Today I took a couple of hours off work to participate in local politics, heading down to sit in on a session of the Prefectural Assembly about my son’s special English school. Although the lawmakers have voted to financially support the school, which teaches the standard Japanese curriculum but with all classes except for Japanese and social studies taught in English, there’s an impasse due to opposition by the Prefectural Governor. At the most recent debate on the issue, a few dozen parents gathered to show their support for the school, and I brought a little “gaijin power” to the mix, since having an American in a group will get attention — the local TV station was there and kept zooming in on me during the debate. It was my first time to see the law-making process in Japan up close, and although it was like watching C-Span dubbed in a foreign language without the ability to change the channel for 90 minutes, it was educational, too. I certainly learned that my prefecture has plenty of money in its budget for beautiful facilities for its legislators to work in, although the educational budget is stretched to the limit…
All companies must come up with fresh and interesting products to interest their customers. When National (as Panasonic is known inside Japan) announced their horse-riding exercise machine, there was a lot of snickering on the Internet. But the company has turned this wonky product idea into quite a profitable category, selling 120,000 of them so far. The Joba (“horse-riding”) device, which looks like a scaled-down bucking bronco machine, simulates riding a horse and tones muscles as the user struggles to keep balance on top of the machine. We broke down and bought one of these last week, and have been putting it through its paces. It’s nice and low-impact, and it’s a fun way to pass thirty minutes. Supposedly they’re selling it in the U.S. now, under the name “Core Trainer.”
Anime fans know that a written profile of an anime character is likely to include their name, place of birth, interests, “three sizes,” and usually, their blood type. The Japanese believe some interesting things about a person’s blood type, mainly that there’s a correlation between blood type and a person’s personality. Supposedly, type A are straight-laced, serious about everything, very organized, and make good accountants; type B are “my pace” (e.g. they go at their own pace, live in their own world), quickly get bored with things that don’t interest them, and speak their minds to a fault; type O are bold, hate to lose and have good leadership skills; and AB people are supposedly so smart they look strange to everyone else. This fascination with blood types is the subject of semi-regular TV specials, which investigate which blood types are most common among famous athletes, politicians, actors, business leaders and so on. In one experiment they separated kids by blood type and asked them to move water from one aquarium to another one, them filmed the results. The type A kids used small spoons to carefully move the water from one tank to the other, while the type B children tried to come up with a good way to move the water, but got bored and gave up in the middle. The type O kids lifted the first tank and poured the water into the second tank, not caring how much water they spilled on the floor in the process, and the type AB kids got smart and moved the two tanks around, so that it appeared that they’d moved the water when they hadn’t actually done so. One possible explanation about why the Japanese are so concerned with blood type is, it adds a dash of individuality in a country that’s otherwise very homogeneous, not unlike an American taking pride in the various countries that make up his ancestry. My son is a very organized, meticulous kid, and my wife had always assumed he was blood type A. We had him checked the other day, and darned if he isn’t AB instead, which caused her blood type-influenced world view to come crashing down.
We’ve got two new wacky shirts up on the site for you. Starting off is the first-ever shirt by Dan Kim, the extremely talented artist of the Clone Army web comics, including Nana’s Everyday Life, Penny Tribute and Kanami, as well as the new “H.H. – The H-Game Webcomic.” The shirt features the deliciously bizarre (and gory) art from one of our favorite comics, Tomoyo42’s Room, which parodies the relationship of Sakura and Tomoyo from Card Captor Sakura. It will be produced in 1-2 weeks, but we’re posting it for preorder now. Then, everyone knows that the Japanese take their shoes off before entering a house, which helps separate the “uchi” (inside) from the “soto” (outside) and of course keeps your house clean. In some homes or businesses there are signs that specifically ask you to remove your shoes. It occurred to us that a wacky T-shirt incorporating these signs would be great for our customers, and hence our new “No Shoes Allowed” shirt was born, which sports a bizarre warning message that “It is forbidden to wear shoes indoors.” Totally cool!