Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Science of "Kawaii" First Person Pronouns in Japanese

One of the cuter -- or possibly creepier -- things that Japanese girls do is refer to themselves in the third person. A good example of this in anime is the character Fuko from Clannad, who says "Fuko" in reference to herself despite disliking it when people treat her like a child, which is of course part of her moe charm. Usually, female children will use their own names in place of a first-person pronoun at a young age, then when they start school and begin interacting with other girls will switch to atashi, a feminine version of watashi, the most common word for "I" in Japanese, or possibly the slightly masculine-sounding boku if she's the tomboy type. Since my own daughter still calls herself by her own name despite being in junior high school, I thought I'd ask her about it. "Well, I can't go around calling myself atashi [I]," she told me. "It would sound too grown-up, and it wouldn't go with my personality at all. It sounds much cuter to just use my own name." It's really amazing how the Japanese have been able to make a simple concept like "I" so incredibly complex.

Fuko refers to herself in the third person. It's quite kawaii.

It's Not Polite to (Not) Slurp your Noodles

Although the Japanese generally are very polite and considerate, there are times when foreigners like me might consider what they do to be rude. First of all, the Japanese love to read over a person's shoulder, and if you're typing something in Japanese on a laptop, well, don't be surprise if a crowd gathers to read what all the interesting things this gaijin is typing -- it's just not considered rude by them. My mother taught me not to reach over people's plates when eating dinner together, but to ask for someone to pass the item to me; apparently the Japanese didn't get that memo, as it's common here to reach across the table to get what you need while eating. Similarly, Americans don't usually drink soup out of bowls, however picking up the bowl and drinking deeply is the accepted way to enjoy miso soup, ramen and so on. Oh, and while eating any noodle dish like ramen or soba (note, not spaghetti!), you're expected to slurp your noodles as loudly as possible, and not doing so will likely elicit comments from everyone around you.

People will ask what's wrong if you don't slurp your noodles.

J-List Points Overview and Other News

Remember, J-List recently rolled out our awesome J-List Points system for all customers. Here's how it works: you get points for any products you purchase from J-List, with occasional bonus points on some items, like anime figures, kitchen accessories, English-translated eroge and DVD/Blu-ray titles. You can always use these points with next order for a discount, or optionally you can save up 5000 points for an upgrade to $10 worth of points, or save 12,000 for a jump up to $25 worth of points. You can see the current points in your account by viewing your account page while logged in. Note that you must use a regular J-List customer account for the points to work, it's not available with "guest checkout" orders. So why not browse our newest items now?
Are you at Otakon? If so, come visit the "J-List East Coast" booth to see awesome games, manga, T-shirts and other items we have for you. Free J-List glasses with purchase, while supplies last.

My Nerdy Summer Trip

I'm taking a bit of a vacation with my son, with the two of us traveling to places that are impossible to visit when we're in Japan. First we headed for Death Valley to sample the 120 F / 50 C degree temperatures while we searched for film locations from Star Wars: A New Hope. (The majority of the Tattooine scenes were filmed in Tunisia, but several shots, including the R2-D2 and Jawa scenes, were shot in Death Valley.) A warm thank you to the Target in Apple Valley that had the foresight to stock an R2-D2 figure for us -- we forgot to bring one, but they came through for us. We then visited Area 88, I mean Area 51, before arriving in Las Vegas to catch the outstanding Penn & Teller magic show, a favorite of mine. On Sunday we'll drive some patches of Route 66 and search for ghost towns on our way home. The two of us have really been awed at the massive open spaces we've found around us, which could swallow Japanese cities and even prefectures with ease. It's inconceivable in Japan that a person could drive on a 50 mile stretch of road without a single soul around, but that's what we've been experiencing on this trip.

A nerdy trip to Death Valley and points beyond.

Cool Products Friday, July 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.
365 Days of Danboard **preorder**
How fun is this? An upcoming photobook of everyone's favorite cardboard robot Danboard (in Japanese, Danbooru). A fabulous photobook for Yotsubato fans. Click to view the interior pages now, and preorder it.
View products »
Megami MAGAZINE Reserve Subscription
Great Anime, Manga & Hobby Mag Subscriptions It's not hard to find great anime magazines via monthly subscription at J-List. The hard part is choosing which ones to get!
KERA Reserve Subscription
Awesome Fashion & Cosplay Magazines We also have some awesome fashion & cosplay magazines and other items from Japan. Many come with cool free stuff.
Mini Magic Sakura Tree
Our Most Awesome Traditional Items from Japan Browsing J-List is like visiting a wonderful gift shop in Kyoto, and we will never stop bringing you amazing products to be delighted by.
DC Bishojo Wonder Woman 1/7 Figure Designed by Shunya Yamashita **Preorder**
DC Bishojo Wonder Woman 1/7 Figure *Preorder* Shunya Yamashita is at it again, redesigning our favorite women to make them even better. I'm going to get a nosebleed...
One Piece 'Fire Fist' Ace Scissors Bag **Preorder**
One Piece 'Scissors' Bag in Stock "Scissors" bags make great holders for a wallet, phone, or MP3 player and so on. A great One Piece one now in stock.
Japanese T-shirt 'BOZU Coffee'
Remember, you can get a random pair of J-List's wacky "Anime Glasses" with any order from our site. It's fun to wear the glasses (which have holes you can punch out to allow you to see) and become an anime character. Plus, you might just win a $250 gift certificate if you send us a cool picture! While supplies last. Details here.
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Re-ment Hello Kitty Kaiten Sushi Full Set of 6 **Preorder**
Hello Kitty Miniature Sushi A Kitty-themed set of adorable "conveyor belt" sushi miniatures? Japan, you know the way to our hearts. We love this to death! Restocked today.
Hello Kitty Mini Push Style ONIGIRI Shaper
Other Kawaii Hello Kitty Items Also: browse our most popular Hello Kitty products, as chosen by our customers, so you know the items are worth looking at.
Japanese T-Shirt -- Mirai Suenaga, 17 Years Old
Danny Choo T-Shirts J-List has paired up with Danny Choo to bring you two awesome T-shirts featuring his popular Mirai-chan character. Click to see them now!
Japanese T-Shirt -- Niisan, Looking for Sister (Imoto)
Other Popular J-List T-shirts While you're here, why not browse our fun J-List T-shirts, which capture the wackiness of Japan and anime. I love our Nissan parody shirt.
Stripe Panty -- Shimapan PINK  size M
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy selling authentic shimapan striped panties for anime cosplay, which are a meme that's been running in anime for quite a few years now. Click to see your favorite colors in stock.
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Pretty Angel White and Light Blue Striped Socks  Stocking Type
Pretty Angel White and Light Blue Striped Socks Or if you like, go for the "Absolute Zone" (which is what the space between over knee socks and a skirt is called), with these Panty & Stocking stockings.
Men's High School Uniform Top
Authentic High School Uniforms from Matsukameya One item I'm proud to carry are the high school uniforms from Matsukameya. The boys' uniform is especially popular -- great for anime conventions!
PSP Black Rock Shooter the Game Normal ver. **Preorder**
Popular Sony PSP Anime Games The Sony PSP platfor has become the most popular way to play anime related games. Click to see our most popular titles in stock!
Tiger and Bunny Official Hero Book
Tiger and Bunny Official Hero Book I am thrilled at this upcoming artbook for Tiger & Bunny, which will thrill fans of the series no end. You can preorder it now.
Tentacle Grape
The legendary grape soda is now available form J-List! A delicious and refreshing drink that's great whenever you're thirsty, this is extra awesome thanks to the tentacle on the package. Order extras -- some to drink, and one to display on your desk at work!
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Koikeya 'Nori Shio' Potato Chips
Nori Shio (Salt + Seaweed) Potato Chips Restocking some fun snacks from Japan, including a favorite of mine, potato chips flavored with salt and nori seaweed. Yum!
Nisshin U.F.O. Instant Fried Noodle
Restocked Instant Noodles, Soba Then, see a big restocking of our most popular yakisoba noodles and ramen, which you can eat while slurping!
Lotte Black Black Gum Bottle HARD
We Love Japanese Gum From Black Black Caffeine Gum to "No Time" gum that brushes your teeth for you, we've got an awesome lineup!
Morinaga Hi-Chew Mini X Fanta Orange
Restocked Japanese Snacks See Calbee Pizza Potato, Black Sesame Caramel, Ramune bottle Candy, UHA Shigekix Cola Favor, Morinaga Fanta Orange Hi-Chew and more!
CUSTOM MODE Green Volume 2 tier Bento Box with Chopsticks
Today's Restocked Bento Boxes A great bento box for men, designed with a sleek modern shape and plenty of storage for those with a hefty appetite. Two different colors restocked today.
Electric Mini Taiyaki Maker
We Love Taiyaki & Takoyaki If it shows up in anime, we'll carry it on J-List, and we recently restocked our Taiyaki making machines. Got Takoyaki makers in stock, too.
BARAN -- Bento/Sushi Decorative Partition Grass
'Baran' Food Separators for Bento We've always got something unexpected for your bento box or kitchen, including the "fake grass" that decorates your bento lunch.
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.
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.
Kanji Wall Poster
Japanese Study Tools In Stock We want to help you learn Japanese, whether it's the basics like hiragana and katakana or a higher level of study.
KURETAKE ZIG Real Brush Art Fude Pen Black
Super Awesome 'Fude' Pens from Japan These brush pens make you think you're writing with a Chinese writing brush. Several popular styles restocked today.
Japanese Traditional Kokeshi Pair Dolls  Coming of Spring
Japanese Traditional Kokeshi Dolls We love to carry fun traditional dolls too, since our home prefecture of Gunma is known for them. Click to see our new stock.
Shikinami Asuka Langley 1/6 Figure by Max Factory  Evangelion 2.0**Preorder**
Evangelion fans will love this great new 1/6 scale figure (large!) of Asuka from the new Evangelion movie. Her test type plugsuit is...rather nosebleed inducing, if you know what I mean.
View products »
Mio Sakamoro 1/8 Figure  Strike Witches **Preorder**
Mio Sakamoro 1/8 Figure ~ Strike Witches *Preorder* Moving right along, we have a new Strike Witches figure, featuring Mio, one of my favorite characters from the series.
Kuro Neko Petanko Figure **Preorder**
Kirino, Kuroneko Petanko Figures *Preorder* Then check out the awesome Kirino and Kuroneko "Pettanko" figures, a new series that will be tempting to Nendoroid collectors.
Elucia Nendoroid Figure  The World God Only Knows **Preorder**
Elucia Nendoroid Figure *Preorder* If you're a fan of The World God Only Knows, here's a great Nendoroid of Elucia that will have fans eager to buy.
Christie Monteiro 1/7 TEKKEN Bishojo Figure Designed by Shunya Yamashita **Preorder**
Christie Monteiro 1/7 TEKKEN Figure *Preorder* Finally, a super sexy TEKKEN figure for you to add to your collection of awesome figures. I am so amazed at the detail of this figure.
The Best Original May 2011 NO. 161
J-List stocks the most popular naughty magazines from Japan because we love the photographic quality and the free stuff you get inside. Who can resist awesome Japanese women photographed in such a superb way?
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JESSICA 1st photobook -- Jessica Kizaki
Restocked Ecchi Photobooks Several amazing ecchi photobooks restocked too, including Juicy Moon with Risa Tsukino and Jessica Kizaki's amazing 1st photobook.
Zettai Ryoiki  The Absolute Zone
Our Favorite Sexy Photobooks Also, several sexy photobooks restocked, including the "Absolute Zone" photobook, Schoolgirl Complex and more.
PIECES 6  HELL CAT -- Masamune Shirow ** preorder **
Awesome Artbooks Restocked Artbooks from Masamune Shirow have been restocked, too, which are really amazing items for any fan of his works to own.
My Little Sister Can't Be This Tight
Our Favorite Parody Anime Toys Restocked Combining a superbly made stress toy with an anime fantasy, wow. Kirino, Kuroneko, Ayase, ah...
Tsun Ero
Restocked Stress Toys for Otaku Other popular toys restocked too, including the tsundere hole for Lucky Star fans, the Shin Meiki Musou onahole and more.
Pururun Angel Bust 2
Pururun Angel Bust 2, Risa Kasumi's Onahole Then, sometimes a person needs to squeeze something soft and warm, and we've restocked our most popular oppai products!
Kyonyu Seido Kaicho
Restocked Eroge from Japan Several popular import eroge are back in stock on the site, including Slave Class President, School Mate 2, 3D game Artificial Academy and more.
My Girlfriend is the President **Preorder**
My Girlfriend is the President Preorder The epic eroge My Girlfriend is the President is coming soon, fully translated to English and uncensored. Did you preorder your copy?
Yukkuri Panic: Escalation *Preorder*
'H' Games by Download, Too Also remember that we carry dozens of outstanding eroge titles available as Internet Download Editions. Here are the most popular.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strange Japanese Customs

The Japanese do some strange things, at least from the viewpoint of this particular foreigner. In the U.S. you'd never open someone's front door and walk in without being invited, but it's quite common in Japan for someone to open the door and walk into the genkan (the low foyer area where you leave your shoes) and ask in a loud voice if anyone is home -- no one thinks anything of it, since that part of the house is officially considered part of the outside. (In old Japanese farmhouses during the Edo Period, this area was much larger, and farm animals were kept there during the winter.) In the U.S. there are certain subjects you avoid out of politeness, such as religion, why a married couple doesn't have kids, or how much an expensive car or home cost. In Japan, however, some of these topics seem quite neutral and might come up during small talk. The Japanese also think nothing of bringing up a person's weight gain as a part of casual conversation, which you never do in the U.S. I can't count the number of times I've met business associates in Tokyo and had the conversation start out with, Peter-san, sukoshi futotta? ("Peter, have you put on some weight recently?"). Sheesh.

The shoe area (genkan) in a Japanese house is considered 'outside' the home.

Bilingual Language Mixing

Recently I had a ceiling fan installed in my home in San Diego. Two electricians came to perform the installation cheerfully ran the wiring, talking among themselves in a foreign language as they worked, and cunning linguist that I am, I happened to notice they were switching between English and their native language (which turned out to be Armenian, as they'd come over as refugees when they were very young). Shifting between two languages when speaking with someone who also understands both is known as "code switching," and it's a natural part of the communication process. Japanese-English bilinguals do it too, cherry-picking English words that capture a certain emotion here, then using a bit of Japanese slang there to add flavor. If nothing else, Japanese-bilingual foreigners will generally express all numbers in Japanese, due to the fact that the Chinese-Japanese numeric system is based on 10,000, whereas we use a system based on 1,000. Converting "10 mahn" (10 units of 10,000, aka 100,000) into English on the fly is more work than my brain can usually handle.

Hope everyone is having a Very Touhou Summer so far!