lot less popular in Japan than in the U.S., with only a small percent of 60 million households that get cable in the States. One downside to having fewer channels is less opportunity for saihoso, or re-runs of older shows. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I watched dozens of old shows in syndication, from the original Star Trek to Flipper to I Love Lucy, and it was cool to have a shared link with my parents' generation through classic TV. Unfortunately, re-runs of old television are comparatively rarer in Japan, so there's less chance for kids to experience the same shows their parents loved.

I wonder what Ranma and Akane are watching.

Magazine Subscriptions Direct from Japan

J-List sells popular "reserve subscriptions" which are a great way to get your favorite anime, manga, fashion, toy, study or ecchi magazine sent to you every month. Because it's a revolving subscription, you pay for each issue as it comes in, and you can cancel or change issues at any time. The most popular magazines are the ones loaded with omake (oh-MAH-kay), free stuff like the 20+ posters they manage to cram into Megami Magazine or NyanType, but our customers also love our thick and satisfying manga magazines with hundreds of pages of top quality stories, and the bilingual Japanese study magazine Hiragana Times. Why not browse our most popular Japanese magazine subscriptions now?

Cool Products Friday, June 3, 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.
Megami Magazine July 2011
The latest issue of the popular and long-lived bishoujo (cute anime girl) poster magazine is here! Packed with 20 posters in all plus some great extras from all the popular anime currently on TV in Japan, this July issue is one you won't want to miss.
View products »
Dengeki Comic Daioh July 2011
Dengeki Comic Daioh July 2011 New issue of Gao, the really big manga with over 500 pages of great stuff Japan. This issue comes with a summer towel from Koi Seitokai.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica 2 (Blu-ray Disc)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica 2 (Blu-ray Disc) Puella Magi Madoka Magica fans will want to get their hands on this Blu-ray disk so they can enjoy their favorite anime in full HD glory.
Kyubey Tote Bag  Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Kyubey & Charlotte Tote Bag ~ Madoka Magica Show off your Madoka Magica fandom with this Kyubey tote. You can have it without a contract.
Mami Tomoe iPhone 4 Cover  Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka Magika iPhone 4 Covers Madoka, Mami and Charlotte iPhone 4 covers have arrived, ready for you to snap them on and show them off.
Project DIVA Presents  Miku Hatsune 39's Giving Day  (Blu-ray Disc)
Awesome Anime DVD & Blu-ray From Hatsune Miku's Project Diva live concert to the "Training with Hinako" series, we've got some nice items restocked today.
Blue and Black Striped Socks (Stockings)
Blue and Black Striped Socks (Stockings) Fans of Panty and Stocking will want to get their hands on (feet in?) these cool purple and black stockings, just like Stocking's stockings.
Kuraray High Grade School Backpack  Red  RANDOSERU
Fun Cosplay Products from Japan We have everything you need for cosplay, like yukatas, Naruto masks, ninja shoes, maid outfits, and school uniforms. Check it out.
Hello Kitty Seaweed for Deco Bento
Hello Kitty Seaweed for Deco Bento Bento decorating just got easier with Hello Kitty Seaweed! Your friends will think you spent hours cutting each one out by hand. Super cute.
Hello Kitty Sandwich Case
Hello Kitty Sandwich Case Another great item from the world of Hello Kitty, this sandwich protector keeps your sandwich fresh, and not a smashed mess.
Hello Kitty Deodorizer Premium Berries
Fun Hello Kitty Item Restocked Don't forget there are many more cool Hello Kitty items, like wallets, massagers, tea cups, muffin molds and pancake pans.
Totoro Fluffy Blanket Wild Berries -- Lap Blanket 70 x 100cm
Totoro Blankets, Backpack, More J-List customers know that we love Totoro and always have fun Ghibli products in stock. See the Totoro blanket, plush backpack and more restocked.
Starry Sky  in Winter  Portable
Take on the role of Tsukiko, a girl in a school of (dreamy) boys, as she proceeds through 4 seasons of her high school year, each with their own challenges and romantic interests. Her future is up to you. A fun series of otome games for the PSP and a new initiative from J-List.
View products »
Touhou Project  Undefined Fantastic Object
Restocked Touhou Games Fans of Touhou Project can now get all the original games here at J-List, and play these great shooters with downloadable fan translation patches!
Alien SCI-Fi Revoltech Figure**Preorder**
Alien SCI-Fi Revoltech Figure You know what would be cool? Buy some K-On! figure's interments and put them on these Alien Revoltech figures. Now in stock!
How To Draw Manga Character Posing Book  Onnanoko no Karada Hen
How To Draw Manga Character Posing Book Nice! Fresh stock of that book of a girl posing in her underwear, I mean that important resource for artists seeking to draw the human body.
Zebra Sarasa Ball Point Pen 0.5 -- Black
Japanese Pens, and More Japanese Pens See the Pilot FRIXION Erasable Pen and Hi-Tec-C Gel Ink Pen, Kuru-Toga mechanical pencil plus our favorite pen ever, the Zebra Sarasa 0.5 mm pen.
Calbee Jagarico -- Cheese Curry Flavor
Today's Awesome Japanese Snacks Today's new snacks include Calbee Jagarico Cheese Curry flavor, fun new Puccho soft candy w/gummy hidden inside and Quick Quench-C gum from Lotte.
DIY Sushi Candy
Popin' Cookin' DIY Sushi Restocked Also see new stock of the super popular Popin' Cookin' series of do-it-yourself sushi snacks, plus Premium Rice Crackers, Green Tea cookies and more.
K-on!! Manju
K-on! Manju Gift Box, Other Snacks We've restocked several of the items on our "Anime & Gift Snacks" page, incl. K-On! Manju cakes, Akihabara Bunny Shrine Green Tea Cakes and more.
Mameshiba (Apple)  Japanese Food Drops
Restocked 'Food Drops' Candy Today's flavors include Cheese Cake flavored candies from Kobe, plus the kawaii Mameshiba candies by San-X.
Chopper Man 2-Tier Bento Box w/Chopsticks
Chopper Man One Piece Bento One Piece is the most popular anime in Japan these days, and we've restocked the awesome Chopper Man bento today.
Metal Mode Stylish Bento Set  2 tier Bento Box  Elastic Band  Chopsticks Set
We Love Sleek and Stylish Bento We love us some stylish and modern bento boxes, and have restocked several of the more elegant ones on the site today.
Natural Leaf Bento Tote Bag
Natural Leaf Bento Tote Bag  J-List also carries bento bags for carrying your bento lunch with you. We love this one, restocked today, because it keep your lunch cold or hot for you!
Re-usable Heart Die-Cut Ice Pack
Random Bento Accessories Restocked Enjoy our cute heart-shaped ice pack for chilling drinks or your lunch, plus handy sauce bottles, our fun gyoza maker and more.
Japanese Food  The Original 'Point And Speak' Phrasebook 9
Books about Japanese Food See fresh stock of our popular cookbooks and Japanese food related books. I personally love the "Point and Speak" food phrasebook.
Mini KOTOWAZA Dictionery
Mini KOTOWAZA Dictionary "Hippari Dako" For intermediate to advanced Japanese learners, knowing kotowaza is a fun way to expand your knowledge.
The Tale of Genji Handkerchief
The Tale of Genji Handkerchief  You don't have to travel all the way back to the Edo period to enjoy this handkerchief's traditional art and beauty. Fabulous!
Kokeshi  Shiki / Four Seasons
Restocked Traditional Items We have many of our popular traditional items back in stock, such as kokeshi dolls, a sumo board game, daruma, and sensu.
Super Sonico Dakimakura Hug Pillow Cover and Arm Pillows **Preorder**
Super Sonico Hug Pillow Cover *Preorder* A pillow just isn't a pillow without arms to hug you with. Just imagine, Sonico from Nitroplus with you in bed, cuddling you all night long.
Ryoko Okami 1/7 Figure by Griffon Enterprises **Preorder**
Today's Amazing Preorder Figures See the stunning Mayoi from Bakemonogatari, Ryoko Okami, Echidna and several ero offerings today. We love them all!
Yulia Nova Trading Card 2
We're huge fans of Russian Goddess Yulia Nova (who has a bazillion fans in Japan), and today we've restocked her newest DVD offering, which has been flying off the shelves recently. Also restocked: her popular trading card sets!
View products »
Love Para -- Kirara Asuka
Restocked Glossy Photobooks We love the gorgeous glossy photobooks published in Japan, and today we've got fresh stock of the awesome recent offering by Kirara Asuka (omnomnom).
PIECES 6  HELL CAT -- Masamune Shirow ** preorder **
Awesome Artbooks Restocked Artbooks from Masamune Shirow, Hagane Tsuruki, and Risa Miyasu, some of the best cyber-punk, fantasy and moe artists in Japan.
Snow Miku  Miku Miku Puzzle Game
Snow Miku ~ Miku Miku Puzzle Game Miku Hatsune + Fun Puzzles + Eroge Features = A great game doujin fans can enjoy on their PC with full 1920x1080 graphics!
Love Lotion  Strawberry plus Milky Syrup
Amazing Personal Lotion from Japan Japan's lotion is the best in the world, and J-List sells a ton of it. See new Strawberry Love Lotion, plus restocked Pepee Lotion!
Stress Toys for Guys, Too Relieve daily stress with these great products that simulate that delicate onanikku (woman's skin) feeling. The stealth can is pretty cool.
Akira Midorikawa 1/6 Cast off Figure  Maid Bride **Preorder**
New Cast Off Products from Japan Click to see the newest "cast off" anime figures, with clothing you can remove. We need to go clean up our nosebleeds now.
e-Rotar - High Design Rotor for Women
Stress Toys for Girls The classic Japanese "Rotar" [sic] massagers are restocked, which every female should own. Also, the PLESTO [sic] massager that's not too big.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My Driver's License Renewal

Yesterday I went to my local DMV to renew my Japanese driver's license. Back in the "good old days" there was a loophole that allowed foreigners living in Japan to drive with an international driver's license indefinitely as long as they returned to their home country to get a new one each year. This basically meant that whenever a police officer pulled me over for some infraction in Japan they'd let me go with a warning, as I wasn't registered in their computer system and held a (legal) document that required them to read English, which is always mendokusai (a pain in the butt) for them. Then around 2005 the government changed the law, essentially requiring everyone who lives in Japan for a year or longer to get a proper Japanese license. Some foreigners including those from the U.K., France, Canada and Australia can change over to a Japanese license automatically, but most, including anyone from the U.S., has to take the dreaded Japanese driving ability test.
I've done some difficult things since coming to Japan, including climbing Mt. Fuji, giving speeches in Japanese before hundreds of people and passing level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (I actually passed it twice, as I was trying to get a higher score than a Chinese friend of mine just to prove it was possible for a white guy). But it's hard to think of much that was more challenging than getting that Japanese driver's license. To pass, applicants are required to drive a pre-set course with an examiner sitting next to you taking notes. The course only takes five minutes to complete, but there are hundreds of ways to screw up -- not turning your head left, then right, then left at just the right point, not slowing the car by pumping the brakes three times, etc. Japan is really into hansei or self-reflection, and the examiner will never tell you what you did wrong after each attempt, preferring that you reflect on your own driving performance to divine the answer. As a result, it took me 11 tries before I passed the damn test and finally got my license. I get the whole idea of making the test difficult so we actually think about our driving, but some of the arbitrary skills I had to learn just to please the examiners felt pointless, like learning to play Super Mario World while blindfolded.

Getting my Japanese drivers' license was hard...almost as hard as learning kanji.

Random Fun Products from Japan

We like to find random fun items for J-List, which encapsulate different aspects of Japan. It might be a magical sakura tree that really blooms while you watch, or a way to enjoy authentic takoyaki or taiyaki, or even wacky "socks glue" to hold your awesome Japanese socks up, allowing you to attain the fashion known as Zettai Ryoiki ("the Absolute Zone"). What fascinating Japanese products can J-List send you today?

Visiting the "Hold Lands" in Anime

One of the joys of being an anime fan in Japan is visiting the real places seen in your favorite anime series, which is known as seichi meguri in Japanese, lit. "making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land." My first visit to a real place in anime was in Shinjuku, standing in front of the Studio Alta TV from Megazone 23, then exploring the station to find the City Hunter "xyz" blackboard. (Yes, I rock my anime old school.) These days most every anime are set in real locations for added realism, and if you should want to eat taiyaki in front of the train station from Kanon, walk up the sakura tree-lined road that Tomoyo fought to save in Clannad or even visit the real K-On! school, they're all just a Shinkansen ride away. Two places that are especially popular with fans are Lake Kizaki in Nagano and Shirakawa in Gifu, the respective settings of Please Teacher/Please Twins and Higurashi When They Cry, and both areas have blossomed thanks to "otaku" tourists who come to drink in the energy of the place and spend money on souvenirs. My non-otaku wife scoffs at the idea of anyone getting excited about visiting a place from an anime, yet she's perfectly happy visiting famous locations from the 1953 film Roman Holiday or her favorite Korean dramas when in Italy or South Korea.
So which real places seen in anime would you like to visit?

Mmost anime is set in real locations you can visit.