Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nikuman Season is Back, Too.

The Japanese are very big on the four seasons, and have many customs that separate each season from the others. In the spring, people sit under cherry blossom trees and enjoy the fleeting beauty of the sakura, while summer is time to don a yukata (cotton summer kimono) and enjoy Japan's festivals. Now that fall is here, it's time to appreciate the changing of the leaves while enjoying nikuman (pronounced "niku-mahn") which are finally available at convenience stores again, just in time for cooler weather. Nikuman are a kind of steamed Chinese bun with meat inside, which are convenient and delicious when you need to grab something and go, and they're as popular here as microwaved burritos are in the U.S. Variations on the basic "beef and bread" nikuman include pizzaman (tomato sauce and cheese), anman (Japanese anko sweet beans), and curryman (curry-filled bread)..

I love to eat hot, steaming nikuman when it's cool outside.

Famous Actors in Japanese Commercials

One fun aspect of living in Japan is seeing how many television commercials you can watch before coming across one featuring a famous famous foreign star pushing some product. It might be Leonardo diCaprio doing a CM (as TV commercials are called here) for Suzuki's newest small car ("Go! Go! Wagon R!!"), or Korean heartthrob Chan Gunsoku pitching a Korean rice wine, or a digitally resurrected Audry Hepburn enjoying some refreshing Afternoon Tea by Kirin. Bruce Willis (whose last name unfortunately makes Japanese people think of the word "virus," for reasons related to the above paragraph) has had a successful side career pitching Eneos gasoline and Subaru's Outback Wagon. Some companies develop reputations for being in love with foreign stars, like Suntory, which has paid actor Tommy Lee Jones to portray an alien observing life on planet Earth in their BOSS canned coffee commercials for years.

Ads featuring famous stars are everywhere in Japan.

Is the Japanese Language "the Hardest"?

Although Japanese has a reputation for being the "hardest" language to learn -- St. Francis Xavier famously said it was an invention of the Devil to halt the spread of Christianity -- it's not inherently more difficult to learn than French or German or Spanish. All languages have unique features, and one found in Japanese -- its phonetic simplicity, the fact that there are only five vowels and all Japanese sounds must fit through the tight syllabic system of hiragana and katakana -- is actually a boon for us gaijin, as it makes speaking with very little accent possible (provided you only use study tools that "force" you to learn using kana/kanji and not "Romanized" Japanese). These phonetic limitations lead to some confusion when importing words from English, since words like drag and drug, curb and curve, crash/clash/crush and election and a similar word all blend together in the same way bonsai and banzai sometimes do in the minds of English speakers. The Japanese combat this by mixing up how they use foreign loan words. For example, since "crown" and "clown" would be the same, they use the French word for clown (pierrot), and since "flute" and "fruit" would always be confused, the latter is always used in its plural form, which is where the somewhat odd name of Fruits Basket comes from.
What do you think? Is the Japanese language "harder" than others you've studied?

An apple is a delicious "fruits," don't you think?

The Start of 2011-2012 Japanese Chocolate Season!!

Besides awesome anime magazines that shower fans with free stuff, fun anime cosplay products and a legendary lineup of English-translated eroge / visual novels from Japan, J-List carries awesome Japanese snacks. We especially love to carry delicious chocolate products from Japan, but the hot, humid summer forces us to remove all chocolate from the site. Now that things are cooler, we've got a huge update of epic chocolate products from Japan for you, from Japanese Kit Kat (included limited stock of the legendary Green Tea Kit Kat), several flavors of iconic Pocky, plus Morinaga Choco Ball, Oreo Cookie Bars and more. Click to browse our fantastic Japanese chocolate snacks!

Cool Products Wednesday, September 28, 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.
Animage Oct 2011
Blue Exorcist headlines the brand new issue of Animage, which is also packed with all the exciting previews for the upcoming new season of anime titles. Always full of omake (free stuff) from the top anime titles, something you've come to expect from such a great magazine.
View products »
Hobby Japan Sep 2011 NO. 507
New Issues of Hobby Japan No Figure, No Life. Get updated on the newest trends in the figure industry, along with pics from Nendoroid, Revoltech and all other top makers too.
Little Devil Ageha  Koakuma Ageha Aug 2011
Little Devil Ageha Fashion is always changing on the streets of Shibuya. Get ready for the new fall and winter fashion hot items with this issue of Ageha Magazine.
Evangelion 2.0 Premium Figure Seat of the Soul Vol.2 Set of 2 Rei  Mari **Preorder**
Evangelion 2.0 Premium Figure Check out what just came in. These new preorder figures feature Rei and Mari in their Eva cockpits, ready to be deployed into your home.
Horo 1/8 Figure by Kotobukiya Spice  Wolf *Preorder*
Wolf and Spice Figure Fans of Horo, the popular wolf goddess, is back in stock, though most sold to preorder customers. So...hurry!
2012 Calendar -- Hanasaku Iroha **Preorder**
We've posted a huge volley of new 2012 anime calendars, including Madoka Magika, One Piece, A Certain Scientific Railgun, Freezing, Sora no Otoshimono / Heaven's Lost Property, The IDOLM@STER, Infinite Strator and many more. Preorder these awesome large-format glossy calendars now!
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2012 Desktop Calendar -- Natsume Yujin Cho Nyanko Sensei **Preorder**
2012 Calendar ~ Nyanko Sensei *Preorder* We've got a lot more than anime calendars, but kawaii calendars like the Nyanko Sensei desktop calendar that will be released soon.
2012 Calendar -- Pixiv **Preorder**
2012 Calendar ~ Pixiv *Preorder* Also: if you love good Japanese art, you *need* the 2012 Pixiv calendar, a real treat for all fans of anime and Japanese subculture.
Laputa *Robot* Music Box -- Ghibli Orgel Collection
New Ghibli 2012 Calendar, Laputa Music Boxes You'll always find great Japan-only Ghibli items here at J-List. See a new Ghibli Studio 3D calendar, plus the legendary Laputa music box!
iTunes Japan Music Card
Awesome Anime Songs & More Spotted on iTunes Japan: the new song album from The World God Only Knows, the Nichijou OP and ED and a Steins;Gate song collection?
Touhou Project  Mountain of Faith
Touhou Project Games Restocked Touhou is more than a series of well made shooting games with gorgeous graphics/music: it's the base of Japan's pop culture. Restocked today!
Itazura Cat Coin Bank -- Tiger Cat
Itazura Cat, Dog & Panda Coin Banks The most popular kawaii item on J-List these days is the Itazura Cat Coin Bank, with a cat who steals your money. Panda too.
Japanese School Swimsuits  Skirt type
Japanese School Swimsuits Also great for cosplay or casual wear (?), authentic Japanese style school swimsuits and those great striped panties. Oniisan no ecchi!
Cat Ears Clips (Neko Mimi Clip)  White
Cat Ears Clips (Neko Mimi Clip) We think everyone needs a pair of nekko-mimi (cat ears) around the house for special occasions, like birthdays, movie parties, or Halloween.
Miku Hatsune Graphic Character Collection CV01
Miku Hatsune Graphic Character Collection CV01 We love her voice, and her personality too. Take home this full-color artbook with a purely Hatsune-miku look on the world with great artwork.
Moe Moe Dragon Encyclopedia  Dragon Jiten
Restocked Moe Moe Encyclopedia Learn about such important subjects as lingerie, dragons, fairies and the world of Cthulhu with the fabulous Moe Encyclopedia, restocked today.
ToHeart2 DX PLUS
ToHeart2 DX PLUS in 1080p This is a special item: a limited edition set of the new ToHeart 2 for PS3, completely updated with high res graphics and great free stuff!
Microwave Potato Chip Maker
Epic Microwave Products from Japan Then: Why buy store-bought potato chips when you can make your own at home, using this wacky microwave potato chip maker from Japan? Restocked today.
Meiji Mushroom Mountain -- Strawberry
Today is a very special day: the most famous Japanese chocolate snacks are back in stock on the J-List site! We've got a great volley of brand new chocolate snacks for the 2011-2012 chocolate season, including new Salty Pocky, Korinaga Koeda, Meiji Mushroom Mountain and Sasha Premium Strawberry that melts in your mouth.
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Nestle Green Tea Kit Kat Mini Pack
Restocked Green Tea Kit Kat We've got stock of the amazing Japanese Kit Kat, too, including limited stock of the Green Tea Kit Kat -- it will sell out fast, so don't delay.
Morinaga Choco Ball -- Strawberry
Other Awesome Japanese Chocolate Snacks Also: other epic Japanese chocolate snacks, incl. classic Pocky, Morinaga Choco Ball, Green Tea Oreos and Crayon Shin-chan Tohato snacks.
Blue Nikyoro Compact Bento Box with Chopsticks  Microwave and Dishwasher safe without Lid
Blue Nikyoro Compact Bento Set It's easy to carry, safe and microwaveable -- what more could you want from a cute bento box link this one? Perhaps a French phrase on the front?
EDO Style Wooden Lacquered Cool Volume  2 Tier Bento Box  Elastic Band
Beautiful Traditional Bento Boxes Restocked See the awesome Edo Style wooden bento, plus "Mottai-Nai," the bento series for people concerned with avoiding waste and helping our planet.
Challenge!  Easy Character Bento
Challenge! ~ Easy Character Bento Making the difficult much easy with this bento design kit that include many great methods for making your own bento creations.
Waku-Waku Deco Bento Set
Waku-Waku Deco Bento Set  Put down those scissors, you need this hand-press cutter that features 19 different shapes, perfect for adding cuteness to you lunch.
Wiener Shaper -- Crab
Change Wieners Into Cute Shapes We've restocked several cute wiener and vegetable cutters which turn everyday food into kawaii flowers, penguins and other shapes, too.
Hello Kitty Boiled Egg Shaper
Kawaii Boiled Egg Shapers Why are you still eating normal hard boiled eggs when yo could enjoy awesome 3D eggs? We've restocked several egg shapers, including Hello Kitty.
New SAND de PANDA -- Heart  Push Style Easy Sandwich Maker
Push Style Easy Sandwich Maker (Heart) Nothing makes a child smile more than a handmade sandwich in the shape of a heart. Of course many adults find it cute as fun as well.
Handmade Sweets Fragrant Eraser Kit  Candy
Make Your Own...Erasers? The Japanese are nothing if not creative. They even make their own awesome erasers. Several of these sets restocked today.
Japonica Kanji Japanese Practice Notebook(100 squares)
Japanese Practice Notebooks, Pens Also, see new stock of the useful kanji practice notebooks, great for writing kana and kanji characters until you've memorized them.
KYUDO  Mini Japanese Archery Set
Cool Traditional Products Restocked Fun traditional products restocked, including traditional Japanese telephone game, spinning tops from the Edo Period, plus Kyudo (Japanese archery).
Retia Adolf - Ultimate Idol- 1/8 Figure  Dai Teikoku  **Preorder**
Retia Adolf - Ultimate Idol Figure *Preorder* From the screen of the game Daiteikoku games this excellent figure of Retia Adolf. Beautiful attention to detail and something we think you'll enjoy.
Homura Akemi 1/8 Figure  **Preorder**
Homura Akemi 1/8 Figure *Preorder* Fighting witches and keeping your office safe, this excellent figure is a magnificent display of fandom for all Madoka Magica fans.
Office Lady Maniax
Office Lady Maniax If you have a thing for those tight skits and uniforms Japanese office ladies wear, then you'll full enjoy this softcore gravure photobook.
Super Sonico 1/6 Gothic Maid ver. **Preorder**
Super Sonico 1/6 Gothic Maid ver. *Preorder* Dressed in a gothic maid uniform, often found in Akihabara, this very eroi figure shows off a bound Super Sonico. Wow.
DISCODE 2  Abnormal Love -- DVD the GAME
Restocked Ecchi Games We've been posting a lot of awesome ero anime DVDs, and today we've restocked Discode 1 & 2 and Venus Blood.
2012 Calendar -- Kokomi Naruse **Preorder**
2012 Calendar ~ Kokomi Naruse *Preorder* Make the next year a sexy new year with some awesome calendars features the curves and figures of hot Japanese idols and JAV stars.
Azumi Nyan! Pero Pero Hole  K-On! Azusa Parody Toy
Azusa is the character that perhaps most personifies the moe ideal, and thousands of fans around the world love her. Click to see this amazing new parody toy that will allow you to become one with your favorite K-On! band member. A novelty item only.
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Bakujiri Musou -- Extreme Impact  Samurai Girls Parody Toy
Anime Parody Stress Toys, Too See even more fun toys restocked, including Samurai Girls/Ikki Tousen with double the fun, the Pururun Angel Bust oppai and more.
The Perfect Pussy Principle  Miharu Kai Hole
Amazing Restocked Onahole Toys Ever been curious about what the insides of your favorite JAV star would feel like? Several popular toys restocked today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Strategies for Studying Japanese

For students of foreign languages, whether Japanese working hard to learn English or us gaijin studying Japanese, success often comes from concrete strategies learners come up with for themselves. My wife learned English by watching American daytime dramas, even the horribly boring ones, and mastered asking "WH" questions (who, what, when, where, how?) of others to keep a conversation flowing. Japanese textbook and manga buyer Yasu says he carried his vocabulary word book and flashcards with him everywhere to write down words he needed to learn. I augmented what I was learning in Japanese class by reading manga that interested me and translating JPOP and anime songs so I could sing them at Japanese karaoke bars later (memorizing songs helps because you can sing the song to yourself if you forget the word). I learned early on that my brain responded well to repeatedly writing kanji or sentences, as holding sentences in your short-term memory while you write them helps them transfer to your longer-term memory. People are all different, however, and tricks that worked for one person might not be good for others.
What innovative study techniques have you come up with?

What special study methods have you come up with?

Nosebleeds in Anime

There are many bizarre visual jokes in anime, which probably look odd to Western viewers at first. Characters getting a giant "sweat drop" on their heads when they're upset, or the "anger mark" that appears on the foreheads of characters who are about to explode with rage. (When my daughter was younger, she saw a model of a German WWII plane and decided the plane was "angry" because the German insignia looked like this mark.) Also, the odd "snot bubble" coming out of the nose of any character sleeping soundly, or the funny fall-to-the-floor gags that characters do when they're surprised, which is something Japanese comedians do all the time. Then there's the ubiquitous nosebleed that shows up whenever a certain character gets excited after seeing or thinking about something naughty, which first appeared in a 1970 manga published in Shonen Jump called Yasuji no Mettameta Gakido Koza or Yasuji's Life Lessons for Messed Up Kids. These days nosebleed jokes are becoming more of a yuri gag, seen almost constantly in the Yuru Yuri anime and also in the fan-created canon (aka "fanon") that fans of shows like Madoka Magika love to invent.

The nosebleed gag is a staple of yuri fanservice anime.

Japan's Bizarre Relationship with...Radiation?

The relationship of the Japanese and radiation is a unique one, as they're the only people in the history of the world to experience the effects of an intentional atomic attack. Sometimes it can be a challenge understanding how the Japanese feel about this touchy subject, as it's obviously not something that's discussed with foreigners very often, if it's discussed openly at all (it's not). One thing I've always wondered about was Japan's embracing of atomic imagery in its popular culture, in such characters as Astro Boy (whose name is Tetsuwan Atom in Japanese, "Iron Arm Atom"), and Astro Girl (whose original name is Uran, Japanese for Uranium). I recently realized that the classic Japanese movie monster Rodan's Japanese name is Radon, as in the radioactive chemical element, and was puzzled by this ironic twist. Incidentally, although there's still concern with the cleanup in Fukushima, 200 km north of J-List, things are normal down herein Gunma (the radiation level is actually higher in Rome, Italy than it is here). And just in case you were concerned, there are no issues with the products J-List sells, and everything is safe.

Astroy Boy's sister is named...Uranium? What?

New J-List T-shirts

J-List has some rather awesome anime and kanji T-shirts for you, including our classic I'm Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend design, our tribute to tsundere voice actress Rie Kugimiya, or the cool Science! shirt we brought out recently? Our newest T-shirt offering is Sakamoto Nyan, a cute image of our favorite cat flying through space. Do you like it?