J-List blog

The official Japan blog archive of J-List

  • An Anime Tourism Boom, and Japan's Love for "Great Britain-Senpai."

    There have been some major innovations in the anime industry over the years, including the first transforming mecha shows, the melding of singing idols with 2D anime, making the magical girl genre into a hybrid format that both boys and girls could enjoy and the rise of digital coloring, which is the reason the hand-painted animation cels you see for sale at conventions just keep getting older and older. Another major innovation was setting anime series in real places in Japan, a trend that started with Please Teacher! and Please Twins!, which were located in the pleasant Lake Kizaki region of Nagano Prefecture. This started the trend of fans seeking out their favorite real-life anime locations and visiting them, a practice that's become known as 聖地巡礼 seichi junrei, or "making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land." Japan is currently undergoing a huge boom in tourism, and the government is looking for ways to keep this positive energy flowing. One idea on the table is for the government to designate 88 "areas of pop cultural importance" such as Washinomiya Shrine, seen in Lucky Star, to promote more otaku tourism.

    Japan is one of the most Westernized countries in Asia, having embarked on a policy of industrialization after Commodore Matthew Perry forced the country to open its doors to international trade in 1853. Over the next thirty years, the country did away with its old feudal system, ending the samurai class and opening its first Western-style factories. Japan was able to study different countries  and choose the best institutions to import, basing its military on that of Prussia, for example, and reorganizing itself along the French prefectural system model. More often than not, Japan found itself borrowing ideas from Great Britain, the island nation they always felt most connected to. Japan's government is based on the British Parliamentary model, and Japan's post office and NHK broadcast network are perfect clones of the Royal Mail and the BBC. Japan drives on the left, just like the UK, and the Japanese word for a business suit is sebiro, which came from London's Savile Row, where all the best bespoke suits are made. Perhaps the biggest love letter from Japan to "Great Britain-senpai" can be seen in any school anime. The chimes that play at the start of every class in Japanese schools aren't just any chimes, but are on old Big Ben.

    Our new J-List Box monthly box sets are off to a big start. Have you ordered one? Every month we'll offer awesome boxes filled with Japanese snacks (a basic and a deluxe set), plus awesome limited boxes with figures, plush toys and more, and of course something "naughty" for our adult customers every month. There are no subscriptions to join, just preorder the J-List Boxes you want now! Hurry, the current boxes ship out on October 10!

  • A Great Timeslip Anime, and What I Learned by Not Going to Hokkaido

    As the current anime season wraps up, I'm rushing to finish the shows in my queue as quickly as I can. One series I immediately fell in love with is Orange, an awesome "timeslip romance drama" about a girl named Naho who receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. The letter is filled with information about future events, including what she must do to save the life of one of her classmates, a boy named Kakeru. It's an extremely dramatic and awesome anime, up there with BokuMachi and other "timey-wimey" shows that have become popular in the post Steins;Gate anime world. I recommend the anime and the manga a lot!

    One thing textbooks don't tell you about becoming bilingual in a language is the way you must actually mold yourself to fit the language to a degree, rather than just learning how to conjugate verbs. For Japanese to successfully master English, they must actually develop a new personality that's more assertive, since English causes you to specify subjects and speak directly more than Japanese, with its omitted subjects and built-in vagueness. Two things that are important in Japan 謙遜 kenson or personal humility, and 調和 chowa which means getting along harmoniously with others, and I learned a hard lesson related to these concepts back when I was in university at SDSU. The city of Hakodate, at the southernmost tip of Hokkaido, wanted to hire eight native speakers to teach English and act as goodwill ambassadors for two months, and I jumped at the chance to go to Japan for free. I'd studied Japanese for two years at that point, and thanks to learning with manga and translating Japanese songs I could speak pretty well...although my kokoro had not caught up with my studies. When it came time to select who would go, the interviewer was impressed with my language skills, but he sensed my pride and "going my way" (as the Japanese say) nature, and I wasn't one of the candidates chosen. Not being picked for the program was a bitter pill for me, but it introduced me to the above two concepts, as well as 反省 hansei, which means to reflect on your own shortcomings rather than blame others when something goes wrong. Looking back, I'm really glad I was able to learn that lesson.

    J-List has some big news for you: we're taking the wrappings off a new project we've been working on, a new monthly box service called J-List Box! Every month we'll offer awesome boxes filled with Japanese snacks (a basic and a deluxe set), plus awesome limited boxes with figures, plush toys and more, and of course something "naughty" for our adult customers every month. There are no subscriptions to join, just preorder the J-List Boxes you want now! Hurry, the current boxes ship out on October 10!

  • Japan's Low-Tech Reality, and The Most Famous Poop in Japan??

    When I first arrived in Japan, I viewed the country as a fabulous high-tech wonderland, and for a time this was true: thanks to the "Galapagos Effect," Japan had highly-evolved notebook computers and PDAs that were different from anything seen in the West, and even semi-decent mobile browsing (NTT's i-Mode platform from 1999). But as technology progressed, the reality that Japan is having difficulty keeping up with the rest of the world has set in. I've heard Japanese lament that no company here could have produced world-changing ideas like Google or YouTube, or be a major technology player on the world stage like Samsung. Before Windows 95 came along, Japan's computer industry was dominated by NEC's PC98 platform, which ran a proprietary version of DOS. (The golden age of ecchi visual novels and RPGs dates back to this platform.) But even though we live in a much more modern era today, with smartphones and tablets and cloud computing, many of these old PC98 beasts are still chugging along, running vital systems at factories in Japan. If you happen to be able to program and service these ancient computers, you can get a sweet job maintaining the old tech.

    Although the Japanese generally have both feet firmly on the ground, there are times when they can be very superstitious. They dislike the number 4 because it has the same pronunciation as "death" (shi) -- department stores, hospitals and airline ticket counters omit the number for this reason -- and you're not supposed to cut your fingernails at night, or you won't be able to be with your parents when they die. The Japanese are interested in feng shui, the Chinese aesthetic study of direction and placement of objects, and Edo (Tokyo) was chosen as the new capital in 1603 because it lay in a "lucky" direction from Kyoto to ensure maximum good fortune for the nation. One unexpected source of good luck in Japan is...poop, due to the similarity of the word for the bodily function (うんこ unko) to the word for "good luck" (運気 unki). That's why when a seagull happened to release an unpleasant package squarely on my daughter's head one day, my wife exclaimed, "That's great! I always knew you were lucky!" The most famous poop in Japan is the Asahi Beer Hall Building near Tokyo Sky Tree. While the company insists the "golden flame" represents the frothy head on a glass of Asahi beer, everyone knows it's a talisman to bring good luck and financial success to the company.

    J-List stock hundreds of fun and awesome snacks from Japan, but there's just one problem: every summer we're forced to remove chocolate products from the site to keep it from turning into so much Meltykiss during the hot summer. Well good news...we've got all our Japanese chocolate back today, from Green Tea and Sake Kit Kat to Pocky and more. And with a $5 off coupon, too (use CHOCONOW), good for one week only. Browse it all now!

  • A Trip to Hot Spring Heaven, and Japan's Latest Crisis: Too many Virgins?

    The Internet has been buzzing over an article that discussed the many challenges Japan faces in the future, including having the world's oldest population, a fertility rate of just 1.4 babies per female, and a huge number of men and women who aren't in relationships, and who seem to have no interest in starting anytime soon. According to a new study, 70% of unmarried men and 60% of unmarried women aged 18-34 are not dating at all, and tragically, almost half of both groups admit to having never been intimate...ever. Why should this be? It's a combination of unique Japanese social features, including pressure on young people to spend a year doing nothing but studying for their university exams, and various recent trends that increase anxiety and cynicism about the opposite sex, or otherwise cause the value equations for dating and love to be re-evaluated. It's funny (funny-sad, not funny-funny) that Japan has a reputation as the most perverted country in the world, when in fact there are perhaps more lonely people here than anywhere. Maybe some of those lonely people could somehow find each other, and be lonely together?

    One of the best things about Japan are its onsen, volcanic hot springs, and over the weekend I went with a friend to a hot springs inn located on Mt. Akagi where we could drink and catch up on each other's lives. The hotel was remarkably like Kissuiso from the Hanasaku Iroha, with sprawling hallways, beautiful Japanese-style tatami rooms, a lot of amazing autumn-themed food I couldn't identify, and an okami, the headwoman of the inn whose job is to smother guests with hospitality. When visiting Japanese baths, Westerners might feel anxiety at the idea of getting naked in front of people they don't know, but of course no one ever takes the slightest interest or stares, and everyone has a small towel to cover themselves with. If you want to visit a hot springs inn but can't get to Japan just yet, we've got a great game for you during our visual novel sale.

    J-List loves to carry unique otokonoko products for our customers who love to explore new worlds, and today we've added interesting new underwear and other cosplay items, great for those private moments when you want to try something new. Browse the new products now!

  • Japanese Body Language, and My Favorite Buddhist Whisky Bar in Kyoto

    Japanese Body Language, and My Favorite Buddhist Whisky Bar in Kyoto

    I'm safely back in Japan after a 24 hour door-to-door flight back to Japan. It's nice being back home, but as usual the jet lag is sneaking up on me slowly...

    One topic I write a lot about is the way Japan suffers from the unintentional "tyranny of the majority" due to having such a homogenous population. If you have specific food requirements, for example if you're diabetic or need a kosher or halal diet, being in Japan can be a minor challenge. It was only a few years ago that Japanese snack companies started adding allergy information to product packages, which J-List reports in our product descriptions. One special challenge is being a vegetarian in Japan, since the country generally doesn't understand the lifestyle -- one restaurant even advertised "vegetarian" bacon-wrapped asparagus, as if the presence of a vegetable was enough to make it vegetarian. One option for vegetarians visiting Japan is shoshin ryori, the traditional devotional food eaten by Buddhist priests, which consists of beautiful dishes that recreate the texture of meat using foods like tofu, with no animal products present. If you'd like to try this amazing cuisine, I recommend Kanga-an, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto that operates a restaurant. There's also a bar on the premises where you can contemplate the fleeting beauty of life while sampling famous Suntory whiskies.

    One interesting aspect of living in Japan is learning to read the unique body language of people around you, which is generally not something taught in Japanese textbooks. There are quite a few gestures the Japanese make which are different from what we'd use in the West, from the famous "beckoning" gesture that Lucky Cat does, which could be interpreted as "go away" by Westerners, to the way a single raised pinky and questioning glance can mean "Do you have a hot date with a girl tonight?" The concept of "brown-nosing" someone in a position of authority is ゴマすり goma-suri, meaning grinding up sesame seeds, and indicating a weasely coworker while grinding imaginary sesame seeds in your fist is the accepted gesture for "ass-kisser." Then there's the childish あっかんべー akkanbeh! insult, which involves sticking out your tongue while pulling your lower eyelid down with your finger, to express disapproval.

    We have some bad news: Japanese Oreos are going away permanently, due due to the end of a licensing agreement between Nabisco Japan and the original Oreo license holder. This means that the current stock of Green Tea Oreos and other interesting flavors is the only stock we'll ever have. So you should put in an order right now!

  • My Daughter's Surprises at University, and Peter Needs a New Pair of Shoes

    I've been having fun here in California, visiting with my daughter who has just started university. As expected, college is a big challenge to her as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student, though since she attended high school in Australia, she's doing better than she would have been if she'd only studied in Japan. The biggest barrier is the difficult college-level vocabulary words, which are rarely encountered in daily life. One thing she's been surprised at is the way some students in her class make mistakes that Japanese believe impossible for native English speakers, like there-their-they're or your-you're, or common spelling mistakes. The Japanese basically expect that native speakers know every bit of English perfectly, just by being born. I explained to her that, except for oddballs like her dad who go out of their way to study linguistics, most people aren't aware of their own language from the outside.

    As I prepared to head back to Japan I decided to visit an outlet mall to buy some new shoes, since I'd succeeded in wearing out my old Nikes. (With a shoe size of 26.5 cm/size 10 US, I'm usually able to find shoes in Japan, unlike gaijin with truly huge feet, though I prefer getting my shoes in America when I can.) While you might evaluate a pair of shoes for their snugness of fit, or padding, or how the tread fits your needs, I was looking for one thing: comfortable shoes that could be removed and slipped on again easily, without needing to be tied every time. In Japan, you remove shoes before entering all homes and many businesses, including J-List, which means you'll be removing and putting on your shoes a dozen times a day. Because of this, you generally want shoes that are functional yet can be slipped on without undoing the laces -- boots or basketball high-tops need not apply. Happily I found just the right pair of shoes to bring back to Japan with me tomorrow...

    Preorder your 2017 calendars now!2017 anime calendar season is here, and there are hundreds of awesome calendars on the site right now, from Idolmaster to Haikyu! to the new Strike Witches spinoff, plus great art calendars by Japan's top artists, like Kantoku and Coffee Kizoku. Buy multiple calendars during our Early Bird sale and save!

  • Defining "Patriotism" For the Japanese, and Repeating Words is Cute-Cute.

    My son is currently visiting the San Diego with some friends from university in Tokyo, taking time off to enjoy the sunshine in California and visit the original Disneyland. One thing my son's friends noticed is the high number of buildings in downtown San Diego that sport large American flags from their roofs. They also noticed the extremely patriotic images printed on my son's American passport, which might make an American break out into spontaneous song about purple mountains' majesty and amber waves of grain. While we all assume most countries will have a reasonable amount of patriotism and love of their country, for the Japanese this a dicey situation, due to their nationalistic past, which is very much like North Korea today. To loudly celebrate a love of country complete with waving flags would not only bring up images of Japan's dark past, but also the current right-wing groups who drive around in loudspeaker trucks playing pro-WWII songs that embarrass everyone. (Note that the Emperor himself is very much against these annoying groups.) In general, the Japanese flag is rarely seen, only displayed on government buildings, schools, and naval installations...and in the schedule books of girls, where it's become shorthand for, er,  "Sailor Moon's Day" (the Japanese love their euphemisms).

    One fun group of Japanese words consists of a single word repeated twice, which makes the words more charming and kawaii. For example, the word moe describes the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when contemplating your favorite anime character, but repeating the word -- moe-moe -- adds an extra ingredient that makes the new word more playful. Some other repeating words include puri-puri, the softness of a cute girl's cheek (or elsewhere) when you poke it; tsubu-tsubu, any candy or food with bits of fruit inside; pika-pika, meaning brand sparkling new or in the case of Pikachu, crackling with energy; "love-love," which describes a couple of "normies" in love with each other; and my favorite caffeine gum, Black Black.

    Big sale on all VNs!September is terrible! We have to go back to school and/or work, and there's lots of stress that makes us feel bad. Why not take away all that stress with a great Visual Novel from J-List? We're having a big sale on all English-translated VNs, from Sonico to Flowers to Seinarukana, plus all import VNs for PC and PSVita/PS4 as well. Stock up ASAP!

  • The New Face of Japan, and the Origin of Anime Nosebleeds?

    One of the more unique aspects of Japan is the country's racial homogeneity, with approximately 98.5% of the country identifying as "pure" Yamato Japanese. This is actually quite inaccurate, as  Japanese blood actually contains plenty of Korean, Chinese, Mongolian, Ainu, Russian, Pacific island and (thanks to me) American blood in it, though the "national meme" that all Japanese come from the same genetic stock is one that won't be going away soon. Everyone is used to seeing half-Japanese -- haafu -- whose faces are a pleasant blending of Asian and Western features, in the modeling and entertainment world, but recently they've been popping up in other places as well, like last year's groundbreaking Japan Miss Universe title awarded to Ariana Miyamoto, born in Nagasaki to a Japanese mother and African American father, or Aska Cambridge, half-Japanese and half-Jamaican sprinter, who distinguished himself at the Rio Olympics, nearly besting Usain Bolt. Now the lovely Priyanka Yoshikawa, a Tokyo-born Japanese woman who is half-Indian, has won this year's Miss Japan contest. Congratulations, and thanks for helping us all see a new side of Japan!

    There are many bizarre visual jokes in anime, which probably look odd to Western viewers at first. Characters getting a giant "sweat drop" on their heads when they're upset, or the "anger mark" that appears on the foreheads of characters who are about to explode with rage. (When my daughter was young, she saw a model of a German WWII plane and decided the plane was "angry" because the German insignia looked like this mark.) Then there's the ubiquitous nosebleed that shows up whenever a certain character gets excited after seeing or thinking about something naughty, which first appeared in a 1970 manga published in Shonen Jump called Yasuji's Life Lessons for Messed Up Kids.

    Big sale on all VNs!September is terrible! We have to go back to school and/or work, and there's lots of stress that makes us feel bad. Why not take away all that stress with a great Visual Novel from J-List? We're having a big sale on all English-translated VNs, from Sonico to Flowers to Seinarukana, plus all import VNs for PC and PSVita/PS4 as well. Stock up ASAP!

  • My Trip to San Diego and Mexico, and How to Count Chopsticks

    While I'm usually in Japan this time of year, I've actually hopped back to San Diego to take care of some local work I needed to get done. While back home, I've been enjoying some of my favorite American foods, like proper peanut butter (the stuff in Japan is way too sweet), pickles (the Japanese pickle everything from eggplant to daikon radish, but they're just not the same as proper Vlassic dills), plus things like cottage cheese and celery, which you don't think about much until you live in a country that doesn't have them. Since I was in the neighborhood, I also decided to pay a visit to Mexico, home to so many anime fans these days, and sample a traditional Mexican breakfast as well as some of the booming wineries in Ensenada. It was great fun!

    Studying Japanese involves getting used to new concepts, including learning to read non-Western characters (hiragana and katakana are quite easy to pick up) and becoming comfortable with a new word order. Another unique area of the Japanese language are the "counters," special words for counting objects based on their shapes, similar to the way groups of animals are named in English, e.g. a herd of horses, a flock of birds. The counter for flat objects like a sheet of paper is 枚 mai, while you use 個 ko for counting round, small objects, or 畳 jo for counting tatami mats, the universal way to express the size of a room in Japan. One of the most common of these counting words is 本 hon, for counting long, cylindrical objects like sake bottles, samurai swords, umbrellas or trees. (Fun fact: 六本木 Roppingi means "six trees.") Foreigners are likely to use this word when counting chopsticks, since they're the right shape, but the counter for a pair of chopsticks is actually 善 zen, a word which Japanese themselves are often too lazy to use. Being a foreigner, I always go out of my way to use the correct counting word, saying something like おはし、一膳ください o-hashi, ichi-zen kudasai ("please give me a pair of chopsticks"), mainly because Japanese don't expect gaijin to get this word right and it's fun to surprise them. If you need chopsticks or Japanese study products, J-List has your back!Anime calendar season, Ikimasu!More great news for fans of 2017 anime calendars: the huge bulk of anime calendars has been posted to the site, with hundreds of popular calendars based on your favorite shows and characters, with top artists like Kantoku and Coffee Kizoku and many more. Best of all, we've got an Earlybird Special Sale going. Preorder your calendars before Sept. 30 and get 15% off!

  • The Future of Women in Japan, and What is "Anime"?

    Recently I came across a picture of Wal-Mart's "anime" selection on the Internet, showing a dozen or so Western animated films like Ice Age, Kung-Fu Panda and Garfield being sold as "anime." This is terribly annoying to true fans, who object to the mis-use of their beloved label...although in truth, the term might be harder to define than some of us realize. We generally agree that "anime" refers to animation from Japan, but what about Re:Zero, which is partially animated in Vietnam? How about the fact that Pet Girl of Sakura-sou was done by South Korean animators, who inserted some local cultural jokes into the show for fun? We know that "anime" is always the opposite of whatever mediocre feculence Hollywood is trying to sell us this week...yet acclaimed shows like Gate and Accel World were funded and distributed by Warner Bros. Of course the nuance of any word is likely to shift when you change countries, for example in Korea some fans draw a distinction between "anime" (from Japan) and "manhwa animation" like Freezing, which is based on a comic by a Korean artist. And how about in Japan? Here it's common for any animation to be referred to as "anime"...including the works of Disney (ugh). Now my only question is...what kind of anime is Touhou?

    Japan is an amazing country that has achieved a high degree of peace and prosperity for its people. One aspect of the Japanese life I've always been impressed by is the way that, by and large, women are able to either choose to work as full-time housewives, or else take five years off from their careers to raise children then return to the workplace without undue economic strain if they want, something that would be difficult in the U.S. As Japan faces increasing labor crunches -- the unemployment rate is just 3.2%, and some business activities are being curtailed due to there being no one to work -- a new idea is being considered by the Japanese government: to curtail the current rule that allows women listed as dependents of their households to avoid paying income taxes if they earn less than 1 million yen (around $10,000) per year. The rule allows women to work a little without paying taxes, but (the thinking goes) creates a psychological barrier that keeps them from wanting to really earn a proper salary and contribute to Japan's economy. After running J-List for near 20 years, I'd have to say this rule really needs to be repealed, as we've had many amazing female employees who were unable to live up to their potential because of that silly annual income limit.

    Anime calendar season, Ikimasu!More great news for fans of 2017 anime calendars: the huge bulk of anime calendars has been posted to the site, with hundreds of popular calendars based on your favorite shows and characters, with top artists like Kantoku and Coffee Kizoku and many more. Best of all, we've got an Earlybird Special Sale going. Preorder your calendars before Sept. 30 and get 15% off!

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