We hope everyone is enjoying the J-List Holiday Sale, which we started early, to give customers more time to receive their packages. Make an order now, and get 18% off orders over $150, or 10% off orders over $60. (Details here.)
While Japan is not without its challenges, including the news that the country has officially slipped back into recession after a negative reaction by consumers to April’s 3% consumption tax hike, there’s some good news, too. It seems the number of foreign visitors topped 1 million in September, an increase of 26% from last year and the highest number of foreign visitors to Japan ever in a month. While we might think of “foreigners” as happy Westerners posing with maids in maid cafes in Akiba, in reality the bulk of foreign visitors to Japan are from South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, countries that have close cultural bonds with Japan, certain silly island disputes notwithstanding. The increase in visitors is in part due to the weaker yen, which makes it cheaper for everyone to visit Japan, but it also represents a “peace dividend” thanks to lessening international tensions throughout Asia. One of the most popular spots in Japan these days is a train crossing in Kamakura, a pleasant city south of Yokohama where the historic Enoshima train line runs. The intersection is featured in the opening credits of the Slam Dunk basketball anime, which was widely seen throughout Asia, making it a popular spot for 聖地巡礼 seichi junrei or “making a pilgrimage to the holy land,” what visiting real places seen in anime is known as. On some days you can’t get near the intersection because of all the foreigners standing there waiting to get a shot as the train goes by.
Coming to Japan and using Japanese every day was a new experience for me, and I remember actually feeling mild soreness in my mouth at the end of the day, since speaking the language requires muscles to be more “tense” than when speaking English. At other times my brain felt “tired” because it seemed many of the linguistic concepts I’d stored up over the years were being split into two. While we’re all quite content with the single word “sister,” in Japanese this concept is divided into お姉さん oneesan for “older sister” and 妹 imouto for “younger sister,” a distinction which must always be made, even when talking about twins born only minutes apart. The Japanese have two words to express the concept of “cold,” which are 寒い samui (meaning coldness in the air) and 冷たい tsumetai (for coldness to the touch), and for some cultural reason they insist that 水 mizu (water) is a totally separate concept from お湯 o-yu (hot water). The Japanese often import English words then split them into two versions for their own convenience: glass in a window is ガラス garasu, while a glass you drink from is グラス gurasu, and you can be sure gaijin will get the wrong word every time. Another source of confusion comes from the fact that each kanji has two readings, a Chinese and a Japanese one. A good example of this is the kanji for “mountain,” which is san using the Chinese pronunciation or yama using the Japanese one, and for most every mountain these can be used interchangeably, e.g. either Akagi-san or Akagi-yama is acceptable when referring to Mt. Akagi, the dead volcano that towers of J-List’s world headquarters. One exception is Mt. Fuji, which should always be pronounced “Fuji-san, as the name Fuji-yama has become hopelessly cliched after decades overuse by American soldiers and foreign tourists.
We love finding rare and fun products from Japan for the Holiday season as much as our customers love buying them, but this year there’s a slight problem: the usual “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” weekend is one week later than in normal years, which shortens the time for J-List customers to receive their orders. Our solution? Start our big sale one week early! This year we’re really going big, with 10% off everything on the site if you buy $60 or more, or a whopping 18% off if your order total is $160 or more! (Doesn’t apply to certain items like iTunes cards or gift cards, grab bags or subscription items.) No coupon codes to enter, just enjoy the savings. This sale will end at the end of Monday, so get shopping now!