J-List blog

The official Japan blog archive of J-List

  • All About Japanese Money, and Why Rent in Tokyo Isn't Outrageously Expensive

    All About Japanese Money, and Why Rent in Tokyo Isn't Outrageously Expensive

    The other day I read an article that discussed why Tokyo, one of the world's premier cities, didn't have sky-high rents like San Francisco, London and New York. I smiled, remembering my pleasant surprise at finding how reasonable rents were in Tokyo when my son started university there three years ago: around $750 for a small 1LDK (er, one main bedroom with an attached living-dining-kitchen), or perhaps around $1800 for something with three bedrooms. While Tokyo's rents have stayed reasonable in part because construction of residential construction has remained high while the population has dipped slightly, the other reason has to do with the huge economic crash that happened in 1991, many times worse than what we experienced in 2008, which brought on the "lost economic decades" that are arguably still going on, keeping prices and salaries stagnant. Except for imported oil and (lately) hotel rooms, almost nothing gets more expensive in Japan, though as land prices finally start to tick up in anticipation of Tokyo 2020, this might slowly be starting to change.

    The currency of Japan is the yen, a word that means "circle." (The Chinese yuan and Korean won both mean the same thing, all having originated from the same character.) While there are many different denominations of paper bills used in the U.S., Japan has just three, for 1000, 5000 and 10,000 yen. The current face on the 1000 yen note is Noguchi Hideyo, a researcher who helped isolate yellow fever before dying of, er, yellow fever, while the 5000 yen note carries the face of Higuchi Ichiyo, a female novelist from the Meiji Era. The all-important 10,000 yen note, the symbol of Japan's economic power in the world, is reserved for Fukuzawa Yukichi, one of the "Founding Fathers" of modern Japan. He was one of the first Japanese to travel to America and Europe in 1860, and he wrote the first books explaining Western institutions to his countrymen -- making him a kind of Professor of Muggle Studies -- before founding Keio University, which today is the Yale of Japan.

    Great news for lovers of the best Japanese magazines: we've got the top new anime magazines, including Megami Magazine, which is brimming with free posters for you as usual. Browse all the new magazines now!

  • Exploring Anime Eyes, and a Day to Celebrate Cosplay!

    Exploring Anime Eyes, and a Day to Celebrate Cosplay!

    One of the most famous features of anime is, of course, the large, expressive eyes, which are so good at showing emotions. These oversized eyes seem to be the first thing Westerners notice about Japanese animation, and we generally "see" them as taking up half the characters' faces, though in reality there's a lot of variation in character designs, with many characters having eyes of normal size and color. Though these large eyes define anime today, it's easy to forget that Japan has always taken their cues from Western animation like Disney and Betty Boop, and it's not hard to see the influence of Bambi in anime eyes today. If you like anime eyes, remember that you get a free pair of J-List anime eye glasses with every order from J-List, subject to availability. Why not make an order today?

    Monday is International Cosplay Day, a day to celebrate the global culture of costuming. The word cosplay has been around since 1983, when a Japanese magazine had to shorten the title of an article on "hero costume play" to fit a tight magazine layout, though costuming at conventions and similar events isn't a new thing at all -- we were doing it at the very first Anime Expo. While cosplay has always been with us, it used to be a fringe area of fandom, but that's not true anymore. With the explosion in mainstream cosplay culture, an incredible number of amazing costumes can be seen at fan events from Comiket to your local anime convention as well as online. What amazing cosplays have you seen recently? (Cosplay credits 1 2 3)

    Celebrate Japan's tradition of cosplay with J-List by browsing our selection of awesome items, from authentic shimapan in various sizes (including "otokonoko") to authentic Japanese swimsuits to "socks glue" that help your Japanese "absolute zone" socks from falling.

  • The Most Popular Food in Japan, and Japanese Short Words

    Fun with Japanese Abbreviations, and let's eat Curry!

    The most popular food in Japan isn't sushi, and it isn't ramen or tempura, either. It's actually curry, or as the Japanese usually call it, curry rice. Curry spread out from India during the 1700s, a gift from the British Empire that's enjoyed in Japan more than any other kind of food save rice itself. Many companies compete to bring the best curry to market, with products like House The Curry (the Japanese love to add the word "the" to product names) and Vermont Curry, flavored with the mild kiss of Vermont apples. One of the rules of curry-eating is that it tastes even better after it's been left to sit out in the pan all night, and "second day curry" is just heavenly, though my son discovered that "second day Chef Boyardee ravioli" is pretty good, too. Curry is available in many forms in Japan, poured over fried pork cutlet; as udon noodles in a curry soup, a popular dish from Nagoya; or as curry bread, a doughnut-like ball of bread with curry inside. How do you like your curry?

    Each language has different unique features. I've got a sister who speaks German, and she told me that the purpose of German grammar is to get the subject and verb as far apart in the sentence as possible. While it doesn't seem like it at first, Japanese is quite a simple language, lacking confusing elements of grammar like Perfect Continuous Conditional tense or nouns having arbitrary genders -- heck, you don't even need to specify singular or plural in Japanese sentences. Japanese hate long, unwieldy words or phrases and tend to abbreviate them into four-syllable groups, a trend any anime fan will be aware of, thanks to short series names like Oreimo or KanColle or Konosuba.

    The Japanese also use a lot of English abbreviations for common objects, some of which might be confusing to people not used to them How many of these can you guess the meaning of? They're all very commonly used in Japan.

    • PA, IC
    • GW
    • PV
    • OL, IT
    • AD
    • CM
    • NG
    • OP, ED
    • KY
    • 3P

    To see the answers, scroll down!

    J-List calendar season, start!!Every year J-List carries hundreds of great calendars from Japan, with many great anime, Japanese idol, JAV star and beautiful nature calendars available to our customers. 2017 calendar season has begun, and we've posted the first calendars for you to browse and buy, along with a great earlybird sale! Order two or more calendars before Sept 30 and get 15% off! (The bulk of the famous anime calendars will be posted in the coming weeks.)

    Answers to Japanese abbreviations.

    PA, IC: These are common road terms, meaning Parking Area (e.g. a highway rest stop) and interchange. GW: An abbreviation for Golden Week, a week-long holiday in May. PV: Promotional Video, seen on YouTube a lot. OL, IT: Office terms, denoting Office Lady (a female officer worker who wears a uniform), and "Internet Technology" (that's what everyone in Japan thinks it means, anyway). AD: This stands for Assistant Director Art Director. Both, actually. CM: A TV commercial. NG: Short for "no good," and is used as the opposite of "ok." Also a "blooper" on TV or movies is also called an NG. I've encountered this word in science fiction books from the 50s so it might be an archaic British word. OP, ED: Anime fans will probably know these as Opening and Ending themes. KY: Stands for kuuki yomenai or "can't read the air," and describes someone who isn't good at reading social situations. 3P: Three people, e.g. a ménage à trois.

  • Japan Cares What Foreigners Think, and the Anime-Pachinko Connection

    It's been said that Japan is the only country that cares what its foreigners think, and I've generally found this to be true. They love to read books about Japan written by foreigners, and I've got more than a few Japanese followers on J-List's Twitter who like reading what observations this crazy gaijin has about their country. Recently I caught a TV program called Love It or Hate It? Time to Discuss that took Japanese-bilingual foreigners living here and asked them to talk about whatever they wanted. There was a girl from Iran who was frustrated by Japanese associating people from her country with illegal activities, a perception caused by Iranians selling bootlegged telephone cards back in the 90s. A Chinese asked why negative news about China was over-reported here, then apologized on behalf of tourists from mainland China, who don't always have the best manners when visiting Japan. Then an American spoke out against the Japanese penchant for organizing themselves into senpai/kohai-like "vertical" relationships, which makes it harder for us to make friends with them. Finally, several foreigners disliked Japan's tradition of tatemae, the social façade we're forced to assume sometimes, like the Japanese office worker who must pretend that he likes working long hours rather than going home and spending time with his family.

    If you've ever travelled around inside Japan, you may have noticed some flashy buildings that were very loud inside. These are pachinko parlors, a popular game in Japan that involves buying a few buckets of metal balls and trying to shoot them into the machine at just the right angle that the balls fall into special holes in the machine, netting you more balls than you started with. It's a form of gambling, but since gambling is illegal here, you exchange the balls for "valuable prices" which you can "sell" back for cash (another good example of tatemae, above). There's quite a strong connection between anime and the Pachinko industry, with the latter licensing everything from Evangelion to Macross to Osomatsu-san for anime-based pachinko machines, in order to get new young players in the door. This funding helps the anime industry out a lot.

    We love carrying fun Kantai Collection products for our customers, and right now we're well stocked, with figures and other licensed goods, awesome doujin music CDs, our popular Iowa T-shirt, and more! Browse the ranking of Kancolle items now!

  • Exploring Fetishes through Anime Art, and Do You Wish You Were Japanese?

    If you follow J-List on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you'll know I post a lot of interesting fanart from Pixiv and other image boards. One thing I find myself doing is posting art related to various "fetishes," whether it's extremely well-drawn pictures of anime girls' feet, or artwork of anime giantesses, or the uniquely Japanese fascination with school swimsuits, shimapan, and those charming crooked yaeba teeth. Because of these posts, I've gotten the reputation as a man with a million fetishes, but really, I have only one: really well-drawn art that's fun to share with other fans. If you're on social media, I hope you'll follow us and enjoy our posts!

    Being a Japan blogger, I often encounter comments from young people around the world about how they "wished they'd been born Japanese," and this always makes me smile a little. While Japan is a wonderful country that's managed to build a peaceful, happy society, there are some areas of life here that the average American or European would have some trouble dealing with. First, education is very important to the Japanese, which means students have to endure school on Saturdays and juku (cram school) in the evenings in order to keep up with studies. In order to get into a good high school or university, students must spend years in "entrance exam hell," too, literally doing nothing but studying. When my son prepared for his test to get into a high school affiliated with Waseda University, the whole family gave up all leisure, including Harry Potter movies, for a year in order to shwo support for him. Then there's the important aspect of getting a job, and students in their third year of university begin a very structured job search, interviewing with hundreds of companies in the hopes of being offered an employment contract with a good one, like in an amusing Cup Noodle commercial that shows how hard this process is. Finally, with its rock-bottom birthrate, famous longevity and lack of incoming immigration, no country has more worry about in the future than Japan.

    J-List is well stocked with fun toys and other related products to help take the edge off after a long day at work, whether it's fun toys for guys or girls to use, awesome sexy cosplay, or whatever. Browse our selection now!

  • A Sweet New Anime and How to Meet Girls with Pokemon Go

    One new anime I started watching is Sweetness and Lightning, an adorable show about a single father named Kouhei who is caring for his young daughter Tsumugi after the death of his wife. Since they eat mostly pre-packaged bento lunches every night, he yearns to give a proper meal to his daughter, and is suddenly aided by his student Kotori, whose mother runs a small restaurant. It's a heartwarming show about a father's quest to get delicious food for his daughter, and also a "food anime" that celebrates cooking and eating, two of our favorite things. I like the show because it accurately portrays what it's like to raise a girl in Japan. We had the exact same challenges getting our daughter to eat her vegetables, and she somehow managed to kick me in the head every every night while sleeping. I recommend Sweetness and Lightning a lot.

    Finding time to meet that special someone can be a challenge in our busy, bustling world , and in overworked Japan the difficulty of finding a partner to marry is seen as a serious social problem, contributing to the declining birthrate and the possible extinction of the Japanese race over the next millennium, according to current projections. To combat this trend, municipal governments as well as private companies offer 婚活 konkatsu or "marriage activities" to help people find someone to love, hosting 合コン gokon or "group dating party" events, essentially a structured way for single people to meet and interact. Now a smart company has organized the first Pokemon Go-based matchmaking events, cleverly called Pokemon Go-kon. At the events, male and female participants meet in a park and engage in several structured social events, then are later paired up to hunt Pokemon together.

    We've got great news for fans of yuri stories today: Flowers, one of the most beautiful games exploring lesbian relationship by girls, is now available for download from J-List and JAST USA. (The Steam version is also available.) If you preordered the gorgeous Limited Edition, which comes with acrylic figures of the characters in the game along with art cards and more, we're duplicating them now! The translation has been totally reworked and updated and the game is great!

  • Schrödinger's Panties, Love Hotels, and More

    Schrödinger's panties, love hotels, and more

    One of the good things about animation is that creators can show anything they can dream up, and it's fun to analyze the unique "anime physics" that exist in the 2D world because of this. From the way light bends around a character's glasses so we can see their eyes even from the side to the ability to pull a bento box out of "boob hyperspace," there's no end to the liberties animators can take. One of my favorite examples of anime physics is "Schrödinger's panties," the way "fan-servicey" shows like Konosuba show females with ambiguous pantsu, which might either be there or not -- there are infinite possibilities until the skirt is lifted. Another stand-by in anime is the tendency for characters to fall in a certain way, grabbing boobs or panties as they go down. Of course that never really happens in real life...or does it?

    I get a lot of questions from people planning visits to Japan, and I always do my best to offer what advice I can. When looking for lodgings, you've got lots of options, including Western style hotels,traditional ryokan inns, capsule hotels that let you sleep in the heart of a bustling city for under $40 and the recent introduction of Airbnb style room options, which I have no direct experience with. If you want to get off the beaten path a bit, consider a stay at one of the many Buddhist temples which offer austere rooms at low rates, or a 民宿 minshuku, a kind of inexpensive local youth hostel not usually frequented by foreigners, which might make for a more authentic experience. There's another option, depending on who you're traveling with: stay in a love hotel, where you can have a really unique experience and maybe sleep in a vibrating heart-shaped bed. They're sometimes located in out-of-the-way places so you might need a car to reach them, but they're quite inexpensive, usually costing around $95 for an overnight stay, and can be fun to experience.

    We've got great news for fans of yuri stories today: Flowers, one of the most beautiful games exploring lesbian relationship by girls, is now available for download from J-List and JAST USA. (The Steam version will be online very soon too.) If you preordered the gorgeous Limited Edition, which comes with acrylic figures of the characters in the game along with art cards and more, we're duplicating them now! The translation has been totally reworked and updated and the game is great!

  • Have You Visited with your Ancestors Recently?

    The Summer Comic Market has just ended, the 90th bi-annual event held since the popular convention started way back in 1975. For three days more than 500,000 people thronged the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, cheerfully buying doujinshi, Touhou music CDs and games plus many other products. While Comiket is famous internationally for those "naughty" fan-made comics, this is a function of the "lens of the Internet," making us see certain aspects of Japan more easily than others, and the vast majority of items sold at the event are non-adult. Because Comiket is three times larger than the San Diego Comic-Con, there's a system of complex rules that has evolved governing, for example, where and how to photograph 'layers (cosplayers), with fans using stopwatches to limit the amount of time each cosplayer has to pose, to keep them from getting too tired.

    Japan is in the middle of its Obon Buddhist holidays, a time when families celebrate the symbolic return of their dead ancestors for a visit. Most Japanese will take the opportunity to travel to their parents' home to burn incense at the family grave and, oddly, make little chopstick horses out of eggplants and cucumbers, which symbolize the horses your family members ride home. It's a nice time for family, though a mild inconvenience, since the roads are jammed with cars and all J-List's suppliers close up shop for a week.

    The subject of Japan's religion is a complex one. When asked, most Japanese will answer that they have no religion, though as they get older they realize they're Buddhist after all, and start paying more attention to such things. Buddhism in Japan is somewhat separate from other countries in that it's primarily about remembering one's ancestors, which is really at the heart of Japan's spiritual life. I've often observed that Japanese will sometimes say they felt the spirit of their dead grandmother guiding them through troubled times, in the same way a Christian might feel the hand of Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

    Although we update the J-List site three times a week, we're adding new products every day, and we've been posting some great Japanese snacks to the site for summer recently, from Salt Milky that helps you combat the heat to fun anime snacks. Browse our snack selection now!

  • Anime Style Marketing in, plus Who's Your Favorite "Half" Character?

    The popularity of anime and related culture throughout Japan has led to anime-style visual images being used in all kinds of general marketing, including En-Tenshoku, a company specializing in "career change" job placement, which uses a smartly-dressed moe female office worker to appeal to their target audience. Anime has become extremely important to convenience stores, who market themselves to otakus using product placement as well as tie-ups with animation studios. When the Lawson convenience store chain held a "Kantai Collection fair," stocking limited KanColle-themed snacks and other products for three days only, popularity exploded, and created a popular Pixiv art meme of Kashima working as a Lawson store clerk that represented millions in free advertising for the chain.

    It's fun to analyze the way anime companies go about creating characters that will win the hearts of fans. One popular approach is to mix up an all-Japanese cast by adding in a character of mixed ancestry, called ハーフ haafu. The Japanese tend to idolize haafu as being the perfect blend of East and West, combining proper Japanese sensibilities with language fluency and the magic ability to do what they themselves cannot, ignore the restrictive rules society is always imposing on them. In popular culture, haafu characters are often portrayed as highly skilled, and characters like Asuka from Evangelion, Sawamura Eriri from Saekano, Yomiko Readman from Read or Die and the famous Lupin III all have skills most of us could only dream of having. (Full Japanese who are raised abroad, like Makise Kurisu, also manage to develop these unique abilities somehow.) The new Godzilla film even has one, Kayoko Ann Patterson, an extremely competent Japanese woman who was raised in America.

    Stress is a bad thing, and at J-List we believe removing your daily stress at the end of the day is good for all of us. Here's a new line of amazing "ecchi" toys that come in two parts: an inflatable doll plus an onahole that can fit inside, for extremely realistic use. Remember, all J-List shipments are totally discrete.

  • More Fun with New Game!, and My Trip to Yokohama

    I continue to enjoy the New Game! anime, the story of a girl named Aoba who finds her dream job working at a game developer. In a world where so many anime shows are about school life and culture festivals and how can we find a fourth member for our school club, senpai?, it's refreshing to have a series about the world the majority of us presumably live in, working regular jobs at companies. In addition to random pantyshots, it's a fun show that offers some insights into what it's like working inside a Japanese company. I laughed at the episode about the "aircon wars," something that we have to manage with here at J-List as we struggle to find a temperature everyone is okay with in Japan's hot summer.

    Thursday is a national holiday in Japan, the newly established Yama no Hi or Mountain Day. While it's ostensibly a day to go appreciate Japan's many mountains, its proximity to the extended Obon Buddhist holidays is really intended to help Japanese families who travel home -- kind of like Thanksgiving in the U.S. -- enjoy an extra day with family, and of course spend money, since the government knows that people generate more economic activity on leisure days than while at work. The original religion of Japan is Shinto, which sees kami or god-spirits in natural objects like trees, rocks and mountains, and whenever I climb a mountain in Japan, I know there'll be a Shinto shrine waiting for me at the top.

    The other day I took off work early and headed down to Yokohama, a city I love but don't get to visit very often, to attend a dinner show and a talk by, of all things, a famous kabuki actor my wife is a fan of. (She brought me along because she knew that I'd stand out, being the only foreigner there.) I've always loved Yokohama for its history (the first foreigners to set up life in Japan did so in the city's Yamate region in the 1870s), though on reflection I realize I love all the port cities in Japan -- Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, Hakodate up in Hokkaido -- for being doorways of culture into Japan and all-around nice cities to visit. As I always do, I brought back shumai, Chinese dumplings, since Yokohama has the best Chinatown in Japan.

    J-List stock thousands of anime products from Japan, and we're big fans of Re:Zero ~Starting Life in Another World from Zero~, an innovative show that blends a fantasy world with extreme drama and (best of all), Rem. Browse all the new products we've been posting to the site!

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