J-List blog

The official Japan blog archive of J-List

  • How the Japanese View America, and a New "Ecchi" Meme

    December is now here, and we've got great news: a huge 50% Off Shipping Sale! For one week, through December 8, get half off your shipping, whether SAL, airmail or EMS! Think of all the awesome figures, plush toys, snack and "H" products you could buy! (Choose EMS for delivery by Christmas.)

    You never know what random meme is going to come out of Japan next. One day Pixiv artists will suddenly decide to start drawing characters wearing Open-Chested Turtleneck Sweaters or Cat Keyhole Lingerie, and the next, they're posting pictures of busty anime characters trying (or failing) the Tawawa Challenge, which is girls attempting to rest their cell phones on their cleavage. The newest trend to explode out of Japan is called the One Finger Selfie Challenge (mildly NSFW), which involves taking a nude selfie in a mirror while somehow hiding all of their naughty bits with a carefully placed finger. This new trend from Japan might just be the best thing to come out of 2016 so far (though the bar is admittedly low).

    Last time we explored some stereotypes some of us may have about Japan, so today I thought I'd write about the stereotypes Japanese can have about America, and Westerners in general. First, Japanese are positive that all of us have gloriously "high" (large, well-shaped) noses even when we don't, and that we're all tall, even when we're not. They're also positive that every Westerner is blond, even half-Japanese girls from Britain, and seem culturally unable to see that the girls in the "blond girl" JAV that are so popular have hair of other colors, too. They like to think that America is totally "free" from restrictive social rules (which is certainly not the case), and also that Americans always "say exactly what they think" without engaging in any editing depending on "T.P.O.," a made-in-Japan acronym that means time, place, occasion. Because 80% of meals in Japan are eaten with a side dish of white rice, Japanese think we eat every meal with a big basket of bread. Americans are famous for being アバウト ("about"), a term the Japanese use to mean imprecise and relaxed, and my wife has come to understand that when I say I'll be home in 10 minutes I really mean an hour and a half. Finally, they're quite blown away by the sprawling size of America (25x the land area of Japan), and love the image of hitchhiking along sprawling lonely roads in the desert.

    Now is the best time to buy awesome products from Japan, during our week-long Half Price Shipping Sale. For one week only, your shipping will be cut in half, whether you choose SAL, Airmail or EMS! $40 minimum order, but no other limitations. What will you buy this week?

  • J-List Reader Questions about Japanese Stereotypes Answered

    We're all human, and are naturally susceptible to having partially incorrect stereotypes about a far-off country like Japan. As I do from time to time, I asked the users of J-List's Facebook page to tell me some of the stereotypical views they have about Japan. Here are some of the responses I got.

    Every car in Japan is an awesome performance machine.

    J-List is based in Gunma, the setting for Initial D, and there certainly are a lot of awesome cars on the road. But as this picture of the parking lot outside my gym shows, most are boring sedans or fuel-efficient "kei" cars with super-small engines.

    Japan's pop-culture only revolves around anime and video games.

    When observing Japan from afar, it's good to remember that were viewing it through the "lens of the Internet" which tends to show us more of some things (say, modern otaku culture) and less of other things (say, historical dramas, which are less accessible to us). So the image we see is skewed. For example, Turkish and Egyptian bellydancing is growing in popularity in Japan, and my wife and I have been attending performances in Tokyo and Gunma. But you probably haven't heard anything about bellydancing in Japan because it's not the kind of thing that would explode on the Internet like a terrifying bear from Kumamoto.

    Japan is a country of perverts.

    It certainly seems that way, in part for the same reasons as the response above -- we hear more about the "naughty" aspects of Japan than more boring subjects. On the other hand, many young Japanese today either aren't interested in relationships the opposite sex, or would like to have a boyfriend/girlfriend but have other priorities.

    There are lots of vending machines in Japan, including panty vending machines.

    True there are millions of vending machines in Japan, one for every 23 Japanese people actually. 99.9% of what you hear about panty vending machines is urban legend though.

    Every girl is flat-chested in Japan.

    Shunka Ayami and Hitomi Tanaka might disagree with you.

    Japanese eat noisily. 

    Ah, yes, that's accurate. You're supposed to slurp certain foods like noodles, and if you eat them quietly, as most Westerners do, you'll get comments on how quiet you are.

    In Japan, men and women bathe together.

    While mixed bathing used to be common, unfortunately it's extremely rare now. I've literally found only one mixed bathing bath in all my years in Japan, and I've been looking, trust me. These days it's common for hot springs to have a private "family bath" that families can rent and bathe together in privacy.

    Japanese are usually bad at "Engrish."

    This one is true. To most Japanese, English is something you study in preparation for your college entrance exams, then forget. While there's more than a little funny English in anime, most of the hilariously translated signs you see online are from China, not Japan.

    Japanese are racist/xenophobic.

    This is certainly not the case. While Japan having a very homogenous population changes the social dynamics for some foreigners (if I visited Paris for Moscow, I wouldn't stick out like I do in Tokyo) they're certainly not racist or xenophobic about outsiders. Japan is currently undergoing a huge boom in tourism, and Japan is bending over backwards to make everyone feel welcome here. So plan a trip to Japan if you can!

    Japan has the highest suicide rate in the world.

    While it's true that suicide is a problem in Japan, the country isn't even in the top ten in terms of suicides per 100,000 people, ranking well below countries like South Korea and Lithuania. (Japan is #17 on the list.) The suicide rate has fallen over the past few years.

    Are there really light beams and steam that prevent you from seeing naughty stuff?

    This is true. No knows why it happens.

    Sony, Aiwa and Toshiba are a few stereo types. Hitachi is my favorite.

    Smug anime face

    Every year J-List carries all the best anime, traditional, part, and sexy calendars from Japan for customers all over the world, and this year's calendars are the best ever. We've just got in awesome calendars by artists like Kantoku and Coffee Kizoku. All our stock of these calendars are in now, and no more restocking can be done, so order the calendars you want now!

  • All About "Ero" Voice Actors, and a Beach in the Center of Japan

    I'm a big fan of Japan's professional seiyu, the voice actors that make anime and games so much fun. Of course, seiyu do more than just voices for anime, and I love it whenever I notice that the dubbed voice in some American crime drama my wife is watching is voice actor I recognize. Once my son and I were watching a documentary about seals on Prince Edward Island in Canada, and we realized the narrator was the voice of Amuro from Mobile Suit Gundam, so we spent the rest of the show making Gundam quotes. Though many top ranked seiyu never work on "naughty" visual novels like we publish, it's not uncommon for some to do ero under a different stage name. Sometimes we're not allowed to tell our customers when famous VAs are in our game. *cough* Norio Wakamoto is in Family Project *cough*. What a shame I can't tell you about that.

    J-List is located in Gunma Prefecture, in the exact center of Japan's main island of Honshu. This means we're as far from the sea as you can get, which was nice during the earthquakes and tsunamis of 3.11.11, but not so good when you want really fresh sushi. Although we're far from the ocean, I was nevertheless able to go to the beach without leaving the immediate area over the weekend, thanks to an outdoor pool called Caribbean Beach, which recreates (sort of) a pleasant beach experience for residents of our landlocked prefecture. You may have seen this pool yourself, since it was used in an episode of I Have Few Friends: Gunma is often used as locations for anime because we're close enough that staff can do "location hunting" without going too far from Tokyo. Japan is very technologically advanced, and all electricity for the pool is generated at a trash burning facility located next door, which creates energy from trash then captures 99% of the bad gasses that are released.

    We're continuing our huge Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale, helping you score the awesome products from Japan you want to give this year. Through the end of Monday, California time, get up to $40 off a big order with J-List, with $10 automatically deducted for each $50 you spend (up to $200). Load up on 2017 calendars, snacks, games, figures, "H" products, on this, our best ever sales event! (Sorry, not available for preorder items, J-List Box boxes or Fukubukuro.) Start shopping now!

  • Why I Love Anime for Girls, plus Japan's "Illumination Boom"

    One of the most welcome events in the history of Japanese pop culture was when anime studios finally figured out how to appeal to female fans in a serious way, which happened during the 1990s with shows like Gundam Wing and Evangelion, with their fresh stories of "BL" tension, and Sailor Moon, which bridged the then-separate genres of magical girls and five-member sentai fighting heroes. Before this point, organized fandom had precious few females in it, and at conventions any girl would have a gaggle of male suitors hanging around to ask if she wanted to go for coffee. Happily, fandom today is much more balanced, with half the attendees at cons being female, and sometimes they do Misty cosplay.

    Recently there's been a boom in females who obsess over Japanese history, called 歴女 rekijo or "history girls." They're the main fanbase for Touken Ranbu, a KanColle-style browser game (and now anime) about historical samurai swords that have been transformed into hunky bishie guys. While the show's concept is cool, it's one of those properties that's a bit unapproachable for us gaijin. For example, the character Kashuu Kiyomitsu is sort of an amalgamation of famous swordsman and daimyo lord Katō Kiyomasa and Fujiwara no Teika, a poet from the Heian Period who's part of the Hyakunin Isshu, an 800 year old collection of poems. This might be a bit too esoteric for some fans.

    The approach of December in Japan means breaking out the kotatsu for the first time (I did last night), eating hot steaming meatbuns while waiting train platform, and...beautiful twinkling lights? Yes, just as each corner of the country competes in spring to brand itself as having the most beautiful sakura, different cities and towns brag about how beautiful the wonderful illumination displays they've set up are. You can visit famous spots like Shinjuku's Terrace City or Perry's Landing Road of Shining Lights in Yokohama, or even come J-List's humble home of Gunma, which has several illumination spots. Japanese towns and cities are building these attractions in part to bring in tourism, but also in the hopes that couples will have a romantic date and perhaps raise the country's birthrate.

    It's that time of year: J-List's huge Black Friday Weekend sale! Through the end of the weekend, you can score up to $40 off a big order with J-List, with $10 automatically deducted for each $50 you spend (up to $200). Load up on snacks, games, figures, "H" products, on this, our best ever sales event! (Sorry, not available for preorder items, J-List Box boxes or Fukubukuro.)

  • Thanksgiving in Japan, and Ecchi Words You Learned from Anime

    If you watch anime in Japanese, you probably can't help picking up some words, since they are used so often. Like 大丈夫 daijoubu ("[it is/I am] alright" or as a question, "are you okay?") or やめろ yamero ("stop that now!") or すごい sugoi ("amazing"). Emotional reactions are easy for us to pick up on, like まさか masaka ("it can't be!"), or one my wife often makes when she's fed up with something I do, まったく mattaku ("I can't believe you sometimes"). In all Gundam series, they use the word 閣下 kakka ("your excellency") so often you could make a drinking game out of it, and I have. Of course everyone loves picking up ecchi terminology, like 気持ち kimochi (short for kimochi ga ii meaning "that feels good"), 嫌らしい iyarashii ("lewd"), or good old おっぱい大好き oppai daisuki, which means "Excuse me, could you tell me the way to Kyoto station?" (Just kidding on that last one!)

    Thursday is Thanksgiving, the second most important American holiday, a day for spending time with family and friends and giving thanks for all that we have. While I love the holiday as an American, the reality is that it can be difficult to get into the proper Thanksgiving spirit while living in a foreign country. Not only do the Japanese have zero awareness of turkey as a food category, but Japanese kitchens almost never have ovens suitable for doing proper baking in, so many of us just settle for KFC.

    To the Japanese, the yearly event that fulfills the role of a long-ish holiday in which most people travel home to visit with family is Obon, a series of Buddhist holidays in August during which the spirits of one's dead ancestors return home for a few days, symbolically riding cows and horses made of eggplants and cucumbers, which children make. Having to endure Thanksgiving dinner with family can be a stressful thing (especially that one crazy uncle we all have), and J-List always sees a ton of orders on this day, presumably from people trying to escape from their families. This kind of friction never happens during Obon, the J-List staff tells me, because "the dead have come to visit us, and we would never argue in front of our ancestors!"

    Anyway, a warm and wonderful Happy Thanksgiving to all readers in the U.S. this year! (Art credit.)

    Another Thanksgiving is here, and J-List is giving thanks for the 500,000 wonderful customers we've served in our 20 years in business by starting our weekend sale early. Through the end of the weekend, you can score up to $40 off a big order with J-List, with $10 automatically deducted for each $50 you spend! Load up on snacks, games, figures, "H" products! (Sorry, not available for preorder items, J-List Box boxes or Fukubukuro.)

  • Autumn in Japan, and Some Light Anime by Makoto Shinkai

    I was recently casting around for a light anime to watch, so I decided to go with Makoto Shinkai's The Garden of Words. This is a joke...anyone who knows Shinkai's films know they're never, ever light, and I actually approach them cautiously, having spent days recovering from from a certain film about the speed sakura petals fall at. As expected, the film was breathtakingly beautiful, and, as with Your Name, continues the director's master plan of making the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building (a sort of modernist love letter to the Empire State Building, located in Shinjuku) the most famous in anime. I like how you can pick up little tidbits of Japanese life from films like this, like the scene in which Yukari does the "shoe weather forecasting" superstition in which she throws her shoe. If it lands upright, it will be good weather tomorrow, if upside down, it will rain, and if on its side, cloudy. In one scene she passes behind Takao and sees the shoes he's drawing in his notebook, and she stares at his work intensely over his shoulder. I had to laugh: this is something Japanese people love to do, stare over someone's shoulder at what they're writing/drawing, something that's considered unpolite, at least where I come from.

    Fall is my favorite time of year in Japan. The weather is nearly always pleasant, and there's nothing like going for a drive up Mt. Haruna to take in the beauty of the leaves as they change color. Enjoying the changing of the leaves in the fall is almost as important as cherry blossoms to the Japanese, and the TV news publishes reports on where the leading edge of the color change is each week. Certain areas in Japan, like Kyoto and Nikko (a pleasant collection of temples and pagodas north of Tokyo, and the origin of the "see no evil, speak no evil" monkeys) are so popular as tourist destinations in the fall it's all but impossible to get near. Autumn is known as minori no aki, shokuyoku no aki or "the season of harvest, the season of hearty appetites," Which is kind of a problem because it can be hard to resist gaining some weight, there are so many good things to eat.

    Christmas is not far off now, and we've got some great new Pokemon products on the site for you to enjoy, including an "Itazura" Pikachu coin bank, new plush toys, socks, candy and more. Great for giving as gifts, to others or yourself!

  • Thoughts on "Peaceful" Japan, and How the Japanese Express Love

    One unique aspect of Japan is that it's so peaceful -- called heiwa in Japanese -- and everyone here is acutely aware that they live in a very special country. They have an interesting word heiwa boke, translatable as "being dull-witted from too much peace," which describes Japanese who go out into the world assuming that other countries are as calm and harmonious as Japan, then usually get into trouble because of that. In a week that's seen plenty of upheaval, with protests in South Korea and the U.S., Japan was busy hosting the Ankou Festival in Oarai, located about 100 km north of Tokyo. Famous as the setting for Girls and Panzer, the town has become a Mecca for anime fans in one of the most successful attempts by rural regions to promote themselves through "otaku tourism." For two days 100,000 fans descended on the town to buy limited goods, see performances by voice actors and take pictures of cosplayers, and everyone had a blast.

    When you start to watch anime, you're likely to come into contact with some Japanese cultural concepts you're not familiar with, like the first time you encounter the senpai/kohai system or working out how the name suffixes like -san, -chan and -kun work, or what's up with those "cousins with benefits" in Sailor Moon? Or in episode 1 of K-On!, why does Tsumugi add her french fries to a pile that Mio and Ritsu are eating from rather than just eating from her own tray? (It was to reinforce her new place as an official member of the light music club.) One image that confused me at first was 相合い傘 ai-ai-gasa, roughly translatable as "together under the umbrella of love." The Japanese consider two people walking under an umbrella together to be very romantic, and children will sometimes draw an umbrella on the chalkboard with two people's names written under it.

    J-List loves Super Sonico, having published her official game in English with limited giant mousepad and carries hundreds of her products over the years. Now we've got a new treat: the new giant life-sized Oppai Mousepad of our favorite headphone-wearing idol from SoftGarage, made of the newest M.J.SuperSoft2.0 silicone materials.

  • Why Doesn't My Favorite Anime Get a Second Season?

    I like the recent trend in shows like Shirobako, New Game! and Sore ga Seiyu, which give us a glimpse into the world of anime, games and voice acting. One show I've been following this season is Girlish Number, about three up-and-coming voice actresses working with a mediocre talent agency to make a mediocre anime. While Shirobako was quite stylized in the picture it painted, Girlish Number is more honest, being critical of the anime world as well as the jaded attitude of fans who get their opinions from snarky "matome sites" (websites that aggregate comments from Japan's 2ch boards) rather than forming their own opinions and being supportive of an industry they presumably love. In one scene, Chitose, Momoka and Yae are standing in an anime shop listening in on what fans think of the show they're starring in. One says, "I haven't watched it, but I read on a matome site that the anime, the original work and the voice actors were all shit. So who cares about it?"

    One burning question on the minds of most fans is, when will [my favorite show] get a second season, and the answer is...it's complicated. Anime series are often created by companies with names like Magica Partners or the New Game! Production Committee, which are basically shell companies made up of the various groups that bring an anime into being: the animation company itself (Shaft, Kyoani), the copyright holder to the original manga/game/light novel (Kadokawa, Nitroplus), perhaps a retailer like Animate if there'll be figures, and a company to hassle fans with YouTube takedown notices (Aniplex). As illustrated by some tweets by an anime producer, currently animation is funded by Blu-ray sales and streaming revenues. While some shows might be blowout hits -- Love Live! and Osomatsu-san sold 40,000+ per Blu-ray at $80 each -- all too often shows such as Nichijou sell poorly (under 1000 copies per disc), which is why we never see more. This is why anime has been getting shorter, and why studios keep trying to get us to accept that "cell look" CGI animation. Clearly some changes need to be made if the anime industry we all love is going to continue to flourish.

    We've got some great news for anime fans today: a huge volley of 2017 anime, traditional art, photo and other calendars has come in. We've got everything from Re:Zero to IdolMaster to Cardcaptor Sakura and more, so browse before the calendar(s) you want sell out!

  • Meet Your Favorite Anime Girl, and Old Companies in Japan

    Makoto Shinakai's film Your Name is still running in Japanese theatres after exploding the box office in a way not seen since Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. The film has been a huge hit in other countries, breaking records around Asia and inspiring Chinese fans to go see the film in cosplay. Now a smart company that organizes events for singles to mix and meet each other is tapping into the popularity of the film with official Your Name dating events in Tokyo, where fans of the film can mingle with each other in a structured away, perhaps finding that special someone. I could probably list fifty reasons contributing to Japan's falling birthrate without breaking a sweat, but two of the biggest are, no time to meet anyone in the busy world we live in, and (sad to say), the high number of people in their 20s who lack the basic social skills to initiate a romantic relationship. Structured events, which are part of the trend of 婚活 kon-katsu or activities related to finding a partner to marry, are one possible solution.

    I like seeing young companies being innovative, using new ideas to create value for their customers so they can be successful now and in the future. There are lots of companies like that in Japan, for example making new kinds of shopping malls that create a really 21st century experience. Even the concept of dagashi -- the old-timey candies that have been loved in Japan since before WWII and which have traditionally been sold in tiny hole-in-the-wall shops -- got a new lease on life thanks to a chain shop that recreates the feel olf Old Showa right in the middle of a modern shopping mall, allowing a new generation of children to taste Sakuma Drops or Namaiki Beer for kids. Sadly not every company here is busy moving into the future. Recently J-List's bento, pen and Sailor Moon buyer and I visited a "new products fair" put on by one of our distributors, a company that's been around since the 1960s. We were shocked at how low-tech the place was: no new products of the kind we needed for J-List, not even standard things like accessories for cell phones. When we asked about one produce's price, a middle-aged man shuffled papers for a while before apologizing that he didn't know the price, and would have to send it to us. (Why not store all that on an iPad, bro?) Worst of all was, 100% of the selling was being done by tired, middle-aged men who smelled like ashtrays, and the other women in sight were refilling green tea cups and certainly not engaging us with creative ideas or suggestions for our business, which is pretty much the way things were in the late 80s. It was like we'd entered a time warp, and were were happy to get back to J-List.

    More great news: the rest of our 2017 Fukubukuro Grab Bags are Holiday Boxes are up on the site, ready for you to browse and buy! This year the staff has worked really hard making extra awesome selections of anime toys (two to choose from), our "Doki Doki Random" set, plus "ecchi" grab bags from both Japan and San Diego, which have totally separate items. We also have our J-List Box monthly boxes you can order too, which also have no duplicate products! Order one now!

  • Oppai Measuring in Anime, and Celebrating Hardworking Japan

    It's fun to analyze the various tropes that are perpetuated in anime, like the rich blonde girl with an aristocratic laugh, or a character running to school with a slice of toast in their mouth, or the hallowed onsen episode when the characters will take a bath together for some reason. Some of these running gags might not be 100% accurate, such as the "skirt type" school swimsuits (the kind with the horizontal line across the bottom), which, sad to say, were replaced by more modern designs a decade or more ago, and only exist in otaku and cosplay subculture now. But some common anime tropes are surprisingly accurate, such as the staple of fanservice shows, shintai sokutei or annual body measurement, which is an actual thing everyone does in school: lining up to get a general health check-up including having your body weighed and measured, though presumably without the humor of a fanservice episode.

    I write a lot about how the Japanese are hardworking, and running J-List alongside our staff of 9 Japanese (plus employees from the U.S., France and the Philippines) is a real joy because everyone is so diligent. Three days ago a giant sinkhole opened in the center of bustling Hakata, a ward in the city of Fukuoka known for its white-broth ramen, in Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu. In record time, Japan's busy-as-bees construction companies got the hole refilled and will have everything back to normal soon. One aspect of Japan's economy is that it's largely driven by construction, sort of in the same was that the defense industry is a big part of the U.S., and the economy largely rises and falls based on how many houses and roads are built every year.

    Today, November 11, has been designated by the Ezaki Glico company as International Pocky and Pretz Day, since 11/11 looks like four Pocky sticks lined up, ready to be eaten. To help celebrate all Japanese snacks including Pocky and Pretz, Japanese Kit Kat and more, we’re having a big sale this weekend on all Japanese snacks. Get $5 off any snack order of $20 or more using code SNACK5OFF!

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