Happy Halloween from all of us at J-List. Yesterday was the big Halloween Party at my son’s experimental elementary school, where 70% of the classes are taught in English although the school itself follows the standard Japanese curriculum. Despite the fact that all the students are Japanese and Halloween is a very foreign idea here (the Japanese love of cosplay notwithstanding), it was a big success, and all the kids had fun dressing up in various costumes. When my kids were younger, we made a special trip to the U.S. in October so they could experience an American-style Halloween, and they just loved it. Somehow the school managed to rustle up some orange pumpkins (which are usually hard to find in Japan, as the Japanese idea of a pumpkin is green and squash-shaped) and the kids got to carve them. My son smelled that oddly sweet smell of candle-burning- pumpkin-flesh and declared that this smelled like America to him (kind of like the smell of Mr. Bubble bubble bath). I’m happy to report that my son, who was dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi, won the award for best hand-made costume.
Language is a fluid thing, and every country makes use of words that suit its particular needs and sensibilities. Often I’ve encountered “English” words in Japan which didn’t make any sense to me for one reason or another, and it took me a while to remap the words in my mind. A person’s fanny will often be referred to as the hip in Japan, while a woman who is well-endowed is called glamor (guramaa), which always sounded like the word grammar to my ear (quite unrelated). Like the British, the Japanese use the word “muffler” to describe what you wear around your neck to keep warn in the winter, what I’d always called a scarf. If it’s hot out, you turn on the cooler (also known as aircon), and if you need to dial a # key on your phone, be sure and hit the “sharp” button (as in musical notation). When reaching for a screwdriver, you can choose between minus (regular) or plus (Phillips), which is quite logical, really. If you park your car so that it blocks your neighbor’s driveway, he might come over and claim (kureemu) — somehow the English word claim shifted slightly in meaning, so that it now refers to verbally complain about something. A mansion is Japanese-English for an apartment or condominium that is owned, not rented. And if you practice dema you are spreading lies about someone (from the English word “demagogery”).
If you’re in North America you probably set your clock an hour back on Sunday. Most people grumble about having to remember to set their clocks forward and back in the spring and autumn, this isn’t a problem in Japan, the only industrialized country that has not adopted the Daylight Savings Time system in one form or another. Instead, we have to deal with the other extreme — if I stay up past 3 a.m. watching Japan’s bizarre late-night TV, I often have to fall asleep while ignoring the sun lightening the sky outside, which isn’t much fun.
Calendar season is in full swing at J-List, and we’ve currently got over 200 great 2006 Japanese anime, JPOP, bikini idol, sports, and other calendars on the site. As usual, this year the anime calendars lead the pack, with the always popular Studio Ghibli 2006 Calendar (which includes twelve fabulous *all original* illustrations from Hayao Miyazaki’s films) again our top seller. Other hit anime calendars this year are Mahou Teacher Negima, Howl’s Moving Castle, and all the Naruto calendars. On the JPOP scene, Gackt is in the top spot, followed by Aya Ueto, and the always-cute Morning Musume. For our “beautiful women of Japan” category, Idols in Kimono is the surprise hit, followed closely by Yuko Ogura, Reon Kadena and Misaki Itoh. Finally, our “impressions of Japan” calendar category are very popular this year — top sellers are Japanese Heritage (traditional scenes of Japanese culture), Haruyo Morita’s amazing contemporary kimono girls, and Garden of Four Seasons and Castles of Japan.
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