One thing living in Japan will do is make you a better driver. The combination of narrow roads with many twists and turns, dodging pedestrians walking along streets that are too narrow for sidewalks (including high school students in their hard-to-see uniforms), and parking rear-end first into tiny spaces, will hone your skills to the point that you’ll get compliments when you go back home. There’s one problem though — living in Japan will also make you forget anything you ever knew about your car’s engine. Because cars here must receive a special check-up called 車検 sha-ken every two years, which both makes automobiles safer to operate and provides an excuse for people to buy a new car rather than pay this unpleasant $600 fee, it’s customary for drivers to leave every technical aspect of their car’s performance up to their dealer or mechanic. J-List’s home prefecture of Gunma (home of the Initial D anime) is blessed with several famous mountains that are fun to drive up, though every once in a while you see a poor hashiriya (street racer) who mis-judged a curve and crashed his beautiful car.
At J-List I consider it my mission to break Japan’s culture and customs into bite-sized pieces to help encourage understanding, since the country can be confusing sometimes. Like the way Japanese society is organized in a “vertical” manner, with senpai (an upperclassman, or senior member of a company or organization) and kouhai (the opposite) treating each other quite differently, one speaking informally and the other speaking with polite verbs. Another important concept is the idea of 所属 shozoku, or official affiliation with a company, school or other organization, and whenever the news reports on a person who’s been arrested, they also tell us person’s affiliation (employee of such-and-such company, government official etc.) since it’s information viewers need to process. Of course, anime is a place where the strict rules of Japanese society need not always be followed. One character who doesn’t follow the rules is Suzumiya Haruhi, a girl who does outlandish things like treat poor Mikuru badly even though Mikuru is actually a year older (this is why Kyon always uses respectful Japanese with her), and joining a school club at high school she doesn’t even go to, which would be unthinkable in the real world.
The hit new anime Dagashi Kashi is a great way to learn about the world of traditional Japanese snacks from the post-war period, but J-List can do even better: now you can order limited sample boxes of the specific snacks talked about in each episode, from Umaibo to Kompeito and all the rest. Preorder the snack sets (vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4) now!