Friday, December 16, 2011

The Honest Japanese

One of the best aspects of living in Japan is the honesty and integrity of Japanese people, and as a general rule you can assume that people here will be worthy of your trust. One of my first experiences in culture shock here was going to my local Seven Eleven and seeing a brand-new car in the parking lot with the key in the ignition, idling away while their owner ran in to pick up some Pocky or whatever -- the idea that anyone would be so rude as to steal the car just doesn't enter into anyone's mind here. The food court at the Costco that opened in our prefecture can get quite crowded, and I've observed people saving a table by placing their wallet down as they go stand in line for food. At our local home center, when you make a large purchase of lumber or furniture the store will lend you a light truck to drive it home for free, with the employee handing over the keys without even taking a scan of my drivers' license (and me a foreigner). A friend of mine managed to lose his wallet no less than four times in different parts of the country, once as far away as Kyoto, and all four times the wallets were delivered to the police with cash intact. There is crime in Japan, to be sure, and bad people here just like everywhere else, but by and large I've been happy with the honesty I've encountered during my time here.

One of my favorite things about the Japanese is their tendency to be honest.

Anime Characters with "Blonde" Hair

Anime is a funny place, where characters can have the most outrageous hair colors like pink or blue or blonde, yet no one ever thinks it strange that pure-blooded Yamato Japanese would have hair coloring like this. And yet, there are a few shows in which "Western" features of anime characters are discussed overtly as a character feature. One example is Kodaka Hasegawa from the anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai ("I Have Few Friends"), a transfer student who inherited blond hair from his diseased British mother, and because this makes him look like a yankii -- a delinquent youth who dyes his hair blond and rides a motorcycle, no direct relation to the English word "yankee" or to Americans -- he comes off as scary and isn't able to make friends easily. There are plenty of other examples, including the three characters from Please Twins, who know they're related because they all share the same mysterious blue eyes, possibly inherited from a foreign mother, or Alice Tsukishiro from the Da Capo eroge and anime, who is half-European. To the Japanese, the blending of foreign and Japanese features is very pleasant, and haafu people are seen as possessing the best of both worlds. There are many famous "talents" and TV newscasters who are of mixed Japanese ancestry, and, er, quite a few JAV stars as well.

Kodaka is half-Japanese with "yankee" hair, yet no one thinks that Sena looks non-Japanese?

Gundam Unicorn

Over the years my son and I have had a great father-and-son relationship with Mobile Suit Gundam, watching the various series together when he was too small to understand anything beyond cool robots getting blown up, putting Gundam models together, then re-watching the series as he got older. We're currently enjoying Gundam Unicorn, which is set in the original Universal Century storyline, with Char Aznable continuing his Neo Zeon rebellion against the Earth Federation. I was trying to remember some of the details about Hathaway Noa, son of Captain Bright Noa and the only pun involving the 1978 Battlestar Galactica series in the Gundam universe, so I asked my son. His response was amusing: "I can't remember either -- wikitte mireba?" ("Why don't you look it up on Wikipedia?") As with the verb guguru (to look up something on Google), a new slang term has been coined for finding information on Wikipedia, wikiru.

Gundam brings fathers and sons together.

What Can J-List Send You Today?

Christmas is in the air at J-List, and we're very busy filling orders from all around the world. From our large selection of awesome bento boxes to our Japanese Kit Kat and other unique Japanese snacks to anime figures (some of them nosebleed-inducing), we've got plenty of cool items for you. And if you can't decide (or if you're out of time), why not give a J-List Gift Certificate, which comes as a handy PDFthat you can print yourself or email to that someone special. How can J-List help you today?

Cool Products Friday, December 16, 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 Jan 2012
We've got another nice issue of Comptiq, the popular anime and game magazine, with 350+ pages of great information and visual art, along with a Type-Moon drama CD.
View products »
Dengeki Girl's Style Jan 2012
Dengeki Girl's Style Jan 2012 Then we have a new issue of Dengeki Girl's Style, a magazine exclusively for awesome otaku girls. Otome (girl) games, yaoi, BL. It's all here!
Animedia Jan 2012
Animedia Jan 2012 Animedia brings your exclusive scoops from the artists and designers behind all your favorite anime series. Become an inside man today!
Nyanpire Standing 18cm Plush
Great New Nyanpire Plush Toys What's cuter than a cat? A cat who's a cute vampire, as in the Nyanpire anime series. Many new plush toys in stock!
Nyanpire Nekomimi Glove
Nyanpire Nekomimi Gloves & Hat We've also got adorable Nyanpire cosplay accessories, so you too can join the ranks of the cute and furry. Check out these hats, gloves, and more!
Black Rock Shooter, Anubis Figures In Stock Awesome new figures in stock today, including the sword-wielding heroine of Black Rock Shooter and the ultra-badass mecha Anubis. So much fun to pose them.
Final Fantasy XIV Stuffed Moogle Kuplu Kopo **Preorder**
Kawaii Plush Toys Restocked We've also restocked a lot of really kawaii plushes, like the Moogle from Final Fantasy XIV and our super-popular "Kutsushita Nyanko" kitties.
Neko Mimi Remote Control  Tiger Cat
Stun your friends, amazing your kids and become a super popular cat girl when you use these cat ears that actually move! Yes, they move! Includes a small remote control that allows you to control the left and right ears independently, so you'll be feeling like a cat in no time. A super item we're so happy to feature today.
View products »
ViVi Kawaii Poncho Tops
ViVi Kawaii Poncho Top, Moco Moco Hoodie Coat More great fashion choices for the ladies. Try our new ViVi Poncho Top or Moco Moco Hoodie Coat, each guaranteed to make you look more kawaii.
Fuwa Fuwa Panda Poncho  Black
Other Kawaii Fashion Items Restocked Warm, soft and stylish. What more could you want from a delightful Poncho? Back in stock for now, but these will sell out again fast.
Ane Ageha vol. 6
Ane Ageha vol. 6 Get up-to-date trends and fashion ideas from the leader in Shibuya style, Ageha magazine. Every issue is full of beautiful, glamorous Japanese women.
DECOLE Manmaru Panda Mug Cup  Spoon
Ridiculously Frog & Panda Mug Cups, More We defy anyone to find a cuter panda or frog coffee cup than the awesome ones we're restocking today. Other cute kitchen items posted as well.
Hatsune Miku Project DIVA 2nd  Popular Edition
Awesome Hatsune Miku Games for PSP There are many things to love about our favorite Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku, which is why we're happy to have the new Hatsune Miku PSP games in stock.
When the Seagulls Cry Breakdown  Umineko no Naku Koro ni San -- Limited Edition
Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru - Limited Edition Learn the answers to all those gnawing questions in this, the conclusion to the epic Umineko no Naku Koro ni series. Artbook included!
Saint Seiya Sanctuary Battle
Great PS3 & PSP Anime Games Restocked Enjoy the new Saint Seiya fighting game and the Queen's Gate ecchi battle game with the patented "armor damage system." Also, Railgun!
iTunes Japan Music Card
Have a JPOP Christmas with iTunes Japan Cards iTunes Japan has a nice selection of Christmas songs beloved by the Japanese, which you can listen to and purchase with our iTunes cards. Meri-Kuri!
WAGASHI Towel  Rabbit Cypress Potpourri Set
WAGASHI Towel & Rabbit Cypress Potpourri Set  A great item as a gift for a friend or to yourself, this very Japanese style bath set is the perfect tool to help you relax.
Kyoto Deluxe Matcha Powdered Tea  8 package
Kyoto Deluxe Matcha Powdered Tea ~ 8 package Enjoy the taste of real, premium quality matcha tea, delivered from the home of geisha and the tea ceremony, Kyoto.
Gray Totoro Window Mascot
Gray Totoro Window Mascot We've got a fun new Totoro plush toy that's made to ride with you in your car, thanks to the included suction cup you can use to attach him to your car window.
Rilakkuma Plush (Lying on Stomach)
DX Rilakkuma Plush (Lying on Stomach) Rilakkuma ("Relax Bear") is the popular character from San-X that reminds you to slow down and relax a little. More cute plush toys in stock!
Tony Self Select Calendar 2012 **Preorder**
Tony Self Select Calendar 2012 In Stock Here's a real treat: a gorgeous 2012 calendar filled with the best artwork of Tony Taka, the master ecchi illustrator. It will sell out fast!
Perfumed Black Pantyhose of OL  M-L
Ecchi Cosplay Products? Lots of great ecchi cosplay products restocked today, including A Certain Sailor Uniform, Black Pantyhose of OL, shimapan and more.
Tohato Crayon Shin Chan Chocobi -- Milk Caramel
We love to stock Japanese snacks you've seen in your favorite anime, and Chocobi is the official chocolate snack of Crayon Shin chan, with fans all over the world. Enjoy the delicious chocolate cookies, and the cool Crayon Shinchan stickers inside.
View products »
Mameshiba (Apple)  Japanese Food Drops
Restocked 'Food Drops' Candy Today's flavors include the popular Kobe Egg Pudding flavor, plus the oh-so-kawaii Mameshiba Food Drops in apple flavor.
Meiji Pokemon Assort
Big Restocking of J-Snacks Enjoy Pokemon Assorted Chocolates, Tyrant Habanero, Blueberry Gum, Shigekix Ramune, Charcoal Roast Coffee Candy, and Morinaga Milk Caramels.
Totoro Lacquered 2-tier Bento Box w/Elastic Band  Flower Garden
Totoro Bento Box w/Elastic Band ~ Flower Garden Take a great lunch in an equally great bento box, with the cute character of Totoro on the top. Microwave and dishwasher safe too.
Pocket Monster PIKACHU Die-cup 2tier Bento Box
Cute Pikachu Bento Box Pokemon, Hello Kitty, and more are the stars of our cute branded bento and cutlery selection. Have the most charming lunch around!
Blue Perfect Onigiri Style 2 Tier Bento Box w/ Fork  Microwave Safe without Lid  Fork
Onigiri + Bento = Fun We love bento boxes designed to hold onigiri rice balls, and we've restocked several of these fun items today.
Hello Kitty Face Wiener Cutter  Picks
Hello Kitty Face Wiener Cutter & Picks, More Make the cutest little wieners you've ever seen with a little help from the magic of Hello Kitty. Or try another of our many Hello Kitty products.
Weeping Cherry Men's Chopsticks  Chopsticks Bag Set
Weeping Cherry Men's Chopsticks Set Be a man, and show off your awesome pair of chopsticks the next time you eat. Complete with matching traditional carrying case.
Donburi Animal Cup
Donburi Animal Cups, More Restocked A bento by itself is fine, but with great accessories like cups, separators, and cutters, you'll really show off the cuteness of your creations.
Gold Jewelry Making Sticker Pen  Let's Make Original Stickers
Jewelry Making Sticker Pens Restocked We carry a lot of fun crafts on J-List, and the popular pens that allow you to make your own stickers for decorating stuff are back in stock.
Yubisashi mini  Japan (Tabi no Yubisashi Kaiwacho)
Japanese Bilingual Books A wonderful traveling guide for those planning trips to Japan, navigate bilingually for the full experience when you visit. Great for studying too!
Simple Black Green Tea Leaf Container
Great Traditional Products Restocked These beautiful green tea containers will look absolutely delightful in your home. We also have some cute sakura lacquered wood business card boxes.
Popura Taneshima 1/8 Figure  Working! *Preorder*
New Working! and Panty & Stocking Figures We have lots of great figures for preorder today, starting with these amazing Alter figures of cute waitress Popura and sexy angel Panty.
Revoltech Pixar No.004 Mr. Incredible *Preorder*
Cool Revoltech Action Figures *Preorder* Or for something a little different, try these super-posable Revoltech action figures of clever ape Baby Milo and Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles.
Kirino Kousaka 1/8 Figure Maid version  OreImo *Preorder*
New Kirino & Kuroneko Figures *Preorder* Next, we have these two impossibly moe figures of Kirino and Kuroneko from OreImo, both dressed in classic maid outfits! Too cute!
Kyoko Sakura Nendoroid Figure *Preorder*
Kyoko Sakura Nendoroid Figure *Preorder* And last but not least, here is a great Nendoroid action figure of Kyoko from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Goes great with other Madoka Nendoroids.
Shin Meiki Musou Onahole 2
Shin Meiki Musou Onahole 2 Our newest parody onahole for male stress relief is based on the popular Koihime Musou series of eroge. That makes this a parody of a parody!
Azumi Nyan! Pero Pero Hole  K-On! Azusa Parody Toy
K-On!, Evangelion, AnoHana Onaholes Wow, popular stress toys featuring Azunyan, Anaru from Anohana and Mari from Evangelion. These are all awesome products.
Super Lotion Liquid
Awesome Japanese Lotions Too Personal lotion from Japan is the best in the world, and we've restocked several kinds, including Tenga plus the official (?) lotion of Kuroneko from Oreimo.
Yukkuri Panic: Escalation *Preorder*
'Yuri' Eroge in English We love eroge in English, and we love yuri themes, so we were pretty happy to release this fantastic title. Two games in one!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Japan is Thankful for Chinese Tourists?

A few weeks ago I took some time off to go up to an onsen resort in the mountains with Mrs. J-List. We had fun, enjoying the food and the hot baths and appreciating the beautiful colors of the leaves on the trees. At the hotel, I was surprised to see a sizeable number of tourists from mainland China who had come in with a tour group. Watching them try to communicate with the shop owners (they only knew a few phrases of Japanese) then fumble their way into the Japanese-style bath, unsure of whether they should take their slippers off here or there, my impression was that Americans and Chinese aren't so different when they come to Japan, though one group is better at kanji. Japan is very thankful for these Chinese tourists these days -- while the numbers of visitors from Europe and the U.S. is still depressed compared with before the terrible March 11 earthquake and tsunamis, the numbers for tourists from China have already returned to their pre-quake levels, giving many industries including ski resorts a nice lift (er, sorry for the pun).

Japan's ski resorts are getting a boost from Chinese tourists...and magical girls?

Explaining Anime to Someone

Last year I had a bit of a family reunion in San Diego, and I got to see several family members who I hadn't seen in many years. We were talking about my long sojourn in Japan, and at some point I found myself trying to explain the phenomenon of 'anime' to my older brother who had no knowledge of the subject. Essentially, I told him, anime was a generational movement starting in the late 1970s which was essentially about "freedom" -- the freedom to create a story using the endearing medium of cell animation in which people actually died in dramatic ways instead of bailing out of the plane at the last minute, as they always did in lame 80s cartoons. The popularity of Japanese animation through the 80s and 90s was driven in part by its kakko-ii (cool) themes, such as transforming robots, destroying Tokyo and epic Magical Girl transformations, but it was also because the stories and characters touched viewers emotionally in new ways. It's about bold new ideas which could only exist in 2D form, and loving the art styles of the characters as they constantly evolve and change. Yes, describing something as complex as anime to an outsider was difficult. How would you go about it?

Attempting to explain anime to someone is hard.

J-List EMS Sale Continues

Remember that we've extended our J-List EMS Sale, which lets you order cool products from Japan and have them shipped by the fastest shipping method available, getting money back when you order. You'll get a $15 coupon for an EMS order over $100 (total not counting shipping), or a whopping $40 back for an EMS order of $200 or more, which gives you a great excuse to browse our site now for great Japanese snacks, super Totoro items, Hello Kitty, Touhou, K-On!, and make an order now. We'll run this offer through December 25.

Google + AKB48

As with the rest of the world, the Japanese are increasingly turning to social websites for sharing links and ideas online. While homegrown sharing site Mixi remains the most popular service with 20 million registered users, Facebook is coming on strong, and is the preferred social network in larger cities, where people adopt new ideas more quickly. Twitter is also hugely popular in Japan, likely due to its easy learning curve, and there are 9 million active users currently. When Google launched its Google+ social network here, they knew they had an uphill battle to win over users, especially since most Japanese still prefer Yahoo Japan for web searches, often equating the Yahoo front page with "the Internet." Google was smart, though, and contracted with AKB48 to get all the members on G+. This brought in thousands of new users, though many are likely fake accounts made by obsessive fans looking to inflate the number of followers for the girls they like best. Incidentally J-List is quite active on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, so if you want to follow us and chat about stuff, please do!

Google+ throws down the AKB48 gauntlet..