Friday, January 20, 2012

Changing for Foreigners Living in Japan

Some good news for foreigners living in Japan: a new Alien Registration System is coming which will make it easier for gaijin residents here. The new system has several new benefits, the most welcome being the elimination of the "reentry stamp" system, a $60 official stamp foreigners had to get in their passports if they wanted to be able to re-enter the country after going abroad, which was both inconvenient and potentially a big problem since it was easy to find yourself with an expired stamp suddenly. (We refer to it as the "gaijin tax" usually.) Since the problem of Japan's declining population is only going to get worse -- this year the number of "new adults" turning 20 years old was just 1.2 million, exactly half the peak of 2.4 million back in 1970 -- I believe the country should take real steps to encourage people to immigrate to Japan permanently. Just to be clear, I'm not knocking the treatment foreigners in Japan receive currently, as I know that we gaijin have it better here than foreigners in almost every other country. But making changes that make it easier for foreigners to live easily in Japan, like getting rid of that annoying re-entry stamp system, is a positive step forward in my book.

This is the current Alien Registration Card, which will be renewed soon.

How to find Good Food in Japan

Yesterday I went to Akihabara on business, which is always more fun than sitting behind a computer screen at the J-List World HQ. I arrived near lunchtime and decided to find something to eat, though Akiba is not exactly known for its broad selection of quality food choices, being a "Mecca" for electronics and otaku culture rather than cuisine. I spied a small curry shop with a queue of customers in front, and decided to go there, since a restaurant with customers lining up to eat is the sign of good food in Japan. Yes, something about the Japanese people -- their kokumin-sei or "national character" which I wrote about a couple updates ago -- makes them more than happy to wait in line for food, and J-List's manga, artbook and magazine buyer Yasu once told me, "If I don't need to wait in line, I don't want to eat it." There are a lot of food-related shows on Japanese TV, some of which do nothing but seek out restaurants with lines of customers in front and find out what makes the food so good.

When looking for good food, look for a line of waiting customers.

Japanese Cultural Icons Around the World

It's funny the way some Japanese cultural icons spread to the outside world, eventually becoming famous symbols of Japan. Growing up I remember being aware of the Three Wise Monkeys ("See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"), which I eventually learned came from a 17th century woodcarving at a famous temple in Nikko, probably entering our cultural consciousness during the Allied Occupation. Other well-known images include the Japanese torii arch, teru teru bozu dolls children hang by the window to wish for good weather tomorrow, origami cranes, and those disturbing tanuki raccoon dog statues with certain exaggerated features. Another famous image of Japan is Lucky Cat, those statues of cats with a paw raised, which is a friendly gesture meaning "Come in!" In Japanese they're called maneki neko ("inviting cat") since they're thought to invite good luck into your home or business, and companies like J-List will often display one next to a Daruma doll to help our business grow. No one is sure where they originated from, but according to one legend, back during the Edo Period a wealthy lord was taking shelter from a storm under a tree near a Buddhist temple. A cat belonging to the temple priest beckoned for the man to come near, and the moment the man moved away from the tree, lightning stuck -- the cat had saved him. The lord lavished many gifts on the temple in thanks, and when the cat died, the first Lucky Cat statues were carved in his honor.

Japanese cultural images are famous all over the world.

Cool Products Friday, January 20, 2012

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.
Star Wars Umbrella -- Darth Vader (Red)
Keep a young padawan's head dry on a rainy day with one of these official Star Wars umbrellas from Japan. Show off your choice of Lightsaber: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Yoda -- with details down to the hilt design and saber color. Yet another fun product from Japan to delight us.
View products »
Hobby Japan Feb 2012
Hobby Japan Feb 2012 The latest issue of Hobby Japan will have you drooling with page after page of awesome mecha models and beautiful bishoujo figures.
Comic Yuri Hime Mar 2012
Comic Yuri Hime Mar 2012 Yuri fans will want to grab the new issue of Comic Yuri Hime, packed with sweet and sentimental manga about cute girls in love with each other.
Astarotte Ygvar 1/8 Figure 'Gu to Kuru' Collection  Astarotte no Omocha!
Gorgeous Anime Figures In Stock Check out our latest kawaii figures to come in stock, Astarotte Ygvar from Astarotte no Omocha and a Taiga Aisaka Nendoroid from Toradora.
Kyubey Playing Card  Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Kyubey Playing Cards Keep your games of poker honest with these cards featuring the ever-truthful Kyubey. All cards sport beautiful art of the Madoka Magica characters.
Nyanpire Nekomimi Hat
Nyanpire Nekomimi Hats, Gloves Restocked Great news for all our Nyanpire fans! We've restocked our adorable nekomimi hats and gloves, just the thing to stay warm and kawaii this winter.
Doki Doki Nyan Egg NEKO TAMAGO  Tora
Doki Doki Nyan Egg NEKO TAMAGO Restocked Nyan! -- we love cute neko cats, especially when we can take them home. Enjoy our selection of soft, plushy cat toys.
Tiger Eye  Black Onyx Magnetic Bracelet
Tiger Eye & Black Onyx Magnetic Bracelet Give a better flow to your body's energy by using this magnetic bracelet, designed with elegant "power stones."
Neko Mimi Cat Ear and Tails set  Black
Neko Mimi Cat Ears, Striped Knee Socks Make your costume complete, or just play around the house, as a kawaii cat girl with this awesome cosplay accessory set.
Me-me Danshi - Girly Boys
Me-me Danshi - Girly Boys Prepare to be awestruck by the beauty of these eight boys, who thanks to the magic of makeup and fashion look just like ultra-kawaii girls.
How To Draw Manga Character Posing Book  Onnanoko no Karada Hen
How To Draw Manga Character Posing Book Whether you want to learn to draw like a professional manga artist or just look at Japanese girls making poses in their underwear, these books can help.
Kanji Wall Poster
The ultimate took to help keep you motivated for studying Japanese, this is an awesome poster with every kanji you'll ever need to learn. This is truly an awesome achievement, with all the kanji you need to learn in order to be considered literate, and it's coated with glossy plastic so it'll last for years.
View products »
iTunes Japan Music Card
iTunes Japan Prepaid Music Cards You can find awesome songs on iTunes Japan, like the new Hatsune Miku hit single or the newest single by Mizuki Nana.
Dr. Ion Stylish iPhone Case
Dr. Ion Stylish iPhone Case  We have a lot of fun iPhone cases from Japan, and one we like is this sturdy case from Dr. Ion, with a carabiner and everything.
SUMIGAKI   Black Tooth Paste with Charcoal Essence
Charcoal, Green Tea Toothpaste & More Get your teeth sparkling clean with the power of natural charcoal (it works!), plus other restocked health items from Japan.
Parody Blackboard Eraser Cellphone Screen Cleaner Strap
Fun Phone Straps Restocked The Japanese love to attach phone straps (also known as netsuke) to their phones, and we carry a lot of these fun items.
Totoro Nap Pillow  40cm x 22cm Oak -- Brown
Totoro Nap Pillow Restocked Imagine the dreams you will have with the Totoro Nap Pillow that we've restocked today -- it's just perfect for using on a lazy afternoon.
Hello Kitty Onigiri Decorate Set
Hello Kitty & Other Bento Accessories Nothing can make us smile like a really kawaii Hello Kitty bento box, and we've restocked some fun items today!
New Real Origami with English Instruction  Lucky Charms   Lucky Cat  Daruma  Fan  Tai  Otafuku
Japan's most widely known art form, origami, is more than just making cranes. Here's a great origami set for creating some of the most famous images of Japan in paper form, including Lucky Cat, Daruma, a carp of good luck, and two Japanese dolls. Plus it comes with instructions in English, very helpful!
View products »
Glico Cratz Fondu Chicken Gratin Set of 3
Glico Cratz Fondu Chicken Gratin Set of 3 Enjoy some crazy snacks from Japan, like these new Chicken Fondu Cratz or Chocolate Medicine, plus tons of restocked deliciousness.
Meiji Pokemon Assort
Big Restocking of J-Snacks Enjoy Pokemon Assort Candy, Ramune Candy, Takoyaki Puff Snacks from FritoLay Japan, Sake Candy, Japan Kit Kat, Super Ramune Shigekix and more!
My Melody Face Bento Box
My Melody Face Bento Box So kawaii, My Melody is the cool bunny character from Sanrio, this time with her own bento box.
Blue Rabbit x Moon Bento Box Set  Square 2 tier Bento Box  Chopsticks  Bento Bag
Great Traditional Bento Boxes Restocked Also, some of our most elegant traditional bento boxes are restocked, including the Blue Rabbit x Moon bento (both colors).
GLIT  BRILLIA  Mini Tight 3 Boxes Set
GLIT & BRILLIA Bento Products Restocked We've got some very stylish bento boxes available too, like these modern ones from GLIT & BRILLIA.
Home Made Kawaii TAIYAKI Mold w/ microwave
Home Made Kawaii TAIYAKI Mold w/ microwave Easily make delicious, bite-sized Taiyaki (fish shaped pastries) using your microwave, thanks to this great kitchen item. Such a great idea!
Dream Land Egg Shaper
Awesome Egg Shapers from Japan Also: the epic Dream Land Egg Shaper is restocked, great for fans of amazing eggs in unique shapes. The Japanese are into that.
The Kihon 200 - The Basics Recipes
Restocked Japanese Cookbooks Too The 200 basic recipes of Japanese cuisine are detailed in this great new recipe book - all you need is here! A great Japanese cookbook.
FRIXION Ballpoint Pen 3 Colors   Magical Erasable Ball Point Pen / Black
Magical Erasable Ball Point Pens FRIXION pens are remarkable, using special magic ink the "erases" when exposed to heat, like a rubbing motion or fire-breathing dragon.
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.
Basic Kanji Drill New -- 1st Grade
Kanji Drill Workbooks We always have fun Japanese study tools, and today we're restocking the Basic Kanji Drill series. Study the way Japanese children do.
The Ghost in the Shell -- Bilingual comic
Bilingual Manga Restocked We've gotten the bilingual Ghost in the Shell manga -- which features all the content cut from the U.S. release. Also: more Oreimo!
Fujin  Raijin Lucky Cat Display
Restocked Traditional Items See fun Lucky Cat products restocked, including the Nyan-Pon Phone Strap Netsuke figures, plus many other traditional items from Japan.
Alien Big Chap Chopsticks *Preorder*
Alien, Face Hugger, Chest Burster Chopsticks? Woah, these are so cool! Enjoy your next meal with these Alien inspired chopsticks. Great for everyday use or themed parties. Preorder now.
Miho Azuki Nendoroid Figure  BAKUMAN *Preorder*
New BAKUMAN, Charlotte Figures *Preorder* More great bishoujo figures up for preorder. Check out the adorable Miho Nendoroid from Bakuman and the sexy Charlotte from Infinite Stratos.
Persona4 One Coin Grande Figure Collection Nomal ver. Set of 8 *Preorder*
Persona 4 Figure Collection Set of 8 *Preorder* Grab a whole set of chibi figures featuring all your favorite characters from Persona 4. Comes in two versions -- with glasses and without. So totally cute.
galgoog  Koji Tabe illustrations
Galgoog ~ Koji Tabe illustrations We love the art of Koji Tabe, whose manga Trance Girls is hugely popular on J-List. Check out this full-color collection of his sexy gyaru artwork.
Puru Puru Oppai Finale
Puru Puru Oppai Finale We love Japan for being so innovative when it comes to the ero products. Get a paizuri with this stress relieving wonder.
 Hana Parody Toy
Restocked Anime-Themed Onaholes, Lotion Then see the most innovative oppai toy ever, products that allow you to experience your favorite anime characters both ways, plus more lotion for otaku.
Panchira Office Lady -- Usual Panty with the Scent of Office Lady  White M
Panchira Office Lady ~ Scented OL Pantsu For yourself or your friend, see our restocked OL underwear, already scented with the perfume of a Japanese office lady. Another quality product from Tamatoys.
Dendrobium Sisters Viole 1/6 Figure Creator's Labo CL030 **Preorder**
Dendrobium Sisters Viole Figure In Stock Take a look at this super-sexy figure based on the voluptuous Viole from Dendrobium. The proportions on this girl are mind-blowing. Wow!
Dies irae  Acta est Fabula
Dies irae ~ Acta est Fabula Fight to save the world from superpowered Nazis in this epic visual novel. Great for fans of incantations, gratuitous German, and insane power levels.
Edelweiss Deluxe Set *Preorder*
Today's Top English Eroge Titles Check out the hottest "H" game titles available, like Edelweiss Deluxe, My Girlfriend is the President, and Da Capo 2, plus many others.

Edelweiss Deluxe is in stock!

As we mentioned last time, two outstanding games from MangaGamer are in stock now. One of them is Edelweiss Deluxe Set, a great game about a school on an exotic island that teaches students the secrets of alchemy. When Kazushi and his friends arrive, they're overjoyed to find that all the students are female, and extremely cute. The game features an updated translation with additional routes, and the all MangaGamer package editions are 100% DRM and activation free. Click to see the new MangaGamer titles now!

iTunes Japan Cards, for Anime Songs, JPOP And More

The newest single by virtual singer Hatsune Miku has reached the #1 slot on iTunes Japan, causing fans . Remember that you can find the best anime songs, JPOP and more, for example the fabulous songs of Mizuki Nana or Megumi Hayashibara, all the new K-On! songs and much more. The iTunes Japan cards J-List sells are easy to use, and compatible with all iTunes/iPhone/iPod/iPad systems anywhere in the world, working seamlessly alongside your current account. So why not pick up a 3000 yen iTunes Japan card today?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Space Saving in Japan

Japan is a small country, which has to fit slightly less than half the population of the U.S. into an area just 1/25th the size. This makes it important for people to use less space, and you can see many ways in which the Japanese go about doing this in their cities. First, many businesses such as family restaurants or electronics retailers are built up high, with the ground level clear for cars to park, which saves a lot of space. Houses with business built into them are quite common in Japan, like Seven-Eleven convenience stores with apartments above for the manager to live in, or my own house, which contains the small liquor shop that my wife's family has operated for fifty years. Gas stations need to save space, too, and many have their pumps located in the roof, with hoses that can be dropped down from above, allowing for more space for cars waiting to be refueled. For parking a lot of cars in a small area, the Japanese have automated car storage systems (essentially "car elevators") that will whisk your car away and store it while you shop, then return it to you when you insert your parking stub. Of course, building up always gives you more room with work with, but it's not always possible to do that in earthquake-prone Japan, which puts extra pressure on engineers to come up with ways of doing more with less space.

A Japanese gas station with hoses that come down from the ceiling, saving space.

All About Japanese Name Suffixes

Last time I wrote about how the name a person calls another says a lot about their relationship, whether they use the person's family name with an honorific name prefix like -san (indicating distance or formality) or boldly call them by their first name, like Haruhi does to Mikuru despite Mikuru being a year older than her. Since Japan's complex system of name endings can be complex, I thought I'd go over them them for you.
The "basic" name suffix that everyone has heard of. It is polite, and is used to create some distance between the person you're speaking with. Can be used with the family name (e.g. Fujita-san), and also with the first name (Tomo-san) to show politeness while also showing some familiarity.
Used when addressing females you're close to, and female children. Always used with the first name, e.g. Kana-chan. Pronounced with a long "ah" vowel sound as in "Khan," not short as in "plan." Also used for family members of any sex (e.g. oniichan as a term of endearment for one's older brother). Males adding -chan to female names in workplace settings is frowned upon as rude.
Usually used for male acquaintances, though in some settings it can be used for females, such as the military or university campuses. Fun fact: the second syllable of the word "tycoon" is this word, from an archaic title for the Shogun of Japan.
A term of formality and respect. A good example of a word you'll hear in anime all the time which is never used in modern spoken Japanese, though it comes up in formal written Japanese.
A name suffix and general term for an upperclassman in a school or senior in a company. The opposite is kohai, though this is never used as a name suffix when addressing people.
A term of respect for teachers, also used with politicians, attorneys Literally means "born before me."

Called yobisute (lit. "throwing a name away"), using a person's given name without anything on the end is done between close friends or dating couples. I once caused confusion by talking to the mother of a female student of mine, and since I used the girl's first name, the mother thought I was involved with her daughter. Awkward!
In Japan, virtually everyone from Brad Pitt and Arnold Schwarzenegger get cute little names attached to them, and many characters in anime stress out if they're not being called by some cute unique name by their friends. My own nickname is "P-Chan," a name I inhered from an old cat we had, not from where you'd probably expect.

Haruhi fails to show respect to her senpai, Mikuru, but it's okay because she's God.

All About "Maru" (Circle) in Japan

The current anime season in Japan continues to impress with its great lineup, which forces me to reschedule other activities in order to keep up with all the shows. We've got an outstanding "moe horror" tale (Another), a sequel to Bakemonogatari (Nisemonogatari), plus what appears to be the marriage of AnoHana and Please Teacher, called Ano Natsu de Matteru (aka Waiting in the Summer), which I'm a big fan of. Another breakout show has been Rinne no Lagrange, the story of a cheerful girl named Madoka (no, not that Madoka) who likes helping people and, this being Japan and all, piloting a giant robot. There's a strange gesture she makes whenever she does something good, drawing a circle in the air with her finger. This is called maru (no, not that Maru), Japanese for "circle," and to the Japanese it means "good," "correct" or "yes." It's actually a potential source of confusion, since circles have no deep cultural meaning in the West, and the first time I got a test back in Japanese class with red circles drawn all over it I thought I'd done terribly...but of course circles indicate correct answers. The Japanese maru causes confusion when playing Japanese PS3 or PSP games since the function of ⚪ and ✕ are reversed (the first one is "yes" to the Japanese while the second is "execute" to us). Similarly, our American coffee maker vexes new Japanese employees, who see a 1 and a 0 by the power switch and assume the latter is the "on" position.

A circle (maru) means "good" or "correct."