Friday, April 06, 2012

Japanese Language Observations: Kaminari Edition

In a language as different from English as Japanese is, naturally there are situations where vocabulary words from one language don't match neatly with words from the other. In Japanese the words for "lock" and "key" are both covered by the word kagi, which seems confusing to me, though they have no problem with it. Similarly the word futon describes a traditional sleeping mat as well as the blanket that goes over it. The words for "lightning" and "thunder" are both kaminari, another confusing concept since we have separate words in English -- Japanese might differentiate them with onomatopoeia, using pika! for lightning and goro-goro for thunder. Then there are linguistic concepts covered by one word in English which are split into two in Japanese, like "cold," which is tsumetai when describing coldness to the touch but samui for coldness in the air. No matter what situation a freezing foreigner finds himself in, he will accidentally use the wrong word first...

Both thunder and lightning are kaminari in Japanese.

Buddhism Influences Japanese People and Culture

Although many Japanese will deny having a religion, when all is said and done Japan is a very Buddhist nation. While Buddhism generally features themes like seeking satori (enlightenment) or the cycle of death and rebirth in a new form (rinne), in Japan it's more about remembering one's ancestors with a complex social framework that guarantees no family member will ever be forgotten by their loved ones after they're gone. Buddhism brings with it certain characteristics that sometimes seem strange. For example, there's a well-defined line drawn between humans and animals, the latter being chikusho, pronounced "cheek show" and meaning beast (it's also a common curse word essentially meaning "damn it!"). Because humans and animals are so fundamentally different, the idea of, say, a person being buried with a beloved pet is culturally unthinkable here. One common idea in Japanese Buddhism is migawari, essentially that when a family pet passes away, he's protecting his owners from harm by taking their misfortune onto himself. My wife might say something like, "I'm thankful to Chibi for being our dog, and keeping the humans in the family safe by dying in our place." Statements like this remind me I'm living in a country that's very far from the U.S., in more ways the one.

Buddhism colors Japan in interesting ways.

Random Observations About Japan

There are a few things I've learned about Japan over the years. The Japanese love to pay homage to other countries by building replicas of their famous icons, like Tokyo Tower, a scale replica of the Eifel Tower, or the Statue of Liberty that stands in Tokyo Bay. There's even a replica of the Sphinx located near J-List (it's a pachinko parlor, naturally). For some reason, Japanese seem hard-wired to dislike root beer, saying that it tastes like the muscle cream Salonpas...except in Okinawa, where A&W restaurants outnumber McDonald's two to one. The Japanese never developed a taste for turkey, making it all but impossible to find in Japan...yet there are many restaurants selling basashi, that is, horse, best to not think about that. The Japanese are the politest, most considerate people in the world, which can make it a drag when I travel to countries where the same can't be said of the locals. And yet, the "correct" way to eat ramen and soba noodles in Japan is to slurp them loudly, and Westerners often get amused comments when we eat our noodles too quietly. Finally, some strange things can be considered lucky in Japan, including "poop," since the word for it is unchi, similar to unki meaning "good fortune." Some might argue that the success of the Asahi Beer Company has been a result of the giant golden poop that adorns its corporate headquarters in Tokyo. no doubt bringing in lots of good luck for the company.

If you want to be lucky in Japan, you need a giant golden poop.

Announcing ANISHIRTS.COM, New Licensed Anime T-Shirts from J-List

We have a big announcement today, one that we've been working on for a long time: ANISHIRTS, a new line of anime T-shirts for that are 100% licensed by the original Japanese creators. All shirts will feature gorgeous designs and support the Japanese companies creating the anime you love, yet are printed in San Diego by our professional staff, not mass produced cheaply in Asia. We've got three great new High School of the Dead for moe zombie fans, Haruhi shirts and more. Click here to see the new new anime T-shirts!

Koihime Musou English Eroge Posted for Preorder

We have more good news: Koihime Musou, the smash hit eroge from MangaGamer, will soon be available in a shrinkwrapped package form exclusively from J-List. This fantastic game, which recreates the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms story with cute bishoujo characters, is one of the best games ever released in English. The game will be 100% DRM free, and best of all, it will restore the excellent voice cast in the game which was removed from the initial release due to licensing issues. It's got an all-star voice cast, too, including Norio Wakamoto. Preorder this outstanding game now!

Cool Products Friday, April 6, 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.
Young Ace May 2012
For the latest issues of Fate/Zero, Black Rock Shooter, and dozens of other awesome manga, look no further than Young Ace. You get over 800 pages of top-quality manga from Japan, with full kanji readings for Japanese learners, plus an exclusive Rei Ayanami figure and an ultra-manly Fate/Zero poster. Awesome magazines like this always sell out fast, so don't delay if you want a copy!
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Otomate Magazine
Otomate Magazine For fans of otome games, here's a wonderful new magazine full of hot guys from recent and upcoming games like Hakuoki and Hiiro no Kakera.
Nakayoshi May 2012
Nakayoshi May 2012 Nakayoshi is Japan's best magazine for cute shoujo manga like Precure and AKB0048. Grab the latest issue and get a free kawaii stationery set!
Potechi no Te Nano -- The Potato Chip Hand
Potechi no Te Nano ~ The Potato Chip Hand Woah! Japanese innovation never ceases to amaze us, especially with their potato chip grabbing technology.
SHOXX May 2012 vol. 231
Fun Magazines Posted New hobby magazines in stock. Try SHOXX if you're into Japan's outrageous hard rock scene, and Drift Tengoku for fans of drift racing a la Initial D.
Kuttari Mamegoma Ball Plush -- White
Kuttari Mamegoma Ball Plush ~ White, Pink and Blue These little things are so cute, they should be outlawed. Get your hands on these adorable plushies from Japan.
Manekko Peechan -- Romantic Blue
Manekko Peechan Talking Bird Toys These are great: robot birds that hear what you say, remember, and repeat it, just like real birds. Check out the great TV commercial too!
AIR  Memorial Edition
AIR ~ Memorial Edition  Experience the magic of this celebrated visual novel from Key, now available in an all-ages version with full support for Windows Vista and 7.
Sayaka Miki Figma Action Figure
Sayaka Miki Figma Action Figure Madoka Magica fans should not let this Sayaka action figure pass them by, or they'll be saying, "I really am an idiot" (Sayaka's trademark line).
Black Shirt and Border Setup
Today's Restocked Fashion Items You'll find at we have a huge selection of great fashion items, perfect for those who are in love with Japanese fashion and trends, newly stocked.
Anime Eyes Glasses
Anime Eyes Glasses, Fun Cosplay Items Restocked Yes. You can live your dream of being an anime character. Great for parties, walks in the park or for the added level of otaku when watching anime.
Anime T-Shirt -- H.O.T.D.
We're very happy to announce our partnership with Anishirts, a new brand that proudly produces stylish and fully licensed anime T-Shirts in the USA. Expect to see a lot of great products from this brand in the near future. For now, check out these fabulous Haruhi and High School of the Dead shirts that we know you will love.
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Sweet Chocolatetier
Fun Chocolate Molds Restocked The fun deluxe Sweet Chocolatier mold set is restocked (for now), along with other fun ways of shaping chocolate in interesting ways.
Star Wars Silicon Tray -- Han Solo In Carbonite
Star Wars Silicon Ice Cube Trays Restocked These awesome Star Wars silicon molds are selling fast! Now restocked, so grab a few and start making Han Solo ice cubes (or...chocolate?).
Electric Takoyaki Maker
Fun Takoyaki Makers from Japan We love delicious takoyaki octopus balls, the favorite snack of Osakans. Make your own takoyaki with these easy-to-use tools.
YATAGARASU  Lucky 3 Legs Crow Ear Cleaner
Awesome Japanese Ear Cleaners Restocked If you haven't had the pleasure of a good Japanese ear cleaning, then try one of our fabulous mimikaki ear picks. Now restocked in several styles.
Coris Hora Dekita Chocolate Banan Soft Candy (Set of 3)
Great New Japanese Snacks Today Fake bananas they may be, but their taste rivals that of real bananas dipped in chocolate sauce. Plus you'll find many other wacky goodies too.
Morinaga Sweet Potato Caramel
Nice Restocked Japanese Snacks See Okinawa-limited Hi-Chew and more, Sushi Candy, Gift Wrapped Green Tea Chocolate, Ninja Food that makes you smart, One Piece Gummies, and Choco Banana, yum.
Rilakkuma Tight Sealed Bento Box  Paris Travel
Rilakkuma Tight Sealed Bento Box ~ Paris Travel To add to our bento box collection, and just in time for bonus points, is this very cute Rilakkuma tight sealing bento box. Awesome.
GLIT  BRILLIA  Green 2-Tier Bento Box
GLIT & BRILLIA Green 2-Tier Bento Box And for those who like to keep their lifestyles a bit more simplistic and clutter free, we've got some amazing modern bento boxes available now too.
Evangelion  Logos Stainless Nerv Officer's Meal Tray
Evangelion & Logos Meal Tray, Bento & More From the great series Evangelion comes this collection of dishware and accessories we're very happy to be carrying. Designed for NERV officers.
Deluxe Brown Natural Wooden Wappa 2 Tier Bento Box
Restocked Traditional Bento Boxes We have some interesting traditional bento boxes restocked too, since nothing touches the soul of Japan like a handmade wooden lacquered bento box.
PITTARI  Panda Sandwich Case
Nobody Makes Cute Sandwiches Like Japan There's no sandwich like a Japanese sandwich, and we've restocked our sandwich makers which make your lunch kawaii. Highly recommended.
Ramen Microwave Bowl
Ramen Microwave Bowl, Other Kitchen Items Make ramen fast with our popular Ramen Microwave Bowl, so excellent for university students. Also, Seaweed Punch for bento, miso soup bowls and more.
Kawaii Onigiri Kitchen Sponge
Cute Sponge Overload Then see fresh stock of our Irresistibly Cute Japanese Sponges, and other kawaii items for your kitchen.
Green Silicon Cooking Chopsticks w/ Mini Spoon  Fork
Silicon Cooking Mini Spoon & Fork Chopsticks Sometimes you need a fork, a spoon, or chopsticks. We like these new products that combine all three, plus we have "normal" utensils too.
MANGAN-SENJU  BUCIH Cat Happy Message Mini Display
Miniature Lucky Cat Figures, More See fresh stock of the Lucky Cat ceramic figurines w/kanji messages on them, a "Ninja" ear cleaner, washi traditional dolls and more.
Inori Yuzuriha Figma Action Figure  Guilty Crown **Preorder**
Inori Figma and Nendoroid - Guilty Crown *Preorder* Inori from Guilty Crown is one of the most beautiful characters we've ever seen. Have her all to yourself with these cute and posable action figures.
TIGER  BUNNY Styling Box Set of 4 *Preorder*
Tiger & Bunny Preorder Figures and More Lots of cool new Tiger & Bunny figures are up for preorder, including a plastic model kit and a set of miniatures. Plus, an action figure for fans of Dunbine!
Black Rock Shooter Mobile Phone Carrying Case **Preorder**
Black Rock Shooter Phone Case, Sonico Cushion For moe, we have an nosebleed-inducing cushion featuring art of the sexy Super Sonico, plus a very cool Black Rock Shooter cellphone carrying case.
Wonder Girl -- Yuu Asakura
Wonder Girl ~ Yuu Asakura Every page of this extravagant photobook shows off the erotically gorgeous Yuu Akakura, in what could be one of the best nude art books of the year.
Toshihide Sano G.J? Artworks
Toshihide Sano G.J? Artworks Toshihide Sano has been drawing sexy women for over a decade, and now you can own an album of his best work. Plus, never-before-seen original art!
PRETTY GIRL Excellent Personal Vibrator Made by girls for girls, this toy was is made from Japanese innovation to give pleasure in the perfect places for a woman.
Restocked Onahole + Pantsu Toys Bring a bit of daring and newness to your life this spring and try something new, like one of our Japanese 'relaxation' toys, or always appealing shimapan.
Puru Puru Oppai Finale
Our Most Popular 'Oppai' Toys Restocked The Oppai onahole is back, one of the most amazing inventions for self-pleasure ever. Also see our popular Puru Puru Oppai Finale for fans of "Mami" (heh).
Sweat Scent of School Girl  Fashionable Girl
Amazing Lotions & More Restocked Then enjoy fresh stock of the Sweat Scent of Japanese Girls, great for love doll play and more, plus Pure Oil Lotion for guys, girls and traps?
Koihime Musou *Preorder*
The best-selling visual novel from MangaGamer is now available in package form with full voices and zero DRM! Build a harem of over 20 moefied Chinese heroes, each with her own unique and endearing personality. Features cute art, an awesome voice cast, and a multi-branching story of fun and romance in the Three Kingdoms period.
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Love, Election  Chocolate.  Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate Memorial Package
Love, Election & Chocolate ~ Memorial Package One of 2010's best moe games is back in a deluxe edition with tons of special features. Get ready for the upcoming anime with the KoiChoco memorial package.
Little Busters!
Restocked Import Eroge from Japan Enjoy excellent import H-games, like Little Busters, Love Girl, Koi Kishi ~ Purely Knights, and Kamidori Alchemy Meister.
AKA YATU R  Evangelion Parody CG Doujin Movie
AKA YATU R ~ Evangelion Parody CG Doujin Movie Fabulous new doujin CG movie that involves what many fans have fantasized about between Asuka and Shinji.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Exploring Japanese Obsessions

The word otaku has come to represent fans of anime, manga and 2D gaming culture, but the word is a lot more versitile and can be used for any kind of obsession a given person might subscribe to. There are female perfume otakus who travel the world world collecting rare fragrances, military otakus who engage in war games with their friends, "bus otakus" who love riding in decommissioned busses from the Showa Period, female history otakus (rekijo) who blur the line between history and pop culture, and RC otakus like the guy in my neighborhood who's flown RC planes in a nearby field every Sunday...for more than 15 years now. Having so many trains, Japan naturally has its share of densha otaku (railfans), and when I was an English teacher I had students who would tell me about their dream of riding such-and-such train line in some obscure part of Japan someday. A few weeks ago I wrote about Japanese traffic signals, and in the course of googling up some art I discovered there are "traffic signal otaku" in Japan, who delight in taking pictures of bizarre or interesting traffic lights and sharing them with others.

This image is porn to a Japanese traffic signal otaku.

Faithful Hachiko, the Most Loyal Dog in Japan

Do you know the story of Japan's most famous dog? His name was Hachi, an Akita dog owned by a university professor in the 1920s in Tokyo. Every day, Hachi accompanied the professor to Shibuya Station, and in the evenings, the man would find the dog waiting there faithfully for his return. This continued for years, until one day the man died suddenly while away from home. Loyal Hachi waited for his master to return for nine years, wagging his tail in front of the station every afternoon until he, too, eventually died. Tokyo residents erected a bronze statue in Hachi's memory, which would forever represent the loyalty of the dog in the minds of the people, er, until it had to be melted down for ammunition during World War II. But the statue was replaced after the war ended, and visited by none other than Helen Keller, a great lover of the Akita breed. Mrs. J-List and I recently watched the U.S. remake of the film about Hachi, and thought it was really well done -- we recommend you check it out. If you want to wear a really cool image of this "Japanese Soul Dog," we've got a great Hachiko T-shirt you might want to see.
(The image below is my attempt at creating "moe Hachiko." Why are there are no anime series or games about a dog-dog who is waiting, waiting for something, and we find that she's the spirit of Hachi?)

Faithful Hachiko, the most loyal dog in Japan

Nestle and Japanese Kit Kat

While many international companies have found success in Japan, including AFLAC, Michelin, Jack Daniels and Harley-Davidson, few have done as well as Nestle. One of the first foreign companies to invest here -- Nestle Japan opened in 1913, and will celebrate their 100 year anniversary next year -- the company has flourished, bringing its many products to Japanese consumers. We love the company because of the amazing Japanese Kit Kat flavors they make, from Sakura Green Tea to Strawberry Tart to limited flavors from various regions of Japan like Shizuoka Wasabi and Yokohama Strawberry Cheesecake. The company has gone out of their way to help Japan get back on her feet since last year's disaster, including creating limited-edition products to promote the rebuilding of the Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture, badly damaged in the tsunamis, and making the new Kit Kat World Variety sampler bag which lets you try versions of chocolate cookie goodness from Japan, Australia and the U.K., with 20 yen donated to the recovery of the Tohoku area. In case you're wondering why Japanese Kit Kat is so different from what's available in the U.S., it's because American Kit Kat is made under license by Hershey, not Nestle, and is a totally separate product.

Nestle's products have a long history in Japan.

We Love Popin' Cookin' and Happy Kitchen from Kracie

One thing we do at J-List is watch what keywords customers search for on the J-List and websites, which lets us see what products our customer are looking for and respond when some wacky new things from Japan goes viral. Last the searches for Popin' Cookin' Oekaki Gummy, a fun interactive candy that lets you create works of art with gummy, mixing colors to create the most amazing treats. Other popular Kracie products include Popin' Cookin' Sushi Candy, Happy Kitchen Hamburger and the Neru Neru Nerune line of weird-but-delicious gummy mix you make yourself.

J-List's Easter Tenga Egg and Bento Sale Reminder

Remember, to celebrate the Season of the Sakura, J-List is having a great sale on our entire selection of awesome bento boxes from Japan. There's nothing quite like having a picnic with bento in the Spring, and J-List gives you a great reason to browse our entire selection of bento boxes and grab one now. Of course we're continuing our EMS shipping sale -- get $10 off a $100 order, or $25 off $200 or more when you order from Japan with EMS. We have other products for Easter too: Our popular "Bunnies" eroge set has been reduced by $10, and we're having a sale on Tenga Eggs too.