I recently talked about how many Japanese professionals from businessmen to musicians to athletes seem to consider succeeding in the U.S. to be the Holy Grail of their respective industry, a kind of cultural Oedipus complex that we non-Japanese can’t ever understand. In the case of musicians wanting to make it big in the U.S., many are no doubt hoping to follow in the footsteps of of Kyu Sakamoto, who claimed the coveted #1 spot on the Billboard charts back in 1963. The song was Ue o Mite Ariko, or “I Look Up When I Walk,” a cheerful tune about a decidedly un-cheerful topic, a man dealing with heartbreak. It was released in the U.S. as the Sukiyaki song, even though it has nothing to do with my favorite Japanese winter dish, and defied all expectations by turning into a smash hit despite being sung in the original Japanese language. Back in the days when I had free time (i.e. before starting J-List), I’d sometimes take extended bicycle trips around our prefecture of Gunma, camping along the way, and once I headed out for a remote village called Ueno-mura to explore some caverns I’d heard about there. My wife shuddered when she heard where I was going. “I could never go out there, that’s where that plane went down in 1985.” She was talking about JAL Flight 123, the terrible crash that claimed the lives of 520 people, including the singer Sakamoto. Sukiyaki remains one of the most famous Japanese songs throughout the world — I once bumped into my old nisei high school teacher singing it in a restaurant — and it’s been covered many times and in many languages. Here are some you can download in MP3 format.
It wouldn’t be much fun if your job was to stamp documents all day long, but as usual everything works differently in Japan, and they take the idea of stamping documents very seriously. While signatures are the accepted way of indicating your approval in writing in the West, in Japan and much of Asia you usually use a hanko, or official name stamp that’s registered with the city. This custom always strikes gaijin as odd — after all, what’s to stop me from stealing someone’s stamp and taking all their money out of the bank? For some reason, you never hear of this happening, partially because for really important transactions you need to go to the local city office and get a document that proves that this stamp is the one that’s registered to you, kind of a like a notary public for your stamp. Companies have official stamps, too, and when you order an Apple product your warranty card comes with an eerily cool red stamp that says Apple Computer Inc. on it in katakana and kanji. Japan can be quite a superstitious place, and when my wife made the official J-List hanko stamp she went out of her way to do it on one of the Buddhist “lucky days” (called Taian), paying I don’t know how much for a hand carved stamp that would surely bring our company more luck than some “brand X” one.
It’s once again time for one of my favorite events of the year, the J-List Bounen-kai, or Year-End Party, in which the entire staff of J-List will gather for good food and drink and will look back on all that we’ve accomplished this past year. And what a year it’s been! Besides filling more than 80,000 orders and hopefully bringing Japan a little closer to you, J-List turned ten years old, which is really a long time when measured in Internet Years — we’re even two years older than Google. This year we’ve rented a stylish sushi restaurant that specializes in maguro, which is tuna sushi and sashimi, which will no doubt be followed by a hearty dose of karaoke and maybe some good late-night ramen at a little place I know of. We’ll be making many a kampai to you, our wonderful customers. Thanks for your support!
In other news, we’re happy to announce that our newest blockbuster dating-sim Yin-Yang – X-Change Alternative is in stock and shipping now! An all-new take on Crowd’s popular X-Change concept, made by all-new team including scenario writer Q-Tron and artist Nao Tajima (of Eve Burst Error fame), this newest X-Change focuses on Kaoru, a Japanese boy who possesses a unique form of “yin-yang” DNA that’s both male and female. When he accidentally drinks a potion that serves as a catalyst, he’s surprised to find his body transformed into that of a girl. What bizarre adventures will Kaoru-chan face as he struggles to find a way to return to normal? We’re plowing through the many preorders now, and hope you’ll pick it up now that it’s available!