Japan is always ready to surprise you in one way or another, and some of the business practices employed here have caused me some confusion over the years. Once, an electronics retailer we used to frequent closed its doors suddenly, apparently having gone out of business. We were saddened to lose a shop we liked, but we found another retailer that served us just as well. We were surprised when the first store reopened a couple months later with new floors and a new sign — apparently they had just closed for renovation, but as they didn’t bother to make this clear to their customers, they inadvertently ended up losing our business. Also, there are times when salesmen don’t act as you’d expect them to. When NTT finally brought fast hikari fiber (fiber optic) Internet to our part of the city, I was so overjoyed I was ready to sign up for the most expensive dedicated line they had. Instead of selling me the costlier service, the NTT salesman talked me out of it, telling me that the standard shared line would be more than fast enough for us — and he was right. Then there was the time I was shopping for a Minolta camera, the old kind with the silly pre-programmed cards that enabled certain camera effects. I was so filled with camera lust that I was about to add several of the cards to my purchase, but the salesman at the store shook his head, telling me that they weren’t worth the money, losing an additional sale but certainly gaining my trust. I’m not totally sure that similar salesmen in the U.S. would have worked to keep me from making an unnecessary purchase like that.
When founder of the AFLAC insurance company John Amos went to Japan for the Osaka Expo in 1970, something unique caught his eye: the Japanese custom of wearing a white cotton mask when they’ve got a cold, which keeps germs from spreading to others. From this he smartly deduced that the Japanese are very health-centric and might be open to buying his company’s insurance products, and he decided to open up a branch in Tokyo. This turned out to be one of the wisest business decisions in history, as AFLAC now insures one in four Japanese households and nets $4 billion in sales annually here. Yes, the Japanese are quite focused on health issues, and it’s common to see television shows interviewing 104 year old women from Okinawa on how they lived so long, and introducing strange foods you’ve never heard of that are guaranteed to change your blood from doro doro (doh-roh doh-roh, syrupy, thick) to sala sala (smooth- flowing and healthy). There are hundreds of products in the marketplace that promise to protect you from bacteria, too, from special soap you leave in your kitchen sponge to sterilize it overnight to my daughter’s bicycle, which was marketed as being “germ resistant,” whatever that means.
Although Christmas is a relatively recent import into Japan, the giving and receiving of gifts has always been a big part of life in Japan. Besides many formal and informal traditions of exchanging gifts, such as the “engagement presents” traded between the families of a couple about to get married, there are two big gift-giving periods in Japan, when families will give special pre-packaged gift sets such as canned coffee, laundry detergent, soy sauce, salad oil and sake to people who have helped them in some way recently. Companies also trade these gifts, and this year J-List will exchange “oseibo” presents with companies like Crowd (maker of the X-Change and Yin Yang! series), CD-Bros. (publisher of some of the cool new games we’ll be bringing out next year) and our many toy, DVD and other distributors. While it makes sense to give something that everyone in the receiving company will be able to use like canned juice, it’s also fun to receive something unique from another part of Japan, such as the interesting Hokkaido fruits and seafood that Crowd often sends us, or the delicious Curry Udon from Nagoya we sometimes get.
One of our favorite product genres are bishoujo games, the “pretty girl games” for PCs which let you interact with Japan in a whole new way. We’ve got the world’s largest selection of dating-sim games, with titles for all tastes, whether you’re interested in cat girls, maids, or extremely dramatic stories that may even make you cry, with many titles available as downloads, too. We’re happy to announce that the new title Bible Black: The Game is now in stock and ready for your immediate order. A great title that explores the satanic side of the genre, it features outstanding art and characters and story that lets you choose either the light or dark side of the story.
We’ve got loads of great products for your holiday list, with hundreds of recently added or restocked products that anyone on your list would love to receive. We’re sure that more than a few of them would love to get some cool Domo-kun products this year, and to help you out we’re announcing our first-ever Domo-kun Free Shipping Sale. Here’s how it works: order 3 or more Domo-kun items from our extensive seection and we’ll give you free shipping on those items, even the rare big-ticket Domo-kun plush toys we’ve got limited stock of. Please note that in almost every case, the cool Domo-kun products we have are the last that will ever be available from Japan, so if you’ve been biding your time to round our your Domo-kun collection, now is the time to act, as long-time J-List readers know that a sale like this is a really rare event that won’t come along again.