Friday, September 23, 2011

You Need a "Sense" for Languages

Talking with people from other cultures often requires a "sense" for words that's quite unrelated to actual skill with a foreign language, which is known as kan in Japanese. Before I started studying the language, we had a Japanese foreign exchange student at my house, who praised me for something by telling me I was "good head." After more than a little confusion, I figured out that she was telling me I was smart, and this is indeed how you express this concept in Japanese (atama ga ii, lit. "good head" for smart, and atama ga warui or "bad head" for someone who is stupid). Soon after arriving in Japan, I had a conversation with a student who was trying to tell me how good Mitsubishi vehicles were. "They are very good. They's car. You know, boom!" For several minutes I scratched my head, wondering what he was talking about, then I suddenly realized he was talking about tanks. I'll never forget the year my wife asked my American family for "gross lipstick" for Christmas, but happily they were able to figure out that she had meant "gloss lipstick."

Moe Moe Tank. I love this.

Get Lamp: On Old-School Adventure Games and Japanese Visual Novels

I recently watched "Get Lamp," an interesting documentary on the history of text adventure games, going back to the very beginning (Colossal Cave Adventure by William Crowther and Don Woods circa 1975) and following through the Golden Age of Infocom text adventures. The documentary was interesting to me for two reasons. First, I'm an old school fan of the genre -- now called Interactive Fiction or IF by fans -- and I have many fond memories of playing the original Adventure on the Wang mainframes at my mother's workplace as a boy. I also played through many of the top text-only games of the early 80s, which may seem quaint nowadays, but they were very engrossing back in the day. But the documentary was also interesting since, in a way, I believe the Japanese visual novels J-List has published for the past 15 years continues the grand tradition of Interactive Fiction, of stories that place you at the center of the action and ask you to make decisions that move the plot in a new direction. Some of the game content might not be what purist IF fans might have in mind, but I doubt if they can argue that excellent titles like Yo-Jin-Bo (a girl-centric otome game in which the player is teleported to feudal Japan) or YUME MIRU KUSURI (discovering romance with three beautiful, fragile girls in postmodern Japan) add a lot to the concept of Interactive Fiction as a whole.
What do you think? Are Japan's visual novels part of the overall gestalt of IF, or something entirely different?

Japanese visual novels, continuing a grand tradition?

2012 Anime Calendars from J-List

J-List's 2012 calendar offerings are really coming together nicely this year, as hundreds of our customers preorder the gorgeous large-format poster calendars that will be released soon. From the legendary new offerings of Studio Ghibli to great new calendars like Baka Test and Madoka Magika to classics like Fist of the North Star, there's something for every fan. These calendars also make great gifts this Christmas. Why not browse the most popular anime and other calendars, as chosen by J-List's customers?

The Steady, Meticulous Japanese

I often write about the "meticulous Japanese" and their amazing ability to do the same thing in and out for years, like the guy who's been flying RC airplanes in a field near J-List every Sunday for the past...17 years or so. The highest rated anime isn't Madoka Magika or Evangelion or Nichijou, but Sazae-san, the story of the Isono Family including father Namihei, wife Fune, daughter Sazae and her husband Masuo, which has managed to run non-stop since 1969, enjoying ratings of 20+ percent each week. Another long running series is Otoko wa Tsurai yo (""It's Tough Being a Man""), the story of traveling salesman Tora-san who manages to find then lose a love interest in each of the 48 (!) films in the series. Yesterday was the final episode of a popular Japanese dorama called Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari (English title "Making It Through," although a more accurate translation would be "All Who Pass in this World are Devils"), the story of ramen restaurant owner Daikichi Okakura and his five grown daughters. The plots are absolutely mundane, dealing with issues like wives not getting along with their mothers-in-law, headstrong kids who refuse to show respect to their elders and so on, but the series has been a huge hit over the past 21 years, raking in ratings of 30% or more.

The top-rated anime is Sazae-san, on the air for 42 years so far.

Cool Products Friday, September 23, 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.
Comptiq Oct 2011
One of the top requetsed anime magazine on J-List is Comptiq, dedicated to bringing the most excellent anime and game characters to you each month, plus free manga, posters plus free stuff like figures, stickers etc., this month featuring Steins;Gate. Get the new issue, but why not consider a subscription so you can get every issue?
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Otomedia vol. 4
Otomedia vol. 4 Made just for fujoshi and other otaku girls, a great magazine with tons of information on manga, anime and games. We love all fangirls!
2012 Calendar -- Toaru  Majuitsu no Index II **Preorder**
New 2012 Anime Calendars You wanted them, so we've got them! Check out these cool preorder calendars featuring Kimi ni Todoke, Baka Test, Fist of the North Star and more.
2012 Calendar -- Aki Nakada **Preorder**
New Japanese Idol Calendars, Too There has never been a shortage of Japanese TV idols and actresses to watch over. Bring one home to make 2012 an even better year.
Hiragana Times Oct 2011 NO. 300
Hiragana Times Oct 2011 NO. 300 Congratulations Hiragana Times, bringing us 300 great issues of Japanese language and cultural learning. Get the new issue now!
Orange Pen  Red Sheet Set For Memorization
Orange Pen & Red Sheet Set For Memorization Use this orange pen and red sheet for studying for your next test. Just like the ones Japanese students use to memorize Kanji and English words.
Mayuri Shina Nendoroid Figure  Steins;Gate 8
Mayuri Shina Nendoroid Figure ~ Steins;Gate 8 Tutturu! We also got in the new Mayushi Nendoroid for Steins;Gate fans. One of the most awesome and tragic characters we can think of.
Baka to Test to Shoukanju Nendoroid Petite Part.2 Set of 4
Baka to Test to Shoukanju Nendoroid These students of magic just got transformed into kawaii Nendoroid figures. Pick up the whole set of 4.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid 4 Limited Edition
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Manga + Figures These deluxe box versions of the highly popular Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaha and Magical Record Lyrical Nanaha come with Nendoroid figures too.
Kirino Kousaka Bath Towel Green Color
I Can't Believe my Bath Towels are This Cute Dry off with one of these unbelievably kawaii towels featuring the characters from Ore no Imouto.
Kyubei Plush  Puella Magi Madoka Magica  **Preorder**
Kyubey Plush ~ Madoka Magica This cute Kyubey will add a little magic to your room or cosplay costume. Avoid signing any contracts with him, of course.
Airu x Hello Kitty iPhone4 Cover Type B (SANR-03B)
Airou x Hello Kitty iPhone4 Cover This crazy cute mix-up mash-up of Hello Kitty and Airou (from Monster Hunter) look adorable together on these iPhone cases.
Queen's Blade Rebellion -- Laira
Restocked Queen's Blade Products Enjoy fresh stock of the gorgeous new Queen's Blade Rebellion ero artbook plus Queen's Gate and more.
School Swimsuit O-Back Type (Blue) size M
School Swimsuit O-Back Type (Blue) The swimsuit that will show off your figure while still being able to use it for lap swimming. Comes with extra padding, for reenacting certain anime episodes.
The Tour Bus T-Shirt
Japanese Fashions Restocked Harajuku girls, they've got wicked style. We like they way they are, we are their biggest fans! Another great fashion item from Y's Enterprise.
Shimapan Dream  Magenta M
All Colors of Shimapan Restocked We've got nearly every color of shimapan available and in-stock. Chose from green, blue, red, and even ... men's sizes?
Kaomoji Pop up Toaster  Black and White
Attack of the Japanese Memes From toasters that make ASCII kaomoji faces in your toast to the (un)official Twitter "now" cushion, we've got some cool items in stock.
Cake Origami  Folding Paper
Cake Origami ~ Folding Paper The best way to stay on a diet it to make sweets you can't eat. This origami set includes everything you need to create delicious paper delicacies.
Hello Kitty Sparkly Accessory  Friend Set
Hello Kitty Sparkly Accessory ~ Friend Set Make a special friend by giving them one of these two Hello Kitty accessories. Perfect for your BFFs, BGFs and BOF (Best Otaku Forever).
Totoro Tree House -- Large
Restocked Totoro & Ponyo Items We're huge fans of Studio Ghibli, and have restocked the Totoro Tree House plush toys, plus awesome Ponyo plush also.
Frito-Lay Garlic Mania
Today's New Japanese Snacks Vampires and dates beware, these deliciously dangerous garlic snacks will give you great energy. Also see new Kawaru Xylish gum!
Lotte Shwat's Gum Cola Flavor
Lotte Shwat's Gum Cola Flavor An inventive new gum that includes a fizzling center, so the take of soda or cola will -- actually taste like soda or cola.
Cracie Neru Neru Nerune -- Grape Flavor
Restocked Snacks We love the awesome Nuru Nuru Nurune series from Kracie, and nothing is more fun than making your own strange but yummy gummy candy.
Tyrant Habanero -- Original Flavor
Other Restocked J-Snacks Also, awesome Tyrant Habanero spicy snacks, Country Ma'am green tea cookies, Happy Kitchen doughnuts and cupcakes and more.
Blue LEGO Block Style 2 tier Bento Box with Built-in Chopsticks   Elastic Band
Cool Bentos for Children & Adults These are just awesome. Kids (or kid-like adults) will love these wacky bento boxes and bento related goods.
ONIGIRI /Rice Ball Maker  ---  Ball Shape
Onigiri Shapers Restocked Avoid the embarrassment of improperly formed onigiri with awesome Japanese rice shapers, restocked today.
Sun-Star Paper StitchLock Zn
Staple-less Paper Stitchers, Japanese Pens We love the StitchLock paper stitchers, which "knit" sheets of paper together so you don't need staples. Awesome Japanese pens, too.
Lucky Cat Family Double Hands  Display
Kawaii Lucky Cat Display Items Restocked Bring some extra good luck to your life with these neat neko (cat) charms, newly restocked and ready to be taken home.
Revoltech No.091 Vash the Stampede  Trigun
Trigun Revoltech Preorder One of the most popular Revoltech figures in J-List's history is coming back for a re-match. Preorder your Vash figure now.
Aria.H Kanzaki 1/8 Figure  Aria the Scarlet Ammo **Preorder**
Aria. H. Kanzaki 1/8 Figure *Preorder* A great figure for Rie Kugimiya tsundere fans. The "H" stands for Holmes by the way -- she's the great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes.
Super Sonico 1/7 Cast off Figure Bondage ver. Candy Color ver. **Preorder**
Super Sonico 1/7 Cast off Figure *Preorder* A delicious new offering for fans of Super Sonico, the delicious headphone-wearing character from Nitroplus. Can you resist her "cast off" feature?
Mahou Shoujo Hajimemashita  Madoka Magica Parody Doujinshi
We've been posting tons of great doujinshi comics to the site lately, and today we've got even more. A super full color work for Super Sonico fans, Rei Ayanami penned by the famous Mogudan, and a gorgeous Madoka x Mami coupling? Yes!
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Onatsuyu  Female Nectar
Onatsuyu ~ Female Nectar There are many interesting personal lotion products in Japan, and this is a great new one from ToysHeart. Made with Japan, but you guessed that already, right?
Twins Sister Sandwich  Chihiro
Twins Sister Sandwich Restocked This popular onahole series is back. It even comes with shimapan in the box for extra realism, plus lotion and an ero sound CD.
Swimming Club Girlfriend  K-On! Parody Toy
Swimming Club Girlfriend ~ K-On! Parody Toy Bring your anime fascination to a new level with these restocked toys. Your swimming club girlfriend Mio, Mari from Evangelion, 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?
YUME MIRU KUSURI :: A Drug That Makes You Dream
Outstanding Visual Novels from Japan A drug that makes you dream...and fall in love. The tale of a group that forms a family because they are all alone. Click to see our best visual novels!
Love-Bride Eve
Love-Bride Eve Here's a great new visual novel about finding foolish love with a sweet girl and find your destiny. Click to see the game trailer.
White  blanche comme la lune
Restocked Import Eroge Enjoy the classic Gyakushu, plus pure visual novel White ~ Blanche Comme la Lune, Primary Step plus Pastel Chime Continue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Kampo," the Ancient Herbal Medicine of China

Just as ancient Greece and Rome serve as the foundation of Western civilization, Japan looks to China as the mother of culture throughout Asia. When my wife came back from South Korea, she brought me a jar of foul-tasting pills to swallow, saying, "Now, this is kampo, so it's very good medicine." A word that literally means "Chinese way," kampo refers to the traditional herbal medicine of China, and it occupies an almost mythical place in the minds of the Japanese, in effect being a complete class of medical science that's separate from Western medicine. Many products, from energy drinks to various health "enhancers" to Yomeshu (a kind of medicinal sake loaded with Chinese herbs) advertise themselves as "Chinese way" medicine to win the trust of customers.

Chinese herbal medicine occupies a special place in Japan.

September is Typhoon Season in Japan

Coming to a very seasonal country like Japan from San Diego, a city whose two seasons are "nice" and "slightly less nice," has been rather interesting for me, and it took time for me to get into the rhythm of life here. Japan has four distinct seasons, though for some reason they think they're the only country in the world to be so blessed, and a lot of Japanese cuisine centers around eating the foods you can only find during the current time of year. Of course, Japan has more than "four" seasons, since early spring with is frosty mornings and cherry blossoms is so different from the warmth and greenery of later spring, and the rainy period that lasts from June through July is nothing like the blazing heat and humidity of August. The month of September is "typhoon season," and Japan is being hit by storms left and right, which sadly have claimed more than 100 lives so far. Right now Typhoon Roke (or as the Japanese call it, Typhoon number 15) is traveling up the length of the country, dumping tons of water on our heads as it advances.

September is typhoon season in Japan.

The Troubles with Sumo

Sumo wrestling is the national sport of Japan, practiced for centuries and granted special status by the Japanese government. Although there many dedicated fans all around the world, you'd have trouble finding a sport that's having as rough a time as sumo these days. First there was a wave of scandals involving wrestlers using marijuana, plus the death of a young wrestler as a result of ijime (hazing) by the other members of his sumo stable. (For some reason, the individual sumo training houses are referred to as "stables" in English.) Then in 2010, top ranked Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu retired after a bar fight in which he brought his great strength to bear on an employee he'd had a disagreement with. Earlier this year evidence of match fixing was discovered, which has rocked the sport to its very core. While sumo wrestling is a uniquely Japanese sport, it's often defined by the foreigners who practice the sport, and I'm a fan of the iwakan (disharmony) generated by the gaijin wrestlers. Recently some wrestlers from Europe have been rising in the ranks and getting more attention, including Takanoyama, a slender, muscular wrestler from the Czech Republic, and Koto-oshu from Bulgaria.

Takanoyama, one of the more interesting gaijin sumo wrestlers.

Cool Products Wednesday, September 21, 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.
Animedia Deluxe vol. 2
The amazing anime magazine from Japan, which is filled with red-hot anime and free stuff. Known for bringing exclusive scoops from the artists and designers behind all your favorite anime series, get the inside scoop on current new shows from Japan with this great issue!
View products »
S Cawaii Aug 2011
S Cawaii Aug 2011 S Cawaii is one of the leading magazines in the fashion industry, always showing off the best stuff that Japan has to offer.
Kawaii T-Shirt One Piece  Black and White Stripe
Kawaii T-Shirt One Piece, Other New Fashions Enjoy some great new fashion items from Japan today, including a one piece/t-shirt combo plus many others in stock.
Japanese Style Eye Patch for Anime Cosplay - Evangelion
Popular Cosplay Products Restocked See fun anime cosplay and fashion products restocked, including our Eva-style Japanese Eye Patch or "Socks Glue" for holding up awesome Japanese socks.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Metal Charm Netsuke Full Set of 8
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Metal Charms These charms are perfect for the Madoka Magica fan in your life. You can grab the whole set, or a random individual one. Very cool.
Gold Jewelry Making Sticker Pen  Let's Make Original Stickers
Gold Jewelry Making Sticker Pen With the help of this awesome pen, you too can create your own original accessories. This style of originality is mega popular in Shibuya.
Strike Witches: Sanya V. Litvyak  Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen EX Figure Set of 2
Strike Witches Figure Set of 2 This set of Sanya V. Litvyak & Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen is the deal you've been waiting for -- great detail, nice posing, excellent figures.
Kuro Neko EX Figure Summer Ariake
Kuro Neko & Kirino Kosaka Figures You can't go wrong with figures of the cute characters from Ore no Imouto. Great stuff you should check out.
Amagami SS Visual Fan Book
Amagami SS Visual Fan Book Fans of the series Amagami will want to get their hands on this fan book that shows off all the great art from the game and anime.
Moe Moe Encyclopedia  Real Weapons Collection
Moe Moe Encyclopedia Books Restocked These gorgeous artbooks are wonderful references for aspiring mangaka, but anyone who loves the Japanese manga art form will enjoy.
Stair Girls  Kaidan Shojo
Stair Girls ~ Kaidan Shojo There's something special about a pretty girl in a skirt walking up stairs. A fun new photobook from Japan that's only slightly ecchi.
Summer School Girl  Natsufuku Joshi
Restocked Photobooks Then see some other great restocked photobooks that capture the beauty and grace of Japan's most beautiful idols for all eternity. Kawaii!
2012 Calendar -- Karina **Preorder**
Gorgeous Idol & Actress Calendars You'll find calendars of nearly all the top JPOP and TV stars of Japan in our 2012 calendar section.
KURETAKE ZIG Real Brush Art Fude Pen Set of 6 Colors
Restocked Japanese Calligraphy Pens, More We love the fude pens we've sold for years, but this honestly might be the coolest set of colored brush pens we've ever had in stock.
Aselia  The Eternal **Preorder**
Remember, the upcoming Aselia the ETERNAL is one of the most awesome JRPGs ever, and we'll be releasing the all-ages game soon. 23 tactical missions! 99 character levels! 21 playable characters, and 38 villages and town to visit! Preorder now.
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Hello Kitty Sandwich Case
Hello Kitty Sandwich Case, More A fun way to bring your sandwich, with a little help from Hello Kitty, is restocked, along with other Japan-only Sanrio items.
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea Pen Pouch
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea Pen Pouch Ponyo Ponyo Ponyo, Sakananoko This cute princess now has her own cute pen case, which we've restocked today.
Ramen Microwave Bowl
Microwave Ramen Bowl, Miso Soup Bowls The #1 item university students love to buy from J-List is our Ramen Microwave Bowl. See this and other fun dorm-friendly items restocked today.
Wood Stick Cotton Swabs   50pcs
Wood Stick Cotton Swabs ~ 50pcs  Because they are made of natural wood, you will have a new feeling of premium whenever your ears are cleaned.
Tohato Mammoth Meat Snack -- Korean BBQ Galbi Flavor
Enjoy an awesome new "boned meat" snack in BBQ flavor, fabulous Coffee Caramels from Morinaga, plus toast that does great with beer.
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Lotte Blueberry Gum
Lotte Blueberry & Ume Gum J-List also carries delicious flavors of gum from Japan, and today we've restocked blueberry and awesome ume flavor, so delicious!
Meiji Pokemon Hard Candy
Restocked Snacks Fun Pokemon candies, awesome new Morinaga Hi-Chew flavors, FritoLay Japan-only Doritos flavors that go great with alcohol, plus Ramune Bottle Candy.
OURAN  Red Sakura Bento Box With Chopsticks  Elastic Band
Sakura Bento Box With Chopsticks We carry a complete bento sets which come with everything you need including chopsticks. See these traditional bento boxes, restocked today.
Hello KItty Sakura 2Tier Bento Box
Hello Kitty Sakura 2-Tier Bento Box Wow, this is a really outstanding Hello Kitty bento box that manages to be both kawaii and also traditional and awesome. Great for sakura lovers.
One Piece 4 Piece Stacking Bento Box Type B (Chopper on the Top Lid)
Other Anime & Character Bento Also, fresh stock of those One Piece stacking bento boxes, so much fun to eat out of. Several types in stock.
Deco Bento Furikake 5 Colors  Salmon Flavor
Awesome 'Furikake' Restocked Furikake is any dry food you sprinkle over rice, and we've restocked several types today, incl. "Deco Bento Furikake." Fun!
'WA' DECO Bento Set Type A  vegetable Shaper  BARAN / Partition
'WA' DECO Bento Sets Also, we have many items to help you create beautiful bento, including shapers that cut sakura-petal shaped objects. We love bento!
Ori Kesh  Original Keshigomu Cute Parlor Set
Can Erasers Be 'Art?' We love to find interesting erasers from Japan for our customers, and today we've restocked more Make Your Own Eraser crafts.
Hanafuda  Japanese Traditional Playing Cards
Hanafuda ~ Japanese Traditional Playing Cards Hanafuda is a Japanese card game with beautiful flowers printed on the cards. It's been played in Kyoto for, oh, 1300 years or so, and you can play it too.
Shunga Ukiyoe Sake Shot Glasses -- Set of 5  Shunga
Sake Cups, Sushi Mug, and More These sake cups feature traditional-style ukiyoe art, common before and doing the Meiji period. Other neat traditional items are also back in stock.
R2-D2 Home Star Home Planetarium
R2-D2 Home Star Home Planetarium Putting the "star" in Star Wars, we love this crazy cool R2-D2, which is cool by itself, but the unit also doubles as a real planetarium.
Kirino Kousaka Figma Action Figure  Ore no Imoto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai **Preorder**
Even More Preorder Figures Nice, the Kirino Figma from OreImo was so popular, they're releasing it again. An awesome second chance to snag the most excellent imouto ever.
Chris Makise Mug Cup w/Lid  Steins;Gate
Pour a can of Dr. Pepper into these official Steins;Gate mug cups w/ lids, or display an awesome figure of Christina in your room or office! We love Steins;Gate and are happy to bring so many awesome products for you.
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Spray for Love Body  Sweat Scent of Virgin (Otome no Nioi)
Spray for Love Body ~ Sweat Scent of Woman This fragrant spray is the essential add-on for those who love adult toys, making your fantasies feel even more real. Japan never lets us down.
Love Body Aki
Love Body Aki, More Restocked Love Body Aki is a blow-up doll you can dress and accessorize to meet your own personal preferences and wants. Many awesome items restocked.
Anzu Nyan Pero Pero Lotion
Products for K-On! Fans See some great ero toys for K-On! fans, with the ultimate Yui "first time" deluxe toy, plus the official personal lotion of Azu-nyan.
Future Loid Mikuty
Miku Hatsune, Vocaloid Parody Stress Toys For fans of Vocaloid Miku Hatsune, enjoy these popular parody toys which have all been restocked. We have both Miku and Luka!
Princess Knight Olivia
Princess Knight Olivia An epic new import eroge release, welcome to the world of Princess Knight Olivia, which combines amazing fantasy art with great characters.
Super Strip Fighter IV
Restocked H-Games, Doujin Soft See great H-games like Miss Pig Princess, Hatsujo Exorcist, Strip Fighter IV, plus Madoka Magika doujin soft releases.
Yukkuri Panic: Escalation *Preorder*
'Yuri' Eroge in English We love yuri games about girls who love other girls, and recommend Yukkuri Panic: Escalation to all fans! It's two games in one.
Da Capo Limited Edition Boxed Set
Awesome Games from MangaGamer Remember you can get great eroge in English from MangaGamer through J-List, like the popular Da Capo, Da Capo 2 and Guilty series.