Monday, March 22, 2004
Hello from a frosty, cold Japan. Although we had some extremely warm days last week, winter snuck back to remind us that it was still with us, and now we've even got some snow now on the Kanto Plain.
Almost all Japanese with a high school education study English for six years, three in Junior High School and three in High School -- if you ever want to have some fun, ask a Japanese how many years they've studied English, and watch them count up the years one by one, even though you'd think they knew the number off the tops of their heads. Despite all these years of study, most Japanese don't attain competency at English. The main problem is that "English" as a subject is learned only for testing purposes -- to get into a good high school or university, you need to do well on the English section of the entrance exam, but the ability to communicate in English is never tested. The Japanese draw a stark distinction between "English" (grammar and vocabulary) and "English conversation" (using English to converse). Another reason that Japanese have trouble mastering English is the difference between ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language). In reality, English is not used in daily life in Japan at all, so it is by definition a foreign language. Unlike Europe, where English is often used as a lingua franca between visitors from different countries, English is almost never needed on a daily basis in Japan. Only Japanese who are exceptionally motivated to learn English because they like it and want to communicate with people all over the world, such as the J-List Japanese staff, can hope to overcome these barriers.
My son has had his first taste of "entrance exam hell," even though he's still just eight years old. In Ota City, a new experimental school is opening, which aims to break the long chain of ineffectual English education by teaching the standard Japanese curriculum in English, with native English teachers speaking only English in class. Even though the school is quite far from our house, we've jumped on this chance to provide a better education for our son, since there aren't any international schools where we live. To get in, he had to pass a test, and we prepared for a month for it, brushing up on his math and kanji. It was stressful, although he thinks he did well on the test. The interview with three officials from the new school was even worse: my wife, my son and I had to answer various questions that the officials wanted to know before our son could be admitted into the school, sitting in the center of the room in three chairs. As we feared, they were concerned that our son already being able to understand English might cause problems with the rest of the students, who don't know any English at all. Our fingers are crossed that he will get accepted.
We're going ahead with our server update right now, which will eventually add various new features and improvements to the site. All looks well right now, but if you notice any problems or find you can't check out, please tell us about the problem. Remember, you can always use our secure email form (link is in the upper left hand corner) to send purchase information if you like.
For the new update, we've got some excellent products from Japan for you. They include:
- First, for Studio Ghibli fans, we've got a fabulous item: detailed PVC figure keychains from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, a super item for all collectors
- Also very cool, we have a pair of high-quality money purses featuring classic Totoro and Cat Bus plush designs, by Sun Arrow
- Ghost in the Shell continues to be a massively popular series in Japan, with the newest GitS movie by Shirow Masamune -- we have a great new series of "high grade real figure" candy toys by Bandai (full sets in stock)
- For Macross fans, don't miss out on the 1:48 scale Super Valkyrie from Yamato, complete with all armor and a great body that really transforms
- Do you love the awesome style and fashions in Gothic & Lolita Bible? We've got vol. 11 in stock for you, full of beautiful photographs and a full gothic costume pattern!
- For fans of unique Japanese snacks, enjoy "wata gum" (cotton candy-like fluffy gum) in green apple flavor; tasty Choco Flake by Morinaga; and a delicious Caplico ice-cream cone that features whipped chocolate instead of ice cream
- Also, we've got another cute keychain mascot + cookies combo item featuring the lovable Relax Bear, a bear who always knows how to take it easy
- Other restocked snacks include Punitto, a gummi-filled soft candy, Poiful, an incredibly delicious gummi jelly bean from Japan, and more of the popular Watering Kiss Mint gum
- J-List carries many unique items from Japan, like the very cool fude (foo-day) pens which allow you to write as if you were using a beautiful Chinese writing brush -- see many new fude pen items in stock today
- Hello Kitty fans, get ready for summer with a delicious and fun Tabekko Ice slushie maker, which turns any juice into a fun to eat slushy treat
- Also for Sanrio fans, a super cute Hello Kitty kitchen time that has many cute uses
- Japanese erasers are fun to collect -- we've restocked the traditional Japanese food erasers for you
- Add a little Japanese traditional flavor to your kitchen with miso soup bowls, a great Japanese tray and traditional Japanese toothpicks
- Domo-kun fans, we've added fresh stock of the very cool plush keychain set
- For anyone wanting to study Japanese, we have more dictionaries in stock, including a handy E-J dictionary and fresh stock of the popular kotowaza (Japanese proverb) dictionary
- For collectors of beautiful Japanese anime art, we've restocked the Character Design Bible vol. 1 & 2 as well as Canabis Works by Toshiyuki Tanaka
- For fans of the Spirit of Wonder figures we'd posted to the site, we've posted smaller sets of this series, allowing you to see what figures are included in each set (no random figures)
- For Domo-kun fans of the fairer sex, we've got a new version of our popular block figure parody of the famous monster in a shapely fitted shirt for you (posted on Friday but not mentioned in the update)
- Finally, find more "tongue brushes" that help you keep your mouth clean, fresh stock of the Nausicaa and Meeve soft vinyl figure, the last Hello Kitty blankets we'll be getting in this year, and more!
For our 18+ customers, we've got many new products. Please see these products on the mature side of the J-List site if you are over 18.
Do you love the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki? Remember that J-List stocks all the excellent region 2 DVD releases for Studio Ghibli movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky Laputa, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and more. These DVDs are released in Japan directly by the studio and include many features that make them great for collectors. All discs feature English subtitles and/or dubbed tracks and are great for fans who want the definitive versions of these anime classics overseen by Mr. Miyazaki himself. The only catch is, you need a region free DVD player to watch them -- and J-List humbly recommends the two excellent units we currently have in stock.
Friday, March 19, 2004
Hello again from all of us at J-List!
It seems that a Japanese city can't be complete until it has a big tower for tourists to visit and take pictures of. Virtually every major Japanese city has a big tower in its midst, to serve as a popular spot for visitors and lovers out for a romantic late-night drive. Kyoto Tower resembles Seattle's Space Needle. Marine Tower in Yokohama was the largest lighthouse in the world when it was built in 1961. Osaka Tower was built in 1887, but was melted down for war material during World War II; they rebuilt it in the 1950's. But the most famous tower in Japan is Tokyo Tower, a 333 meter replica of the Eiffel Tower, built because the Japanese secretly wish they were part of Europe (that's why Japan and Europe have the same DVD region). Since Japan is the country of "otaku," or people who become obsessed with hobbies like watching anime or taking pictures of trains, there are "tower otaku," too, who tour all the famous towers in Japanese cities. I found a homepage that contains lots of information on Japan's many towers: http://www2.odn.ne.jp/yoko-tower/museum/museum-e.htm
For a country that eats as much rice as Japan, they have some pretty interesting bread, too. Baked good are often bought in small bakeries that operate in supermarkets, and the smell of the bread baking is really great. You can buy normal bread sliced into eight, six or four slices, depending on how thick you like your bread to be -- the thick kind is great for making French Toast. There are many kinds of "bread" sold in Japan that would be called doughnuts by an American. Anpan is bread with Japanese sweet beans (anko) inside, which is something that foreigners usually can't stand. Melon Pan (melon bread) is a round, delicious sweetened bread that doesn't really taste like melon, no matter the name -- it's also called "no-miso pan" (brain bread) because it resembles a human brain. Curry Pan is a delicious ball of bread with curry baked inside it.
I remember reading through old Saint Seiya manga, while in college in the 80's, and wondering why they always write the blood type of each character along with their name, age and astrological sign. In Japan, it's believed that you can tell a lot about a person's personality and character traits from his blood type. Type A people are neat, tidy, and plan things meticulously, almost to a fault. Type B are "going my way" (as the Japanese say), meaning that they do their own thing without worrying about the opinions of others, and don't plan things out in advance. They can be messy, and tend to act on impulse, too -- I am type B, and my wife is always commenting on why do some things I do based on my blood type. Type O people have a private world inside their minds, supposedly, and they're quick to become passionate about something, but then change to something else just as easily. Type O people make good leaders. Finally, AB people have "two faces," one that they make in front of some people and another one they keep to themselves. Like the various beliefs that are related to Buddhism (such as, you're not supposed to sleep with your pillow facing north, as this is reserved for the dead before cremation), the Japanese blood type beliefs are hard to get used to at first, but when you live in Japan long enough, you start thinking there might be something to them after all...
For the new update, we've got some excellent products from Japan for you. They include:
- First, for collectors of really unique toys from Japan, we've got the newest Kubrick toys in stock -- Gumby Kubrick, featuring the classic Gumby family characters (full sets are in stock)
- For all who love the miniature, meticulously detailed Japanese food toys, we've restocked full sets of the excellent Desserts version 2, featuring famous and exotic Japanese desserts recreated for you
- Hello Kitty fans, we've got a super cute Kitty alarm clock, which you can also use as a kitchen timer
- Also, all-purpose vinyl bags with Kitty-chan and Kiki & Lala on them, very cute, and fresh stock of the cute Hello Kitty Weebles from Japan
- Japan snack lovers, we've got some great new items for, includnig bite-sized cheesecake snacks from Morinaga, chocolate covered cookie squares, and a famous soft candy from Japan with a wrapper that's made of rice -- so you can eat the wrapped candy as-is!
- We also have a new chocolate cookie snack from Kabaya, featuring the super cute pig character Bright Lighton, which come with character keychains of the famous pig in addition to the cookies
- We've restocked several popular varieties of chewing gum from Japan, including Lotte Green Gum, the fresh, green taste of a forest
- Want to freak out Japanese people? Put a "beginner's mark" on your car, which drivers who have had their license for less than a year must put on their car by Japanese law -- it will cause confusion and be wacky
- For fans of super cute iems from japan, we've got some plush Pingu keychains, of very high quality
- Another rare item from Japan, we've gotten in cute "sho Totoro" (the white Totoro) magnets that you can stick anywhere
- We love bringing you wacky things from Japan, and we've gotten in more wacky Japanese "pin badges," Japanese pins with totally bizarre messages and images on them
- Also, we've gotten in another wacky Japanese message board for people who are tired and want to be left alone
- Want to know the secrets of the Gundam universe? We've got the new Gundam Explorer Unofficial Guide in stock in our San Diego office, by Cocoro Books
- Also by Cocoro, we've gotten the new Silver Screen Samurai, featuring the best of samurai movie posters from Japan -- very cool, and loaded with information
- Finally, find a fun snack for kids to make in the summer, various restocked kitchen items, and more!
For our 18+ customers, we've got many new products. The new items include:
- For fans of Japan's wonderful 18+ magaznies, we have the new issues of Best Video and Video Boy, filled with famous and up-and-coming JAV stars
- Then see the new issue of Senningiri International, which documents one man's journey to sleep with 1000 women
- Then enjoy the wonderful sexy photobook of Nami Miyazawa, a charming small-bodied Japanese gravure idol
- Also, the flexible and lovely Miku Komori is back, with a new glossy photobook of impossible contortions and her beautiful photographs
- Also, enjoy the lovely first photobook of Miku Nakanishi, a charming Candy Girl
- From artist M.Blem, we've got a dynamite collection of H illustrations, with a focus on "maid girls"
- We have another excellent volley of top-flight H manga, with works by popular artists like Ippei Ikoma, Yayoi Umino and more, including the excellent No Longer Human by Masayoshi Mukai
- In addition, Yasu has posted a selection of manga for you, including some popular items that we've had trouble keeping ins tock
- Also, a bold and romantic new yaoi comic for you
- For our DVD customers, we've added some cool new items for you, starting with a super new release for fans of Asuka Sawaguchi, the clean, fresh girl next door from Japan (region free)
- Then prepare for more "Restructive Chair Trance" featuring a great all-girl performance, from Dogma and director Tohjiro (region free)
- From Soft on Demand, a new "naughty ballerina" offering, featuring some very flexible girls with professional ballet experience (region free)
- Then enjoy Ran Monbu in a new release from Wanz Factory, featuring an incredibly bold performance by a charming Japanese actress (region 2)
- Also, from Waap Entertainment, a superb work for fans of Waap's primary genre, a classy performance by Mai Sakashita (region 2)
- Finally, look for a large number or restocked DVDs, including recent releases by Sora Aoi, Ran Asakawa, Haruki Mizuno, Akira Watase and Kurumi Morishita.
Remember that J-List still has limited stock of the world-famous Hello Kitty personal massager, but our stock is (really) running low, and will be gone before the summer. If you want to own a piece of this pop culture history, please act quickly. Have you ever wanted to know the history of how this amazing product came to be? Well, click on over to Jmate.com and read all about the history of this unique cultural icon. The URL is http://www.jmate.com