Friday, November 18, 2011

This Year's "7-5-3" Ceremony for Children

One of the best things about raising kids in Japan is shichi-go-san (literally "7, 5, 3"), a special time when parents with daughters aged seven or three, and sons aged five, get dressed up in traditional kimonos and visit the Shinto shrine to celebrate their childrens' safe passage through life so far. It's also a great excuse to go to photo studios and get professional photos taken, which are treasured as family heirlooms. J-List buyer for artbooks, manga and Japanese study supplies has three daughters ("a lot of people talk about repopulating Japan, but J-List is doing something about it") and this week his middle daughter had her 7-5-3 ceremony, dressing up in a beautiful kimono to visit a Shinto shrine to pray for continued good luck in life. It's a great memory for children and their parents.

A fun Japanese ceremony for celebrating life.

How Can You Tell a Japanese Person

I saw an interesting thread on Japan's ubiquitous BBS 2ch entitled, "Things Japanese people do abroad that mark them as Japanese," and I thought I'd talk about this topic. The list included things like, being extremely detailed about giving exact change or stressing about leaving an accurate 15% tip, or waiting quietly for the rear door of a taxi to open automatically for you. (Taxis in Japan have a hydraulic lever that allows the door to open automatically.) Back in my university days you could go assume that a person wearing highly evolved fashions with Engrish phrases like "I feel happiness when I eat a potato" was Japanese, but the fashion landscape has changed a lot since the 80s, and most really strange English comes from China these days. Of course the body language of Japanese people is somewhat unique, from indicating "me?" by pointing at the nose instead of the chest, or making that ubiquitous "peace" sign (though that's become quite accepted all around Asia by now). Another way to tell Japanese people from other Asians is to listen to their speech. Japanese is (thankfully) not a tonal language language at all, unlike Mandarin or Cantonese (which have 4-9 different ways to pitch a given syllable). If the speech sounds "flat" to your ear then it might be Japanese.
Got any other ways of telling Japanese people from other Asians? Crooked teeth perhaps?

The "peace sign" is a very Japanese gesture.

PETA Hates Cute

I write often about Japan's love for kawaii (cute) culture, which has come to define the country as much as anime, manga and high-tech electronics. Cute imagery pops up in the most unlikely places in Japan, like in the instruction manual for a DVD player, showing a little manga version of the device sweating to let you know to avoid storing it in a hot, humid place. One of the cutest things to the Japanese are kigurumi, essentially a full-body costume that includes a head covering, like the cute bear- and panda-ear parkas and hoodies from Japan we've been carrying. In the Super Mario Bros. games from Nintendo, one of the cutest outfits Mario wears is the Tanooki costume, a kigurumi suit that turns him into a cute furry tanuki, which a Japanese animal often called a "raccoon dog" in English. I was amused to see that PETA had come out against the "barbaric" practice of killing poor tanuki for their pelts, using Tanooki Mario to garner media attention, though they backtracked and tried to pretend it was all a joke when fans called them out on it. For the record, I've never encountered any mention of the animals being killed for their furs, and in fact tanuki are regarded as magical creatures in the same way foxes are, and are largely left alone.
(In addition to these cute kigurumi suits, there are the anime masks that scary middle-aged men wear to become Sailor Moon or the Pretty Cure girls, but we won't contemplate those.)

Those kigurumi full-body suits are very cute.

My Girlfriend is the President Golden Master!

Great news for fans of English-translated visual novels and eroge: the new game My Girlfriend is the President has gone "Golden Master," which means the game is being duplicated and will be shipping out in 2-3 weeks. It's the story of an average Japanese girl who becomes President of the United States of Nippon when an alien spaceship crashes to earth and is forced to brainwash the entire country to cover up the error. You can still preorder the game and get free shipping when it ships. Click here to see the product, read about it on the JAST USA development blog, and see the official My Girlfriend is the President site here.

Cool Products Friday, November 18, 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 Daioh Dec 2011
You know, this is just about the best manga in the world -- it's got it all, from Toaru Kagaku no Railgun to Gunslinger Girl and more. Every month includes some cool, free omake stuff, too, and this month it is a figure from Shakugan no Shana. Most copies have already sold to revolving subscription customers, so sorry if they sell out.
View products »
Come to My House  Hetalia Axis Powers Italy -- Orenchi ni Oideyo
Learn Italian with Hetalia! Learn how to speak a new language, with the cute guys from Hetalia, in this new book focusing on the romantic language of Italian.
Tiger and Bunny Official Hero Book
Restocked Artbooks from Japan From the Tiger & Bunny Official Hero Book to Pixiv artbooks filled with the most beautiful art of Japan's online art sharing website, today's items are great.
Rilakkuma Face Mug Cup
Rilakkuma Face Mug Cup Enjoy your hot mug of coffee or hot chocolate with a bear who knows how to relax, Rilakkuma. Very cute, and in two varieties.
Hello Kitty Plugy  Pink
Hello Kitty Plugy ~ Pink Make your iPhone, smartphone or any other kind of headphone audio equipped device + 10 levels of cute with a Hello Kitty Plugy.
Fuwa Fuwa Panda Poncho  White
Fuwa Fuwa Panda Poncho ~ White, Black Make this winter more... kawaii with this fluffy, super soft poncho with a hood that will make you look like a panda.
Egg Dec 2011
New Egg, KERA In Stock Need to know what's hot in Shibuya, the town of young fashion? Pick up the newest issue of Egg Magazine, plus the gothic lolita Kera.
Sci-Fi Revoltech No.030 Optimus Prime **Preorder**
Revoltech Mega Robot Preorders The talented folks at Revoltech are releasing some very cool figures from some of our favorite franchises, like Transformers.
Electric Takoyaki Maker RED
Electric Takoyaki Maker RED You can't go to a Japanese festival without eating at least one takoyaki. Make your own this New Years, with this great new electric octopus ball cooker.
2012 Calendar -- Katekyoshi HItman Reborn (A)
Awesome 2012 Anime Calendars in Stock We've got some awesome calendars for 2012, with characters from Tiger & Bunny, IdolM@aster, Totoro, Code Geass, Gintama and more.
NARUTO 2012 Calendar  Shueisha
Great Manga-Based 2012 Calenders Along with calendars with inspiration from manga, instead of anime, like Working, Bleach, Rise of the Yokoi, Naruto, One Piece and Kateikyoushi Hit Man Reborn.
Chu Totoro Plush w/Suction Cup
These cute Totoro plush dolls love to stick with their friends, literally. Stick them to your car window, bedroom window, bathroom mirror, or anywhere else that needs some extra kawaii. Comes in multiple sizes and styles. You'll never want to take them off once you've stuck them up. Looks even cuter in sets of two and three.
View products »
Ninokuni: The Queen of White Sacred Ash  PLAYSTATION 3
Ninokuni: The Queen of White Sacred Ash ~ PLAYSTATION 3 The game that looks like a Ghibli Studio anime film, Ni no Kuni is the highly anticipated game with huge star cast and developed by Level 5.
Totoro Microwave Safe Tight Bento Box
Totoro Bento Box, Jiji Baby Rattle & More Holds enough to make any tummy happy, with a design that would make any Ghibli lover giggle with joy. Also, the Fox Squirrel from Nausicaa and Laputa.
Evangelion  Logos Field Operation Stainless Mug Cup for  EVA-02 Pilot (Asuka ver.) **Preorder**
New EVA Mugs In Stock These high quality, stainless steel mugs are designed by the popular outdoor sports company LOGOS, so they'll last nearly all your lifetime.
Nukupon! Hello Kitty Warming Pad (KAIRO)  3pcs
Japanese Ways to Keep Warm this Winter Keep yourself warm this winter, with some kairo warmers, heat pads and even kotatsu tables.
Touhou Project  Shoot the Bullet
Touhou Project Games & Manga Fans of Touhou Project need to check out our large selection of Touhou manga, games and even accessories to wear. Cool.
Handy Toilet  Minimaru Chan
Random Health & Convenience Products With phonetics reading "minimal," these portable super-absorbent collapsing toilets can be a lifesaver. Other health items restocked too.
Coffret du couturier Letter Set
Restocked Stationery, Pens & More See some fun restocked stationery items, including our Coffret du Couturier Letter Set, awesome pencil cases and slim calculator.
Deluxe Mousse-chan Kira-Kira Paper Clay Full Set  Sweets Shop
Fun Crafts from Japan Craft your fun with this new edition of the Mousse-chan clay sweets shop, the most artful and inventive "paper clay" molds you will ever seen.
Kyoto Limited DX Yatsuhashi Kit Kat (12 Sticks)
They are finally here! You love them and we've got them, the great Kit Kat flavors that can only be found in Japan, like Green Tea and Yatsuhashi, along with some other very special flavors like Yokohama Strawberry Cheesecake and Tokyo Nihonbashi Eitaro Kuro Mitsu. Buy multiple boxes for an automatic discount!
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FritoLay Takoyaki Puff Snack
Fun Snacks Restocked, Too See the Popin' Cookin' style Insect and Dinosaur making gummy kits from Kracie, Lotte Sasha Premium Strawberry, Takoyaki Puff Snacks and Ramune Candy!
Mameshiba (Apple)  Japanese Food Drops
Restocked 'Food Drops' Candy Today's flavors include the popular Kobe Cheese Cake flavor, plus the oh-so-kawaii Mameshiba Food Drops in apple flavor.
Nina Nino PANDA Ball Shaped 2 Tier Bento Box with Kinchaku Bag
Nina Nino PANDA Ball Shaped Bento Set Panda bears make for the best lunches...not as food but as cute bentos to carry your food in. These ball-shaped panda lunchboxes are so cute.
Sakura  Rabbit Lacquered 2 Tier Eco Square Bento Box  Elastic Band  Chopsticks
Popular Traditional Bento Boxes We have a fairly huge restocking of awesome bento boxes, including Sakura & Rabbit, Edo Style Lacquered Bento and Carved Wooden Bento Lunchbox.
Miffy Thermal  Refrigerant Bento Tote Bag
Miffy Thermal & Refrigerant Bento Tote Bag  Whether it is for your lunch, in bento style or western style, having a nice bag can make the difference between a delicious bento and a cold, soggy bento.
FOROMAKI Shaper  Easy Roll SUSHI Making Mold
Sushi Makers, Other Fun Items See other restocked bento items, like awesome onigiri shapers and a mold for making the perfect sushi shapes and more.
Mama's Assist Tare Bin Friend  Sauce Bottle
Mama's Assist Tare Bin Friend ~ Sauce Bottle Add these little friends to your bento box, or dinner party, and watch the smiles come out. Each little animal holds just enough sauce for one meal.
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!
EZ Microwave Boiled Egg Maker  PINK
EZ Microwave Boiled Egg Maker ~ PINK You were told to never put an egg in the microwave, but forget everything you know because now you can!
'Caution: Karoshi' (Death from Overwork)
'Caution: Karoshi' (Death from Overwork) J-List shirts can be conversation starter, a way to start a conversation with soneone who notices your shirt and asks you why you have kanji on your shirt.
Zettai Ryoiki  The Absolute Zone
We Love the Absolute Zone We are fans of the concept of the mysterious 'absolute zone' between the top of stockings and bottom of a skirt, and this photobook has it all. We love Japan.
Kobato Hasegawa 'Mofu Mofu (Fluffy)' Yutanpo Cover  Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai *Preorder*
Anime Yutanpo for Keeping Otakus Warm Throw one of these Yutanpo under your covers before you go to sleep and you'll stay warm all night, and won't waste energy too. A popular item in Japan.
Fire Ball Charming Drossel Figma Action Figure *Preorder*
Fire Ball Charming Drossel Figma Action Figure *Preorder* And form the very obscure but awesome Disney / Jinnai CG short film comes an amazing figure of Drossel, the android robot.
Haruka Morishima Nendoroid Figure  Amagami SS *Preorder*
Haruka Morishima Nendoroid Figure *Preorder* All our preorder figures and just irresistible, but we really like this Haruka Morishima figure, with all the interchangeability you'd expect from Nendoroid.
My Honey -- Kotomi Nagisa
We have a great job here at J-List, getting to look at beautiful Japanese women in high gloss photobooks all day long, and this new offering is outstanding. Every page of this stellar photobook shows off Kotomi Nagisa's beautiful curves, luscious lips, and to-die-for girlfriend like breasts. Enjoy her new photobook!
View products »
2012 Wall Calendar -- Rio
2012 Calendars for JAV fans! Got a bunch of delicious calendars for fans of Japanese AV stars in too. Rio aka Tina Yuzuki, Sarah, Kokomi Naruse, Jessica Kizaki plus Tsubasa Amami [heart].
Perfumed Black Pantyhose of OL  M-L
We're big fans of the amazing products of TamaToys, who make our otaku dreams come true with authentic shimapan, cosplay products, striped stockings, plus the best stress toys. Enjoy the new OL Stockings we've posted, for anime cosplay and other uses.
View products »
Little Devil Glove -- Right Hand
Little Devil Glove ~ Left or Right Hand Whether to trick your friends, or to trick yourself, these gloves will change your manly mitts into delicate women's hands. Great idea!
Babble Shake  Function
Restocked Onahole Stress Toys With parodies of your favorite anime characters and official replicas of JAV stars, we've got a wide selection of onaholes, plus that amazing Oral Pump.
Onatsuyu  Female Nectar
Popular Lotion, Massagers & More Plus massagers, lotions, toys, vibrators and more, all from Japan and all for your personal pleasure.
For My Precious Sweetheart, The Best Thing I Can Do.
For My Precious Sweetheart, The Best Thing I Can Do Another very fun import eroge, that we just had to show you, with a story that is equally as intriguing as its character design and gameplay.
My Girlfriend is the President **Preorder**
My Girlfriend is the President Golden Master! If you didn't preorder the upcoming English eroge yet, now is a great time to -- you will still get free shipping when the game goes out, and the game is great!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super Terrific Thing from Japan: Kotatsu

One of the best things about winter in Japan is sitting with your legs in the kotatsu, a low table with a heater inside that's one of the best ways of keeping warm during the colder months. Japanese homes generally lack central heating, and a kotatsu provides an awesome place for the family to gather and keep warm while they eat mikan oranges or watch TV. To use a kotatsu, place a blanket (futon) over the table and put the tabletop piece top of that, then turn on the switch and enjoy toasty warmth wafting up while you sit with your legs inside. J-List customers have regularly asked us to carry these kotatsu tables again this year, and we're happy to announce we've got limited stock of Japanese kotatsu tables on the site now. Shipping is still difficult -- we recommend seamail since EMS is so pricey, but the option is there for you.

Kotatsus have returned to J-List. Anime girls sold separately.

2D vs 3D Idols

like Twitter and Facebook because I can toss out ideas to my readers and get instant feedback from them. I was posting some random pictures of Hatsune Miku, the popular "virtual" singing idol that was created to promote singing voice simulation software made by Yamaha, and one reader wrote something to the effect of, "Why would anyone become a fan of a fictional idol like Miku when there are real singers and idols you could like instead?" This led to a spirited debate about the difference between "2D" idols like Hatsune Miku, and "3D" (by which I mean meatspace) idols such as AKB48. Ever since Lynn Minmei and Megazone 23's Eve in the 80s, anime has featured stories about idols and marketed songs as if the characters really existed, which can be a lot of fun for fans. On the other hand, Japanese idols undergo voice and dance training for years, often giving up many of the normal life experiences you or I take for granted to attain their dream of becoming a famous J-POP idol, and I respect their dedication even if "real" idols can sometimes feel as inorganic as animated ones. One thing I like about the Vocaloid universe (and Touhou) is the way so much of it is doujin or fan-generated -- much of the music and visual culture associated with Miku, Len & Rin, Luka and the rest are created by fans and shared freely online, and we love the directions they take the characters in (*cough* yuri *cough*). If you're a fan of Japan's idol culture, the iTunes Japan prepaid cards give you access to Hatsune Miku, AKB48, and even the hottest KPOP bands.
So, which virtual and/or real idols do you love?

Which do you prefer, 2D or 3D idols?

Of Taiyaki and Camembert Cheese

Last weekend I went to the local home center to pick up some parts for a speaker system I was rewiring, and as I was on my way out I spied a stand selling taiyaki, the fish-shaped cakes which are beloved of many anime characters (uguu~). This taiyaki was special, though: in addition to the normal version with sweet anko beans inside, the stand offered one with melted camembert cheese, which I couldn't resist. As I munched my unique Japanese/French treat I realized that I'd never come across camembert cheese before coming to Japan, and as a result I essentially learned the word in katakana, the Japanese syllabary used for expressing foreign words, making me unsure about how to pronounce it in English. There are other examples of this strange linguistic phenomenon: I had zero awareness of the Louis Vuitton brand before coming to Japan, and didn't even know how to spell it, which caused roars of laughter from my wife, and all my knowledge of Indian food (which is popular here) came through Japanese, too. Isn't language odd?
(It's even worse...we've got a French employee at J-List which makes me self-conscious about pronouncing any French-derived word...)

Taiyaki with melted camembert cheese inside? Score!