Friday, September 02, 2011

AKB48 and the Age of Idols in Japan

The "age of JPOP idols" in Japan began in 1971, the first year the term "idol" (aidoru) was used on NHK's iconic Koukaku Red and White Song Battle music show. These days the queens of the idol scene is AKB48, a group of idols based in Akihabara, a place that's become a major source of general otaku culture as well as a good place to buy electronics in Tokyo. Whenever something becomes as big a wadai (lit "topic of conversation") as AKB48, you can bet parody groups will spring up, and some of the more famous ones include SKL39 (created by the Skylark restaurant chain to promote its attractive waitresses), AKG48 (an idol group near J-List that promotes agriculture products from Mt. Akagi), and the new RAB48, a group of "Real Akiba Boys" who are hardcore otaku types that can dance very well. (Rule 34 also applies.) Incidentally, you can see some interesting AKB48 products on J-List, and you also buy all the music using the handy iTunes Japan Prepaid Cards that we offer.
So what do you think of Japan's idols? Kawaii or mind-numbingly silly? 

AKB48, the cutest girls on the Japanese idol scene these days.

Gender Bending Anime is Fun!

Getting into anime means exposing yourself to a lot of new ideas, for example learning concepts like senpai and kohai (senior/junior in a school or organization). which we don't generally have in English. It also means getting used to stories about characters whose genders might not be what they seem at first glance. I've been watching the "fan service" anime Mayo Chiki!, the latest in a long line of series involving "female" characters who are actually boys ("traps"), or girls pretending to be boys for some reason ("reverse traps"). The themes in Mayo Chiki! are by no means rare, and many anime series (Maria Holic, Baka Test) and visual novels (our X-Change/Yin-Yang series, Princess Waltz) employ stories about characters with ambiguous or changing genders in one form or another -- you should see the gender-bent fanart Hetalia or Haruhi fans create on the Interwebs, too. Stories of characters in non-standard gender roles have deep roots in Japan, and people here are fascinated by Kabuki actors who are able to play female roles as well as members of the famous Takarazuka Revue, in which all stage roles including male ones are performed by talented females. Why are these stories so popular? I'm not sure, but I can tell you that female characters speaking masculine Japanese is...pretty darned hot.

Mayo Chiki! is a fun "reverse trap" anime.

Bowing in Japan

One of my Twitter followers asked me, "How long did it take for bowing to become automatic when you learned Japanese?" so I thought I'd write on that topic. Bowing, of course, is a very big deal in Japan, something that's done several times a day. There are many kinds of bows, from the casual 15-degree nod you'd make to a coworker or neighbor to the deeper (30-degree) bow of thanks you'd do when accepting your salary envelope from your boss, or the more formal (45-degree) bow made to a customer in a service industry. When I went to work for a large English school I had my first experience with chorei (lit. "morning bow"), a brief formal meeting where the employees stand in a circle and basically promises to gambaru, or do their best and work hard, followed by a deep bow. One popular image in Japan is a cute elementary school child who bows deeply to someone, but she's forgotten to latch her school backpack so all her school supplies fly out. I think that body language is one of the easiest things to learn when you come to live in a new country, and just seeing the mannerisms of people around here made it easy to pick up. I've even gotten the habit of bowing to someone while talking on the phone, which must look pretty strange to most people.

Bowing is an important (and potentially cute) part of Japanese culture.

Anime T-Shirts @ J-List

J-List has a line of fun anime T-shirts featuring your favorite anime memes, like our new Science! shirt (a 4chan meme), or a T-shirt for people fascinated by yandere (anime girls who love you so much they're violent), plus our AnoHana shirt, which may or may not enable you to see Menma. (Menma!!!) Isn't it a great time to browse J-List's lineup and grab a few shirts for your wardrobe? See the top J-List T-shirts here, as ranked by our customers.

Cool Products Friday, September 2, 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.
NyanType Oct 2011
Another awesome issue of NyanType, the anime magazine that, like Megami Magazines, showers awesome omake (free stuff) on you. Tons of large posters, manga and this month a Baka to Test figure strap. Nice desu! Hurry though, as more than half our stock has already sold.
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S Cawaii Sep 2011
S Cawaii Sep 2011 With all the latest fashion trends and on the street looks, S Cawaii is fabulous. This issue features Chiaki Kuriyama!
Funny Lunch Box  Hajimete no Character Bento
Funny Lunch Box ~ Hajimete no Character Bento Learn how to make cute bento creations with this easy, step-by-step product cookbook and recipe guide. A great new book!
Boa Parka with Bear ear  Brown
Popular Japanese Fashions Restocked And if you want to pick up something that says "Harajuku," see the cute fashion items we've restocked today. Boa Parka Bear included!
Amagami Haruka Morishima Socks Pack  **Preorder**
Amagami Haruka Morishima Socks Pack One of the more unique character goods items out there are these fun socks featuring your favorite Amagami characters! Wao, nice socks!
Ryoko Okami 1/7 Figure by Griffon Enterprises **Preorder**
Today's Amazing Preorder Figures Got some great figures in stock for you, including Ryoko Okami plus mai waifu, Kuroneko, in Nendoroid form.
Nadeko Sengoku 1/8 Figure  Bakemonogatari **Preorder**
Nadeko Sengoku 1/8 Figure ~ Bakemonogatari Also: one of the most gorgeous Bakemonogatari figures we've ever seen, Nadeko. Whatever you do, don't get her song Ren'ai Circulation stuck in your head!
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Official Fanbook  You Are Not Alone
Considered by many the top Anime of this past season, Madoka Magica is the darkest and most well written show in a long time. True fans will want to get read this in-depth official fanbook, with beautiful art and interesting facts you didn't know about the Madoka Magica world.
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High School Of the Dead  TV Animation Complete File Artbook
Highschool of the Dead Artbook When Japan gives us its take on the Zombie Holocaust, you know cute moe female characters are going to be involved. Artbook restocked!
Queen's Blade  Musha Miko Emaki -- Tomoe
Queen's Blade & Queen's Gate Artbooks We're big fans of Queen's Blade, and the spinoff series Queen's Gate (for famous characters from other worlds). Click to see today's new artbooks.
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. But this awesome item will probably sell out fast.
Camera Carrying Pouch  Beige  Navy Check
Camera Carrying Pouch ~ Beige & Navy Check It's a camera case that looks nothing like a camera case. Cool! Throw it in your bag and feel safe that your camera is going to be scratch-free.
NO MORE HEROES ~ RED ZONE EDITION The alternative fighting action game is finally on the PS3, with improved graphics and special features A fantastic game!
Queen's Blade  Spiral Chaos (PSP the Best)
Great PSP Anime Games Restocked If you've got your PSP handy, we've got tons of great games for you to load onto it. Games like Queens Blade, Hatsune Miku, and Ore no Imouto.
Gakken Otona no Kagaku vol. 17  Science Projects for Adults -- Theremin mini
Big restocking of the science project kits from Gakken, including Theremin and the SX-150 Music Synthesizer that you build yourself, the Mini Electric Guitar, and a real 8-bit micro computer you build, just like the old days.
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STAR WARS  THE COMPLETE SAGA (Blu-ray Disc)**Preorder**
STAR WARS ~ THE COMPLETE SAGA *Preorder* We love anime at J-List, but still honor . For anyone interested in ordering the Japanese version of the films, here's the preorder now.
iTunes Japan Music Card
JPOP Direct from Japan See awesome JPOP music like AKB48's newest hits or Ayumi Hamasaki's newest. Full ranking here.
Meiji Wata Gum Cola Flavor Set of 3
Today's new Japanese snacks are a lot of fun. First see Meiji Wata Gum in a handy 3-pack. It's cotton candy that turns to gum in your mouth! Also see Double Grape Mint Xylitol Gum that will protect your teeth, and Wasabi Rice Crackers.
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Japanese Sake Drops  Japanese Food Drops
Traditional 'Food Drops' Candies They're back! The amazing traditional "Food Drops" candies that capture the taste of Japan! See Beer, Sake, Seafood Kaisen, Buta Don plus other great flavors.
FritoLay PIZZA-LA -- Mayonnaise  Shrimp
Restocked Snacks, Too Also enjoy fun snacks like Pizza-LA snacks in Mayonnaise & Shrimp flavor, Tyrant Habanero, Lotte Rich Toppo, Men's Rose Gum, and more.
Nikyoro Square Food Container Set  3colors / Microwave Safe without Lid
Nikyoro Square Food Container Set Make your lunch lots of fun with these cute faced resealable plastic containers. Microwave safe too. Plus they're really cute.
Pink Cat Face Bento Bag
Pink Cat Face Bento Bag Change any bento into a cat bento with this cute bag that is easy to use and clean. We like the kawaii ears.
Home Made Kawaii Donuts Mold w/ microwave
Home Made Donuts and 'American Dog' Make doughnuts or "American dogs" (what a corn dog is known as in Japan) at home with these great products from Japan.
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!
Zebra Sarasa Ball Point Pen 0.5 Set of 5 Pastel Colors
Restocked Japanese Pens The best pens in the world are all from Japan, and we've got a large restocking of awesome pens, incl. the Zebra Sarasa Clip Pen, Uni 0.18 Signo and more.
Japanese T-Shirt 'Beware of Perverts' (heather grey)
'Beware of Perverts' T-Shirts One of our most popular designs warns women to avoid chikan, definable as perverts, especially men who touch women on trains.
Black Dental Floss
Black Dental Floss Take your level of cool to a whole new level with these black dental floss units. They might by hard to find at night, but they sure look stylish.
Rubber Ninja SHURIKEN  Cross Style with Dragon Art
Rubber Ninja SHURIKEN Also, fresh stock of our realistic ninja throwing stars, which look real, but they're made out of safe rubber. I love selling wacky products like this.
DX Basic TABI Socks  M size
DX Basic TABI Socks (Ninja Shoes) See fresh stock of popular traditional footwear, including tabi (the split-toe "ninja shoes") plus other traditional products.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Playing Card **Preorder**
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Playing Card *Preorder* Madoka Magica playing cards? Yes, they are coming soon and are ready for preorder. Includes all your favorite characters.
Miku Hatsune 1/8 Figure Love is War ver. Character Vocal Series 01 **Preorder**
Miku Hatsune ~ Love is War *Preorder* Take a look at this stunning figure of Hatsune Miku that will be released soon. She shows us that love is telling the world your heart's words.
Ryoko Kaminagi 1/8 Figure  Zegapain **Preorder**
Ryoko Kaminagi, Panty Figure *Preorder* But of course there are lots of other new preorders added this week too. Click to see them all now, and lock in your order.
Echidna 1/4.5 Cast off Figure  Queen's Blade **Preorder**
Awesome 'Cast Off' Figures Enjoy an incredibly huge 21 cm figure of the "dark elf" Echidna from Queen's Blade, plus Kanu from Koihime Musou with "stretchy" swimsuit. Wow!
Subaru Konoe 1/7 Cast off Figure  Mayo Chiki! **Preorder**
Subaru Konoe Cast-off Figure *Preorder* Since Mayo Chiki has recently been made into an anime series, we're happy to present this new preorder in celebration, with all its cast-off goodness.
Everhole : 2.22  Rei Mizuna
Next, we've got an outstanding new toy for fans of Evangelion and the sexy Mari Illustrious Makinami, the sizzling meganekko (glasses girl) who brings so much joy to her fans. In the box you get a super detailed latex toy, plus a DVD with "Mari" performing for you. Comes with "LCL" lotion too!
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T-Back Kun Kun  T-Back Panty  Artificial Love Juice Bottles
Other Restocked Stress Toys If you are in need of some stress relief, we've got these great toys from Japan that are sure to make your bed time, fun time.
Pretty Soldier Wars A.D. 2048 *Preorder*
Pretty Soldier Wars A.D. 2048 Want a great game that combines tactical combat with futuristic weapons with naughty tentacle monsters? We recommend this game a lot!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chile + Chili + Geography

No matter how many years I spend in Japan, every new day brings with it the potential for new linguistic misunderstandings. The other day my wife said, "I'm good at chili" -- or at least that's what I thought she said. Considering I was eating a bowl of Hormel Chili that I'd brought back from the U.S. at the time (we eat it over white rice, a dish we call "chili-don"), it seemed a reasonable assumption for my brain to make, but in reality she was telling me that she's good at chiri, Japanese for "geography," which opens up the possibility for bad puns about knowing the geography of the nation of Chile. Some other Japanese words that sound like English words include hen which means "strange" in Japanese; "you know me" which is a cup for drinking green tea (yunomi); "safe," which sounds like the word for "government" (seifu); and the letter "E", which sounds like the word ii ("ee"), the most common way to express "good"

Yo dawg! Now you can eat chili while you study the geography of Chile.

"B-Grade" Food Boom in Japan

Japan is the land of the "boom," and you never know what will become popular next. One year all the girls might start wearing horn-rim glasses for no reason, followed by people taking an interest in exotic pets like ferrets, then strange Japanese ASCII art starts showing up on various products. Food trends come out of nowhere, too, like the year everyone was standing in line for hours to buy crepes, or the Great Krispy Kreme doughnut boom of 2006. Recently there's been a lot of buzz about B-kyu gurume or "B-grade gourmet," which refers to everyday, down-to-earth foods that aren't fancy, yet which can be really delicious...foods like sauce katsudon (pork cutlet cooked in sauce over rice), oden (a traditional stew of vegetables and fish), or yakisoba (Japan's version of Chinese chow mein). Like most
named trends in Japan, the term was coined by the media, in this case in an article that appeared in 1986 entitled, "Revenge of the B-grade Cuisine," which is enjoying a comeback this year. Terms like otaku, yuri and yaoi all got their start in a similar fashion, being coined by journalists giving names to social phenomena they'd observed around them.

A new focus on simple, down-to-earth foods.

All About Yoshihiko Noda

Japan has a new leader, Yoshihiko Noda, who will be sworn in as Japan's 95th Prime Minister on Friday. It can be difficult to judge Japanese politicians you've likely never heard of before, so here's some background on the man. He's from Chiba Prefecture, home of Narita Airport and Tokyo Disneyland, and at the age of 54 is on the young side for a Japanese PM. The youngest of 11 children, he's closer to humble everyman Naoto Kan than than so-called "thoroughbred" politicians like Yukio Hatoyama, who's so wealthy he "forgot" to report the $150,000 pocket money his mother had given him each month over the past few years. Mr. Noda is a fan of martial arts and holds a black belt in judo, and during his education he attended the management school established by Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic and one of Japan's most respected businessmen. One issue that always comes up with new Japanese leaders is the issue of Yasukuni Shrine, where the souls of 2.4 million Japanese soldiers are enshrined, along with Japan's war criminals. If a Prime Minister visit the shrine in an official capacity, relations with China and South Korea turn sour; if they abstain from visiting the shrine, they're attacked by right-wing politicians like Tokyo Governor Ishihara as "not proper Japanese."

Yoshihiko Noda, Japan's new Prime Minister.

Cool Products Wednesday, August 31, 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 Oct 2011 vol. 137
Megami Magazine is the definitive periodical that has everything about anything relating to bishoujo, from anime to games and beyond. Also comes with dozens of great posters, and this month has some special Madoka Magika omake and features.
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Dengeki G's Magazine Oct 2011
Dengeki G's Magazine Oct 2011 Dengeki G's Magazine is the awesome moe magazine for all fans. This month has a kawaii Ro-Kyu-Bu free figure omake!
Bomb Sep 2011
Bomb Sep 2011 And the cute girls don't stop on J-List today! Grab a copy of Bomb to get all the info on the prettiest and hottest idols and music groups in Japan.
Monthly Anime Style vol.5 w/ Sawako Yamanaka (K-On!) Nendoroid Petite **Preorder**
Monthly Anime Style Vol.5 *Preorder* Get ready to preorder the next installment of Monthly Anime Style, this one coming with a Nendoroid figure from K-On! Wow, looks great.
Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi Sega Prize Figure -- Yuki Nagato Figure
Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi Figures These two excellent 18 cm tall figures of Yuki and Haruhi from The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, look just like the real characters.
Queen's Blade Vanquished Queens Limited Issue w/Revoltech Annelotte **Preorder**
Queen's Blade Revoltech Annelotte Also see the beautiful Queen's Blade Annelotte in her new fanservice storybook form, complete with limited edition Revoltech action figure!
Rei Ayanami Interface Earphone *Preorder*
Restocked Anime Earphones, Headphones J-List is always happy to our audiophile friends by stocking awesome anime-themed earphones and headphones. Click to see them all.
Tamaki Kousaka 1/7 Figure Black Underwear ver.  ToHeart2 XRATED **Preorder**
Sexy Anime Figures We love the gorgeous Tamaki from ToHeart2, and we've gotten an elegant figure of her in stock today. Click to see, but be ready for the nosebleed.
Sonicomi Artbook Premium Box **preorder**
Sonicomi Artbook Premium Box *preorder* We love Super Sonico, the kawaii character from Nitroplus who's always listening to music with headphones. Posting her new artbook boxed set!
Rurouni Kenshin  Recollection Version (Blu-ray Disc)
Rurouni Kenshin ~ Recollection Version Get one of the best series to come out the 90s, Rurouni Kenshin, this time on official Dual Jap/Eng audio all in glorious Blu-ray Disc HD.
Mamegoma Reward Stamp
Mamegoma Reward Stamp Stamp your friends, stamp your kids, stamp your students, stamp everyone when you have stamps this kawaii!
Gothic Lolita Hairband  Pink
Restocked Fashion Items Get some great fashion items at J-List, from Japanese Gothic Lolita hairband to the High Waist Denim Pants and other Harajuku fashion items.
Hello Kitty DX Ice Cube Tray
Hello Kitty Ice Cube Tray We've got a lot of Hello Kitty products for you today, including the 3D Hello Kitty ice cube maker, which makes the cutest Sanrio-themed ice for your drink.
Hello Kitty Clear Plastic Box
Other Kawaii Hello Kitty Items Other Hello Kitty products abound, too, including the Die-Cut Mug Cup, the Hello Kitty Onigiri Shaper and more. Pure fun from Japan.
Dream Bloomer  Red
Dream Bloomer PE Shorts Get yourself (or your girlfriend) to cosplay as your favorite high school anime character with these genuine Japanese PE shorts.
A Certain School Swimsuits
A Certain School Swimsuits We've also gotten in a great new authentic sukumizu school swimsuit, great for recreating your favorite poolside anime episodes.
Kawaii Frog w/ Tadpoles Display
Kawaii Frog w/ Tadpoles Display Bring a little bit of wafu (Japanese atmosphere) to your home with this cute display. Comes complete with everything you see here.
Black Lacquer Shaft Ear Cleaner with Origami Happy Bird
Mimikaki Ear Cleaners Several awesome Japanese traditional products restocked, including more mimikaki ear cleaners, Japanese paper oil absorbing sheet, and more.
Meiji Pokemon Hard Candy
Got to eat them, got to eat them all, Po-ke-mon!
These delicious individually wrapped hard candies are sure to bring a bright smile to any Pokemon fan's face. We also have Posca Astroy Boy Gum and Japan-only Frisk mints.
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Pair Young 'Yakisoba' (Instant Fried Noodle)
Pair Young 'Yakisoba' (Instant Fried Noodle) Instant yakisoba noodles are a popular dish in Japan, and you can enjoy them at home too, since we've restocked them for you.
Black Black Gum Bottle
Restocked Snack & Gum Items Enjoy Kameda Rice Crackers w/Peanuts (great with beer), Sakuma Drops from Grave of the Fireflies, Black Black Caffeine Gum, Meiji Sushi Gunny and more.
Hello Kitty DECO Bento Set  Onigiri Shaper  Mayonnaise Cup  Furikake Stencil
Hello Kitty Bento Accessories & More Bento and Hello Kitty go together like peanut butter and jelly, and we love the new items we've gotten for you today. Enjoy!
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. So much fun.
R2-D2 Soy Sauce Bottle -- *Preorder*
Flavor Your Food the Star Wars Way Although we love anime, Star Wars is a part of our DNA too. Today we're restocking the nerd-tastic R2-D2 Soy Sauce Bottle and Pepper Mill.
Unexplored Train Station III  Hikyo Eki 3
Restocked Photobooks from Japan We always carry cool and random photobooks from Japan, including the awesome "Unexplored Train Station" series.
Mild Liner  New Smokey Color Highlight Marker Set of 3 Colors
Interesting Japanese Pens A nice restocking of popular Japanese pens, including "Mild Liner" highlighters, Hello Kitty pens, and more. Click to see the new stock.
Ori Kesh  Original Keshigomu Cute Parlor Set
Can Erasers Be 'Art?' From the Ori Keshi Folding Erasers to "Let's Make Eraser By Microwave," J-List has great items in stock today.
Ichinichi 15 Fun no kanji Renshu (Jou)  Fifteen Minutes a Day Kanji Practice (Volume One)
15 Minutes a Day Kanji Practice Books Learn kanji 15 minutes a day with the popular book we've restocked today. Also, we've got restocked textbooks that are great for studying for the JLPT.
Japanese T-Shirt 'The Absolute Zone'
Buy 3 J-List T-shirts, Get 15% Off J-List stocks hundreds of original anime and kanji T-shirts based on popular Internet memes. Buy 3 shirts and get 15% off at checkout!
Ryomou Shimei 1/6 Figure GothicLolita ver. White  Ikki Tousen **Preorder**
Ryomou Shimei 1/6 Figure *Preorder* From Ikkitousen (Battle Vixens), Ryomou Shimei comes back for preorder, this time in a sexy white and black dress. Wow, so sexy.
Miku Hatsune Append Nendoroid Figure **Preorder**
Miku Hatsune Append Nendoroid Figure *Preorder* Exploding out onto the world stage, get this Hatsune Miku Nendoroid figure and show off that you know what a Leek Girl is.
Street Figure Ryu Action Figure Play Arts 'Kai' **Preorder**
Hadouken! These amazing posable figures of Ryu and Chun-Li from Street Fighter 4 look amazing, with so much attention to detail. They are the perfect warriors to protect your apartment / dorm room / office. Posted for preorder now.
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STARIKA -- Rika Hoshino
STARIKA ~ Rika Hoshino Rika's first nude photobook to show off her kyonyu breasts, and it looks absolutely stunning. We hope this she'll be releasing many more in the future.
DX Massager 'DENMA'
DX Massager 'DENMA' If you've watched a few JAV titles, you've probably seen this, designed to bring maximum stimulation to certain parts. Restocked today.
Chinraku! Tako Musume  Dot Version (Ika Musume Parody)
Parody Adult Toys Lots of cool adult toys that bring your favorite anime characters into your home to help you relax, including Tako Musume and Sexy Twins.
HIP ONA BEAT K-On! Parody Toy
DX HIP ONA BEAT Parody Toy We have other wacky items too, including Yui from K-On! simulated with more realism than ever before. Will you be that special someone for her?
Nitou oumonoha ittou mo ezu ***Doujin Soft with Doujinshi***
Gorgeous Restocked Import Eroge, Doujin Soft Posting a huge restocking of popular eroge titles from Japan, incl. Yotsubato parodies, Hatsujo Exorcist and more.
My Girlfriend is the President **Preorder**
My Girlfriend is the President Preorder One of the most anticipated eroge to come out in years is going to be shipping soon. Have you preordered 'President' yet?