J-List blog

The official Japan blog archive of J-List

  • Defining Hard Work in the Japanese, and How to Talk to Senpai

    One of my favorite aspects about the Japanese is the way they value diligence and hard work, whether it's spending many hours studying for university entrance exams or the J-List staff going the extra mile for our customers before going home for the night. (The Japanese lyrics of classic song auld lang syne are about a boy studying by the light of fireflies he's caught, so great is his desire to learn and do well in life.) The hardworking spirit of the Japanese can be seen in words like 頑張る ganbaru, which means to work hard or try one's all, and 朝練 asaren, or morning practice, when every member of a school club such as brass band (as seen in Kyoani's beautiful Hibike! Euphonium) is expected to arrive at 6 am to practice with the other club members for two hours every day. Finally, a word that expresses Japan's hardworking spirit is 徹夜 tetsuya, or working through the night until morning. If an employee in Japan works all night on a project, he will probably gain respect from his boss and coworkers.

    You can learn other interesting things about the Japanese kokoro (heart) through language, for example the way relationships are organized "vertically," with people who are older or who have more seniority in a school or organization (senpai) assuming different roles from those younger or of lower level (kohai). Junior-level individuals must show respect to their senpai, which includes using (nominally) polite speech including formal verbs like desu and shimasu ('is' and 'to do'), while speech from the senior group to the younger group is usually informal, using da and suru (these are the exact same words, just in their informal forms). Using the right verb for the right situation can be a challenge for young Japanese (or all gaijin). Nenecchi discovers this when she accidentally uses informal (too-friendly) language with the strict Umiko in the New Game! anime, an error I've made many times.

    We Love Cosplay from JapanJ-List is your one stop shop for any and all awesome cosplay product from Japan, from shimapan to kawaii Japanese stocks a great selection of "otokonoko" cosplay products that will make you feel complete. We recently posted some great school uniforms in large sizes, great for all sizes of fans. Browse the new cosplay products now!

  • Giving Thanks for Amazing Japanese Seiyu and...Anime GIFs?

    As an anime blogger in 2016, I'm thankful for many things. I'm thankful to the hardworking animators, writers, seiyu and other members of the animation industry for making such interesting stories for us to enjoy every week. I'm thankful for the spread of the Internet, which lets J-List reach customers from New Zealand to the Netherlands and California to Connecticut, and which lets an American live in rural Japan without any inconvenience at all. I'm also thankful for...anime gifs? Yes, these mild-mannered short animated files, which show 3-5 seconds of action from a certain anime, are somehow uniquely helpful for introducing new series to fans in a way that catches their interest. I've sought out entire anime series and films based on a single interesting gif I found bouncing around the Internet, like this one that led me to watch the Hanasaku Iroha movie about Ohana's MILF-ilicious mother when she was a girl. While I post a lot of interesting fanart pictures and memes to J-List's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to help introduce new shows to fans, it's usually the animated gifs that get the most fans saying, "Wow, what show is this? I want to watch it!" If you're on social media, make sure to follow J-List's accounts and interact with us!

    The Japanese are masters of influencing emotions using voice, and I'm often amazed at the eerie beauty of the voices that enter my ear here. If you watch anime in Japanese, of course, you know how talented the Japanese voice actresses are, and their ability to bring to life a character -- such as Kuroneko, Shiina Mayuri and Charlotte, all performed by S-rank seiyu Hanazawa Kana -- that would otherwise be (literally) two-dimensional and inert is one of the major attractions of the genre. But the strangely compelling beauty of Japanese voices isn't limited to anime: you can find females who are specially trained to speak in a uniquely soft way in various professions, too, such as female bus guides, who entertain passengers on long sightseeing trips, and Japan's legendary elevator girls, the uniformed women who stand in the elevator and announce each floor for you (although they've almost completely disappeared).

    But speaking in a cute voice isn't just for a few professions with high customer visibility. I'll never forget the time I called NTT, Japan's sprawling telephone and Internet provider, to get help with some computer hardware I was having problems with. The voice on the other end belonged to an extremely kawaii-sounding female NTT employee, and bastard that I am, I expected her to take down my information and then transfer me to some male technician who would tell me how to fix my problem. I was quite surprised when the cute female voice quickly proceeded to help me debug my router and fix the TCP/IP problem I'd been having, solving it in no time. I had to hang my head in shame for a bit after that.

    Great news! We've started this year's Ecchi Lucky Bag early this year. In Japan there is a fun custom where stores sell a secret sealed "lucky bags" filled with unknown contents to customers. This year we're coming out swinging with our best awesome lucky bags yet, filled with tons of great products accumulated by the J-List staff all year long, a huge value for you. And there are no duplicated products with the new J-List Box boxes, so you can order those separately and never worry about getting duplicate items.

  • The New Trend in Oppai Anime, and Japan as the Land of Bread?

    It's interesting to observe the way trends in anime rise and fall. One season might see several similar "harem" shows, complete with the trademark blonde tsundere girl with twintails, while another might feature multiple "magical battle high school" series competing for fans' attention. This season we've got a plethora of magical girl-kei shows like Soushin Shoujo Matoi plus the dark Magical Girl Raising Project, as well as several shows with a focus on...oppai? There's the ridiculously voluptuous Narusawa from Occultic;Nine, a show many fans will watch because of the semicolon in its name (it's part of the "Science Adventure" universe that includes Steins;Gate), plus the charming Tawawa on Monday, a short series that grew out of a one-page manga that aimed to make people feel better about Mondays by showing cute busty girls while they made their morning commute. The show has lots of "plot" to offer fans, as well as a fun Internet meme called the #TawawaChallenge!

    It's well known that the Japanese love rice, and they do eat it with nearly every meal, but they're no slouches when it comes to making exotic varieties of bread, too. Introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, pan (as its called, no relation to shimapan) comes in many shapes and sizes in Japan today, some of which are a bit odd. There's shoku-pan or normal sliced bread, awesome "curry bread" with spicy curry inside, yakisoba pan, a roll with delicious chow mein-style noodles shoved inside, or "ichigo whip-sand," sandwiches made with whipped cream and strawberries, sold in convenience stores. Most of us don't think of bread as being sweet, but many types in Japan are, including melon-pan (vaguely melon-shaped), and honey toast, essentially a loaf of bread that's been toasted then covered with honey or syrup plus fruit and other good things. My favorite Japanese bread innovation would have to be the variations of "Bacon Cheese France," or French bread with bacon and cheese baked inside.

    Great news! We've started this year's Ecchi Lucky Bag early this year. In Japan there is a fun custom where stores sell a secret sealed "lucky bags" filled with unknown contents to customers. This year we're coming out swinging with our best awesome lucky bags yet, filled with tons of great products accumulated by the J-List staff all year long, a huge value for you. And there are no duplicated products with the new J-List Box boxes, so you can order those separately and never worry about getting duplicate items.

  • A Dark New Magical Girl Anime, and a Chance to Redo Your Life

    One of the grandest traditions in the history of anime is the magical girl genre, which goes all the way back to Himitsu no Akko-chan and Sally the Witch, which were directly inspired by the popularity of the 1960s American comedy Bewitched here in Japan. Fans of the genre got a treat in 2011 with Madoka Magica, written by master storyteller Urobuchi Gen of Nitroplus, which brought an "Empire Strikes Back" level of darkness to the genre. Now there's a new "magical girl anime for grown-ups," Maho Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, or Magical Girl Raising Project. It's a world in which players all over Japan play a magical girl-themed social game, but a few of them are chosen to become actual magical girls with real powers. The game is literally a system for raising the best magical girl possible, but the downside is that the girls who are removed from the system were not collecting enough "magical candy"…die. There are some great innovations in the anime, including the virtual chat room the girls interact with each other in, and the first formal "otokonoko" magical girl, because this is 2016. So far the story is dark and interesting, shaping up to be something like an anime version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were One.

    While a new anime season means I'm usually busy trying to keep up with all the new shows, I sometimes find myself working through past series, too. One I'm enjoying is ReLife, about a very special company that gives people the chance to restart their lives. On the surface it's a fanciful slice-of-life show about a 27-year-old young man named Arata who's given the chance to return to high school, but it has deeper themes, too, including the reason why Arata ran away from his former life as a respectable company employee: the suicide of a respected senpai as a result of workplace bullying at a burakku kigyou ("black company"), a word that describes companies that care about their profits, never the health and welfare of their employees. Because the series was streamed all at once, rather than weekly, it seemed to get very little attention from anime fans outside of Japan, so I wanted to give it a recommendation as a show that's probably worth your consideration.

     J-List stocks all the best anime art books from Japan, with hundreds in stock at any given time. One book we like a lot is the official artwork for the new Your Name anime by Shinkai Makoto, filled with all the visuals of the film. Browse all artbooks in stock here.

  • The Challenge of Cats and Paper Doors, and What We Can Learn From "Your Name"

    The Japanese language is different from English in many ways, including the way information can be left out of sentences when it's understood from context, such as the subject and object. (My wife will often express "shall we go eat lunch now?" to just iku? "go?" since the rest of clear from the overall situation.) This built-in vagueness allows for interesting scenes in anime and manga in which a boy confesses his love for a girl, then changes his object to a plate of spaghetti at the last minute, based on her reaction. Another feature of nihongo is the way the language used by males and females can be quite different, with feminine-sounding pronouns used by girls (watashi for "I") and and masculine-sounding ones for boys (ore for "I" and omae for "you"). Language and gender are big themes in the smash hit film Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name) by Shinkai Makoto, about a boy named Taki and a girl named Mitsuha who wake up one morning to discover they've switched bodies. When they interact with other people, they naturally use the "wrong" pronouns while in each other's bodies, causing charming drama and humor.

    Before I came to live in Japan, my impression of Japanese homes was that they were delicate things made of wood and paper. When I arrived here, I discovered that they were really...pretty much as I'd expected. Japanese homes are usually made of wood, with both "Western rooms" (洋間 youma) with normal furniture like sofas and chairs, as well as traditional Japanese rooms (和室 washitsu) with tatami mats and paper doors called shouji, which are actually wooden sliding doors with Japanese paper glued to the frames. There are a few problems with shouji, however: the paper turns yellow over time, so every couple of years you need to spend a few hours re-papering your doors. There's another problem with the paper partitions: cats, who love playing with the paper and poking holes in it so they can pass through. If you've got cats in an older Japanese house, it's likely you have lots of holes in your paper doors.

    October is Super Sonico's birth month, so we've got great items on teh site, like Sonico Dakimakura pillow covers with an original image created for us by Tsuji Santa. Even better, we've got the last stock of the Sonico Collector's Edition, with the giant full-body mousepad, though there are only 30 so they'll go fast. Best of all, you can get 20% off the Communication with Sonico English game on Steam until October 24th!

  • A New Anime with Oppai and Backstory, plus Explaining Japanese Culture to Outsiders

    There are many anime series out there filled with subtlety and grace, like Aoi Hana; a realistic story about what happens when girls fall in love with other girls; the bittersweet drama of Your Lie in April; or the excellent Genji Monogatari anime, the 1000 year old story of the playboy son of a fictional Japanese Emperor and the amazing loves he experiences. Then there are series with no subtlety at all, such as the new fanservice anime Keijo!!!!!!!! about a fictional sport in which athletic women must push each other off floating rafts using only their butts or boobs. In a way it's a standard sports anime about athletes training to be the best, while on the other hand it's quite possibly the most over-the-top fanservice since, well, last season, described by a poster to J-List's Facebook page as "so stupid it's awesome." While a show with so much "plot" and "backstory" will always fall flat with some corners of fandom, I'm finding I can really get behind the new show. And yet, I can't shake the feeling that we're letting Miyazaki-sensei down a bit...

    Recently, we had some friends from Malaysia visit us, and we spent several days showing them around our home prefecture of Gunma, located in the exact center of Japan. We were lucky enough to be in Maebashi during its big annual festival, we made plans to check it out, and enjoyed seeing different groups carrying heavy omikoshi portible Shinto shrines around the city while everyone drank beer and ate food from stalls. While I explained the religious background of the Japanese -- the way they'll usually claim to have no religion even as they embrace the bright colors of Shinto for festivals or baby naming ceremonies then grow more Buddhist later in life -- I was aware of how much simple Japan's religious history is compared to a country like Malaysia, which has to balance Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism. Of the many, many things I love about Japan, the way it treats religion as an important aspect of culture rather than something to fight about, is definitely one of my favorites.

    October 14th is Super Sonico's birthday, and we've got some great news for everyone! First, we've got the Sonico Dakimakura pillow covers in, with an original image created for us by Tsuji Santa. Even better, we've got the last stock of the Sonico Collector's Edition, with the giant full-body mousepad, though there are only 30 so they'll go fast. Finally, we've got a Sonico contest up, with awesome prizes that you can win!

  • A New Anime about Seiyu and a My City's Very Own Pokemon

    You know you're in Japan when you make a visit to the convenience store and see a huge plush character standing near the door to greet you. His name was Kuwamaru, one of the ubiquitous "yuru-chara" official mascots that promote tourism and local foods from rural towns and cities throughout Japan. Kuwamaru is a recently created character for our city of Isesaki, made to celebrate an old structure which recently won UNESCO Important Cultural Site recognition, the home of the man who introduced modern silk manufacture to Japan back in the 1870s. Wherever you come to Japan, you might see these cute yuru-chara characters in various places, promoting everything from traditional origami from Gunma to Green Tea Kit Kat from Kumamoto, in Southern Japan. Coming across one is always fun, like discovering that Pokemon are real.

    First we had Shirobako, a great anime that showed us what goes on behind the scenes while anime is made. Then there was New Game!, an anime about the companies that make the games we all love to play, and the yuri-tastic relationships that (presumably) go on there. And now they're Gi(a)rlish Number, aka Girlish Number, the story of Chitose Karasuma, a minor seiyu (voice actress) working for her brother's talent agency. Chitose would like to be famous, though she's lazy and cynical and would rather complain about how worthless the anime industry is than work hard to improve her own skills as a voice actress. So far I'm liking the characters, who are seem more realistic and less stylized than I expected. For example, when we meet the blonde-haired top seiyu Momoka, I assumed she'd be the bitchy tsundere rival for the main character, but she was actually kind, giving Chitose advice about how to get along with the other voice actresses. It's a show about seiyu and idol culture with a dark and cynical twist which looks like it'll have a lot to say about the industry in the coming episodes. I'll keep watching Gi(a)rlish Number or sure!

    Our new J-List Box monthly snack and other boxes are a big hit, and the first 500+ are shipping out to customers today. We've posted new boxes for November, with two amazing selections of wonderful Japanese snacks + drinks for your enjoyment, so browse and preorder now! We've got more good news: since the J-List twitter account recently passed 100,000 followers, we've got a $10 coupon for everyone! The code is JLIST100K, and it's for $10 off $50 or more (any in stock or download product, sorry, not applicable on preorders or J-List Box items).

  • A New Generation of Strike Witches, and Getting Motivation from a Japanese Word

    It's not easy for Japan's animation studios keep coming up with ideas for hit shows every season, and one recent trend has been towards creating "side stories" and spinoffs, series which take place alongside other popular shows, extending the universe and adding a new generation of characters. That's what happened with Love Live Sunshine!, the story of an all-new high school idol group at a different school from the original Love Live! series, and Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, too. It's also the approach taken with the new Brave Witches anime, telling the story of the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing, who fight the evil Neuroi in an alternate version of World War II in which cute girls with furry tails and animal ears provide fanservice do battle and keep to help keep humanity safe. It's also the latest continuation in the grand "mecha musume" trend started by illustrator Shimada Fumikane, whose popular illustrations and figures merging cute girls with WWII mecha in the early 2000s paved the way for Strike Witches, Girls und Panzer (tank musume), Kantai Collection (ship musume) and so on.

    One word that comes up in anime a lot is 頑張る ganbaru, a happy, cheerful word which means to work hard, to do one's best, to give one's all and so on. It's usually heard in its formal form ganbarimasu! ("I will do my best!"), as a request like ganbatte or ganbatte kudasai ("please do your best"), or in its "command" form, ganbare! ("Do your best!"). Is there some goal you could use help with in your life? Perhaps it's learning Japanese, focusing on losing weight and improving health, or tackling some other life problem? Well, just focus on the word ganbaru a bit and you'll find you have more motivation to reach your goal. The spirit of ganbaru is currently embodied by Aoba Suzukaze from the New Game! game-making-and-light-yuri anime, and part of the reason I love her character so much is that she helps motivate me to be a better anime blogger with her positive attitude.

    Our new J-List Box monthly snack and other boxes are a big hit, and the first 500+ are shipping out to customers today. We've posted new boxes for November, with two amazing selections of wonderful Japanese snacks + drinks for your enjoyment, so browse and preorder now! We've got more good news: since the J-List twitter account recently passed 100,000 followers, we've got a $10 coupon for everyone! The code is JLIST100K, and it's for $10 off $50 or more (any in stock or download product, sorry, not applicable on preorders or J-List Box items).

  • Exploring The Mysteries of Fanservice in Japan

    One interesting subject is the role of "fanservice" in anime, the little pantyshots or boob jiggles that studios add to productions to give us, the viewers, a tiny squirt of dopamine and serotonin inside our brains, which are really just wet computers reacting to stimuli we feed them. While anime fanservice has its fans and detractors, here are a few observations I've made over the years.

    • First, fanservice isn't new, and has been with us since 1974's Space Battleship Yamato, with the robot IQ-9 lifting up Nova/Yuki's skirt.
    • The number of fanservice-centric shows increased in the mid 2000s with the popping of the international DVD/broadcast licensing bubble. With no lucrative market outside Japan, studios suddenly had to create content it could sell to its core fans, which is where all the imouto panty stuff came from.
    • While fans often perceive fanservice as being "everywhere," it's really only in a sub-set of shows defined by those themes, like Infinite Stratos, Monster Musume or my recent guilty pleasure, Okusama wa Seitokaicho. More often, series will restrict themselves to a single "fanservicey" episode (an onsen trip or plotline involving a panty stealing animal) or offer some other quick jolt to get fans' attention, before getting on with the story.
    • Smart studios actually "hypnotize" fans into thinking they've seen fanservice when they really haven't, like when Mio falls down exposing her underwear to the audience in K-On!, which isn't actually shown on screen, though we all believe we remember seeing it, or when they make an anime whose title promises female pirates wearing mini-skirts floating in zero-gravity, while providing no actual visual stimulation. This allows them to get the fanbase interested in their characters through dopamine/serotonin addiction while remaining "respectable."

    So, what are your thoughts on the place of fanservice in anime?

    There are certain eternal mysteries about the Japanese. Why do they obsess about blood types so much? Why are Japanese females constipated their entire lives? Why does my wife think that freshly laundered socks are still somehow "dirty" and must never be placed on a dining table? Then there's something that occurred to me is when I moved into my wife's house: at least in my semi-rural city of Isesaki (population 200,000), why do unrelated families with the same name live grouped around each other?

    In the neighborhood around J-List (which you can see in Nichijou, strangely enough), all the families around me are named Yanai, and about a kilometer away, there's a large grouping of families all named 細井 Hosoi, though no one is related to anyone else. Since the family name Hosoi (whose kanji mean "narrow well") sounds phonetically like 細い hosoi (meaning thin, skinny), anyone with this name can expect some light razzing if their physique doesn't quite measure up. Recently I caught a TV show that specialized in showing truly random things, like gears made out of the naruto pressed fish cake seen in ramen. They also sent a team out to Isesaki to look for a family with the skinny-sounding name of Hosoi but whose members were actually overweight, and found a florist I sometimes shop at, interviewing them. Now the family is happy since they've been on TV!

    Enjoy what the Japanese call "2.5D," which is between the cute perfection of 2D anime waifus and the real world we all unfortunately inhabit, with parody onahole toys from J-List. We've got all your favorite characters, recreated in high quality materials made in Japan. A great way to lose your stress at the end of a long day. Browse now!

  • Reflecting on 20 Years of J-List, and Winter Uniform Season

    Last Saturday was the 20th anniversary of me founding J-List, so it's a good time to look back at all the changes that we've seen since the company started in business. 1996 was a very different time from today, and many of the things we take for granted, like fast Internet and Wi-Fi and convenient mobile devices, were not yet a part of daily life. Even the idea of e-commerce was still new, and buying a bento box or a "Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend" kanji T-shirt online felt much different than it does today. We weren't just creating an online shop in the early days of the Internet era: since Japan is generally a decade or so behind the U.S. socially and technologically, trying to make a company like J-List in semi-rural Japan almost made it feel like 1986 rather than 1996 at times, dealing with distributors who had yet to computerize their inventory, let alone embrace the Internet. J-List wasn't the first company I started: I'd begun licensing and translating visual novels the year before with the predecessor to JAST USA. Actually, J-List was really started as a side business I intended to run for a short time while we waited for the eroge side of things to take off, though it turned out to be the soul of our company. Thanks for being great customers all these years, and enjoy our new Treasure Hunt contest!

    October is one of my favorite months in Japan, because the weather is usually mild, and it's enjoyable to sit outside and do 月見 tsukimi, or autumn moon-viewing, while fireflies dance around. The beginning of October is also time for衣替え koromo-gae, the official changing from summer to winter school uniforms, which is done on the same day throughout Japan. (Okinawa, being extra warm, gets to wear their summer uniforms for two months longer than the rest of the country.) Of course, the weather doesn't always get the memo, and sometimes the students have to wear their winter uniforms even though the heat and humidity of summer haven't abated yet. Like many aspects of Japan there's more to the clothes-changing custom than meets the eye, and it turns out that it dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185), when the Emperor would commemorate the seasons by officially changing his ceremonial kimonos from winter to summer or vice-versa.

    Thanks for helping J-List reach this important milestone. We've decided to have a fun new contest, a 20th Anniversary Treasure Hunt in which you look for clues and answer questions by looking at newest product pages. You could win a gift certificate for $200, one of three deluxe  J-list Box snack sets, or a $10 gift certificate. Enter now, either on the jlist.com or jbox.com domain.

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