Japanese television is always interesting, with a broad mix of entertaining things to watch. Variety shows, which feature popular “talents” (entertainers) like cute-as-a-button Yuko Ogura, are a major staple of the airwaves. One show, called World’s Greatest TV, brings clips of television from around the world, including bizarre TV commercials from America, Europe and Asia, and has famous people try to guess what will happen next. Another popular genre of television here is the “trendy drama,” and love stories starring top stars like Yuji Oda and Akiko Yada are always near the top of the ratings charts. With the opening of cultural ties between South Korea and Japan, this year has also seen a huge explosion of interest in tear-jerking South Korean soaps, as well. Another popular genre of television here are classic Agatha Christie-style mysteries in which detectives have to solve a murder. There are many twists on the standard mystery formula, such as “Stewardess Deka” (a trip of crime-solving flight attendants) and one series in which they tell you who committed the murder right at the beginning, and then let you watch as the expert detective follows the trail right to the killer.
Like Cherry Blossoms in the Spring, words are fleeting things, and it can be surprising how their meanings change when they’re imported into other languages. Many of the English words the Japanese use don’t match up perfectly with their Japanese counterparts. When I had to replace a cooling fan in one of our Macs the other day, I went to the local computer store (“Power Up Computing Life”) and asked for a fan, using the English word. Other concepts that we use the word “fan” for go by very different names in Japanese, such as senpuuki (an electric fan), uchiwa (a fan you use to fan yourself, non-folding) and sensu (a traditional folding Chinese fan). There are some other English words that the Japanese use, but only in limited ways. If there’s a girl you’re secretly in love with, a Japanese might advise you to “attack” her (meaning, go and win her love). The English word “camouflage” often refers to a gay man and woman marrying to hide this fact from others. And the English word “propose” is used in Japan only to mean a proposal of marriage, which certainly presents the potential for confusion in international work settings.
For whatever reason, Japanese men are fond of urinating outdoors. When driving around Japan, it’s not at all uncommon to happen on an older man relieving himself by the side of the road — even walking from my home to J-List, a mere 100 meters or so, I sometimes see one of our neighbors peeing in the ditch. It’s partially a rural thing — with a population of 140,000, our city is not large, and there’s a lot of agriculture — but I’ve seen friends from Tokyo and Yokohama do it when the need took them. It can get so bad that people occasionally put signs that say “It is forbidden to urinate here” (tachi-shon kinshi) in front of their homes. This bizarre and uniquely Japanese message is captured on one of our wacky T-shirts, too – a little piece of Japan for everyone.
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 Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky Laputa, Princess Mononoke and his Lupin the 3rd classic, The Castle of Caliostro (a favorite of mine). 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, they’re Japanese releases (region 2), so you need a region free DVD player to watch them — and J-List humbly recommends the three excellent units we currently sell.