Friday, June 17, 2011

Less Famous Japanese Foods

Everyone knows famous Japanese foods like sushi, sashimi, ramen and so on. But there's a lot more to eating in Japan, and sometimes it's fun to explore the less famous dishes that are part of the food zeitgeist here. The other night my mother-in-law cooked nikujaga for dinner, which is a simple yet delicious dish consisting of meat and potatoes stewed in a slightly sweet teriyaki-like sauce. (It's famous for another reason, because it sounds like singer Mick Jagger's name.) One of my all-time favorite meals is katsu, a cutlet of pork or chicken that's fried and eaten with rice and that heavenly Bull-Dog sauce, and it's one of the dishes the J-List home prefecture of Gunma is famous for. Another dish that's quite popular is omrice, an omelette eaten over rice, preferably with a heart drawn on top in ketchup -- yum. Finally there's soboro, perhaps my favoritest food ever. It's basically teriyaki chicken, flavored ground beef and scrambled egg eaten over steaming white rice, and I always have to fight with my kids for seconds when we have it at my house. (By the way, J-List has a large stock of cookbooks, bento books and more that are fun to browse and explore.)

One of the lesser-known Japanese dishes is nikujaga (lit. meat-potatoe).

Reflecting on Anime Fathers

It's fun to deconstruct random elements of anime, for example...dads! Fathers in anime come in many shapes and sizes, and the elements they bring to a given story can vary greatly. Sometimes anime fathers are two-dimensional (pardon the pun) foils for other characters, providing comic relief by transforming into a panda when you least expect it (Ranma 1/2), or trying to take away poor Kirino's eroge (Oreimo). Other times fathers are awesome, stoically supporting the family during times of sadness, like Nagisa's father from Clannad. But just as each new anime series updates the character design elements to be fresh and new, the presentation of anime dads changes over time. I remember how fascinated I was by Aiko's dad from Ojamajo Doremi, a single father from Osaka raising his daughter alone, the first time I'd seen the subject of divorce presented in an anime for kids. And of course Konata's super-otaku father from Lucky Star is a fun character for modern viewers to identify with -- though hopefully not too closely. My first "anime dad" was one of the coolest, Pops Racer from the classic Speed Racer. Ah, good times, good times.
One of the most famous fathers in anime is also one of the worst: good old Gendo from Evangelion, who forces his son to pilot the Eva Unit-01 with no preparation and do battle with the Angel Sachiel. Good storytelling needs friction between the characters, and the loveless Gendo provides lots of angst for Shinji to push back against. Fathers also play a large part in the Mobile Suit Gundam series, and part of the journey of any Gundam hero (Amuro from the One Year War, Kamille from Zeta, etc.) involves finding his own path in relation to his own father.
Anyway, a very special Happy Father's day too all dads out there, whether you are 2D or 3D!

Father's Day weekend is a good time to reflect on fathers in anime.

J-List: Going Beyond Anime

Although we love anime and manga, J-List wants to go beyond mere popular culture, discovering additional layers within Japan that are fun to explore. Like the wacky and awesome Japanese umbrellas that we sell, or those irresistibly cute coffee cups for your kitchen and the most kawaii sponge the world has ever known. What amazing products can J-List surprise you with today?

Cool Products Friday, June 17, 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.
Dengeki G's Festival vol. 21
Volume 21 features the new Key epic game Rewrite (written by the writers of Higurashi and Family) along with all the in-depth visuals and articles you know and love to read. Comes with a cool Nakatsu Shizuru dakimakura pillowcase, and an Ootori Chihaya Ni ten Go (2.5) collector's figure.
View products »
Comic Gene July 2011
Comic Gene July 2011 A new manga offering from Japan, featuring 600+ pages of great content including Maria Holic. Revolving subscription available too!
Comptiq July 2011
Comptiq July 2011 Check out the latest issue of the "MediaMix Game Magazine" packed with all the anime and game news, manga and extras you love!
Shinryaku! Ika Musume 1 (Blu-ray Disc)
Cool Ika Musume Products One of the cutest cephalopods around, Ika Musume is an alien here to invade the Earth with kawaii-ness. See the Blu-ray in stock, plus all manga volumes.
Taiga Aisaka 1/8 Figure Tiger Costume ver.  Tora Dora **Preorder**
Taiga Aisaka 1/8 Figure Tiger Costume ver. You know I am no small Toradora fan, and I'm overjoyed to see this delicious new figure in stock. Get one before our stock sells out.
Onesan ni Natta Ageha nuts x I love Mama vol. 3
Onesan ni Natta Ageha Focusing on the fashion of the new Ageha onesans, girls who have grown up into women but want to maintain their sexiness and glam.
Boa Parka with Bear ear  Brown
Popular Japanese Fashions Restocked Speaking of fashion, we've got the great "bear ears" boa parkas back in stock along with other awesome Japanese fashions.
Poddities iPhone 4 Carabiner Strap  Orange
With these unique additions, you can keep your iPhone 4 looking unique and stylish, and even clipped onto your bag or belt, so you know it is safe and won't fall or get stolen. The Poddities line has been refreshed wit new colors and styles -- check them out now. All tools for attaching the clips are included.
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Touhou Sky Arena
Touhou Sky Arena Battle in sky high 3D combat with intense BGM music from top remixers/creators in this Touhou inspired game for you PC.
Project DIVA Presents  Miku Hatsune 39's Giving Day  (Blu-ray Disc)
Miku Hatsune Concert, OreImo Blu-ray restocked From Hatsune Miku's Project Diva live concert to "I Can't Believe my Younger Sister Could Be This Cute," we've got some nice items for you.
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai Portable  My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute
Restocked PSP Anime Games Some great restocked PSP games, incl. "Ore no Imouto," the K-On! game, Hetalia and both Miku Hatsune pantsu simulators, I mean games.
Evangelion T-shirt Asuka Red Color -- Free Size
Evangelion On Your Chest We just got in some incredible T-shirts with artwork inspired from the anime everyone knows and loves.
One Piece Playing Card -- Marine Ford Battle
One Piece Playing Cards Another item to tickle your One Piece fancy is this epic set of playing cards featuring illustrations of 53 one piece characters.
Orange Totoro Key Chain Music Box --  Mei
Today's New Totoro & Ghibli Products We're got many adorable and cool official Ghibli products, including Totoro keychains and a Nausicaa gunship model. We [heart] Ghibli.
Hello Kitty Sequined  Ribbon Pencil  Makeup Pouch
Hello Kitty Sequined Ribbon Pencil & Makeup Pouch  In your purse, bag, suitcase or car, Hello Kitty can travel with you everywhere and carry your most important things.
Sun-Star Paper StitchLock Zn
Staple-less Paper Stitchers Restocked We love the StitchLock paper stitchers, which "knit" sheets of paper together so you don't need staples. They are so satisfying to use.
Sweet Body  Happou Bijin Illustration
More Amazing Artbooks For You Beautiful and stunning artbooks from many of Japan's top illustrators, just for all our art connoisseurs. Standard nosebleed warnings apply.
OTACOOL 2  Worldwide Cosplayers **preorder**
Celebrate Otaku Culture with OTACOOL There are many segments of the otaku culture, and the new OTACOOL magazine focuses on the awesome world of world-class cosplayers.
Japanese T-shirt 'Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend'
J-List is famous for our brand of Japanese T-shirts which feature cool kanji design on them. One of most popular designs has been the "Now Accepting Applications for a Japanese Girlfriend" shirt, which has even been known to work in a few cases.
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TATAMI  SETTA Sandal w/ Black Strap  Size XL
TATAMI SETTA Sandal w/ Black Strap ~ Size XL Your feet will feel like they are walking though Kyoto this summer with these relaxing and comfortable tatami sandals. Giant size for gaijin feet!
NANBU Fuurin / Wind Chime  The 100 Best Sounds in Japan
NANBU Fuurin / Wind Chime The sound of the fuurin is one of the best sounds in all of Japan. Discover it for yourself with this traditional wind chime.
Glico Cratz -- Anchovy  Garlic
New Japanese Snacks We've got some new wacky and tasty Japanese treats today. How about some ramune gummies, mint chocolate gum or anchovy & garlic otsumami?
Lotte Black Black Gum Bottle HARD
Restocked Caffeine Gum and More Enjoy Ramune Bottle Candy, Morinaga Chocolate Caramel, Hi-Chew, Seedless Ume, One Piece Bubble Gum, awesome Lotte "No Time" Gum and Black Black Caffeine Gum!
Rabbit Red Square Jubako Container
Rabbit Red Square Jubako Container A bento box that looks like it came from a time-slip, but is actually dishwasher safe and a great way to carry your lunch. Also, cute rabbits on the top.
DX Bento Special Gift Box Set   YUZEN Lacquered Bento Box  Band  Chopsticks  Bag
Restocked Traditional Bento Boxes Also, see fresh stock of several traditional bento boxes with great styling that make them a joy to eat out of. Upgrade your bento life today.
Animal Colored Aluminum Foil for Rice Ball (pack of 12)
Fun Bento Accessories Making bento can become even more fun with these cool accessories and tools, like animal wrapping foil, secure bento bands, and fun character picks.
Taiyaki Maker Pan  Oyatsu Land
Taiyaki Makers Restocked Uguu! Some people would describe taiyaki as Japanese waffles, and they are so delicious that we have these taiyaki makers in back in stock!
Pocky Chocolate Parody Chopsticks
Pocky Chopsticks ~ Why Not? Back in stock: the cool Pocky chopsticks, which come in chocolate and strawberry versions. J-List lives to sell products like these.
Star Wars Lightsaber Chopsticks (Red) -- Darth Vader ver.  *Preorder*
Star Wars Lightsaber Chopsticks, Too Also, feel the Force with these amazing Star Wars Lightsaber themed chopsticks, in various colors to go with your favorite characters.
Little Red Riding Hood Mug Cup  tea Strainer  Umbrella Lid
Little Red Riding Hood Mug Cup This cute cup features a very cute red riding hood with an umbrella cap and tea strainer. Fans of Japanese cuteness will love it.
White Lucky Cat Tea Cup
Lucky Cat Tea Cups, More Make your living space into a wafu (Japanese) space with these traditional items, such as cat tea cups, festival fans and tatami pillows.
Sora Kasugano Figure  Yosuga no Sora  Alter **Preorder**
Today's Preorder Products We've posted today's preorder items, including a great Fullmetal Panic Revoltech, this Sora figure, plus Monster Hunter meets Hello Kitty?
Anaru Strap  AnoHana **Preorder**
More Preorder Products Love the currently airing anime series like Denpa Onna and Seishun Otoko, A Channel or AnoHana? We've got some products with all your favorite characters.
Hana Hiraku -- Tsubomi photobook (3000 Limited)
Hana Hiraku ~ Tsubomi photobook (3000 Limited) See several restocked ecchi photobooks, which are the best kind. Tsubomi's limited photobook and Alice Miyuki are both back!
Koi no Oto -- Misora  Sora no Otoshimono Parody Toy
These three new parody toys with characters resembling those from Sora no Otoshimono are so -- wacky. Each toy is totally unique and different from the other versions, since having more options is always good. A great new option for your otaku fantasy fulfilment!
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ONA BEAT mini! vol. 1  K-On! Parody Toy
Fun K-On!, Haruhi Parody Stress Toys Also: "level up" your love of K-On! and Haruhi with these parody toys that we've restocked today. K- Kawaii desu!
R-1 Starter Set
Restocked Japanese Stress Toys, Lotion Japan has invented some of the best ways to relax and work off stress. See the legendary R-1 stress toy series restocked today.
School Mate 2
School Mate 2  We have the new School Mate in, and it looks like it will be at the top of many people's wish list this year. Super ecchi 3D graphics, ho!
Peach Princess's 'Gibo - Stepmother's Sin'
Gibo - Stepmother's Sin We're often asked, which game is the most ecchi, and it's not an easy question to answer, believe me. One good game to try is Gibo, one of our favorite titles.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shops in Japan

Yesterday I went to a computer store to shop for some PC hardware. Unfortunately I forgot that it was Tuesday, which is the day a lot of smaller shops and restaurants have their teikyubi or regularly established day off, to give employees a rest. This is a unique facet of commerce in Japan, and just one more thing that foreigners living here need to get used to. It's not only small shops that adopt this system: many large department stores are closed several days during the month, which definitely seems odd to my American sensibilities. Murphy's Law sees to it that the only days I go shopping are the day the stores I'm visiting will be closed, and yet Japanese people -- who are more in tune with the rhythm of life here -- will usually somehow magically "know" to avoid stores that are closed that day. Another potentially confusing thing about Japanese shops: when they start playing Auld Lang Syne through the store speakers, it means the store is closing and you should finish your shopping and leave.

Shops in Japan are closed on a pre-set day of the week.

Strange English Loan Words in Japanese

Recently I talked about the way the English word "tip" is pronounced "chip" in Japanese, part of an odd linguistic phenomenon that essentially says that the farther back a foreign loan word was imported into Japanese, the more "corrupted" it will sound. (The popular marble-in-a-bottle drink ramune is another example -- it started out as "lemonade" back in the 1870s. I'd also bet money that the word donmai (from "don't mind," meaning "nevermind") has been in use at leasat 50 years or more based on how strange it sounds today.) Part of the strangeness of speaking Japanese includes re-mapping certain English words in your own brain. For reasons similar to the odd pronunciation of "tip," the English word "anti" usually becomes anchi when used in Japanese, and it really takes effort to get used to hearing about "anchi-aging" vitamins. Another odd word is "micro," which is pronounced the way we use it in English half the time, and like "meecro" the other half, with no pattern.

"Honey I Shrunk the Kids" is "Micro Kids" in Japanese, pronounced "mee-cro."

Popular Magazine Subscriptions from J-List

J-List offers a popular revolving magazine subscription service which allows you to get the awesome anime, manga, toy & figure, fashion and ecchi magazines you want sent automatically. Japan's magazines are great to read and collect, filled with large visual images which make it fun even if you don't read the language. Best of all are the omake (oh-mah-kay), the free stuff they give you with each magazine, from posters to pencil boards and rare collectable cards and even full figures, which are always included. Subscriptions are month-to-month, so you have the option of cancelling or changing magazines at any time. Click to see the most popular Japanese magazine subscriptions on the site.

What Is Your Hobby?

What is your hobby? It's honestly not a question I'd given much thought to before coming to Japan, but when I started teaching English as a Second Language I found it coming up as often as "what is your name?" and "how are you?" ("fine, thanks, and you?"). Self-introductions are very important to the Japanese, and it's common for students to describe what their "hobby" is when introducing themselves in English (although I tried my best to have the students give multiple hobbies, since a human being will certainly have more than one as they go through life). Aside from enjoying anime and acting as a bridge of pop culture between Japan and the rest of the world, I have a few interesting hobbies. For example, I like to recite lines from Tom Hanks movies in a Forest Gump voice, which makes the films much more entertaining. I'm also a collector of the large spoons you get when you fly Korean Airlines and order bibinbap, a Korean rice-and-meat dish, and have a complete set of these great spoons at home. 
So...what is your hobby?

"Houston, we have a box of chocolates."