Archive for December, 2008

“Glass Mask” Manga Re-Launch Delights Female Fans

Japanese pop culture has never been hotter than it is right now. With manga sales in the U.S. at $210 million and growing, the title that intrigues me at the moment is the long-running shōjo (girl) manga Garasu no Kamen or “Glass Mask.”

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“Glass Mask” has been going continuously since the ’70s, but stopped publishing in 2004. This summer, original author Suzue Miuchi re-launched her extremely popular series in Bessatsu Hana to Yume magazine, a monthly supplement to the high-selling “Flowers and Dreams” bi-monthly Hana to Yume .

The plot is catnip to young girls: passionate, determined and talented teenage actress Maya and her rival Ayumi compete for the coveted lead role in Kurenai Tennyo (“The Crimson Goddess”), a legendary play. Maya, who was born poor and ran away from home to follow her theater dreams, acts from the heart, while Ayumi, who comes from a privileged family, is perfect technically; both have something the other lacks.

Backstage intrigue and love triangles abound as well. Maya’s secret admirer Masumi sends her encouraging notes and purple roses but treats her with disdain whenever they meet — probably because of their age difference (the less said about this the better, as he’s 24 and she’s 13 when the series starts) and the fact that he’s engaged to someone else. But fans hold out hope that his relationship with Maya will end in marriage someday, and since she’s about 20 now it’s not so scandalous.

Hilariously, the French translation of “Glass Mask” changes Masumi’s name to “Darcy,” which should delight any fans of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

Personally, I think the series would be a huge hit in the U.S. with the “Twilight” crowd.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 30, 2008 at 10:16 am

Get on the Party Train!

You may already know this, but Japanese people love to party. Not just college kids, but older people, too — sloshing their beer and turning uneven shades of red throughout the night. Especially throughout December, there’s an upsurge of merriment to commemorate the year’s end. An izakaya (tapas restaurant) is typically the venue of choice, but these days people are getting more and more creative. Take this kegger for example:

It’s a new concept developed in Toyohashi City where you get on a slow-moving densha (train) for 90 minutes and enjoy many rounds of beer and a hot bowl of oden (an assortment of fishcakes and vegetables). They’ve dubbed it “oden-sha.” (Oden + densha, harhar) Looks fun, but my only concern is, where’s the bathroom? If it’s a cadre of coworkers, I’d be especially embarrassed to unload my dinner on them. Beer and motion sickness does that to me. =P

Boats are another vessel for drunken festivity. If you’re ever around Tokyo Bay you’ll see them floating around like lanterns along a river. It’s a beautiful site. Though inside I’m sure people are barfing up a storm.

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The idea behind having so many parties is to reaffirm ties with the people you interact with on a regular basis. Just like with sending out New Year’s greeting cards, we just want to make sure we’ll be there for each other even into the new year. But besides that, constant partying is a great way to stimulate a slow economy. And that’s just what we need right now. \(^o^)/

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Meet Your Mate at a Compa Party?

When I was in high school, the best way for girls to hang out with the boys they liked was to arrange a casual group date to the movies. We all drove separately and met outside the theater, and after the movie we had dinner or coffee at someplace cheesy like Denny’s. In a crowd, the pressure was off to constantly make conversation and you could also avoid the awkward goodbye at the end of the night (to kiss or not to kiss?). If it turned out you didn’t click with your crush, there was no risk of rejection; on the other hand, you also had a chance to figure out if you wanted to get together more privately some other time.

In Japan, this type of dating is called gokon or compa (short for the English word “companions”) and it’s a fairly common event in the lives of men and women in their 20s to early 30s.

You can read a humorous example here, but this is the gist of it: A man and a woman team up, decide on a time and place (probably a restaurant), and invite four or five friends each to come along. (Gender balance is key — everyone wants a potential match, so you can’t have an extra person of either sex.) Drinks are had, inhibitions lowered, and then everyone usually goes off to a second location, either for more drinks or karaoke.

gokon

Segregation of the sexes can sometimes be more pronounced in Japan than it is in the U.S. Men and women don’t always have an opportunity to interact at school or work, male/female friendships are not extremely common, and social groups tend to be all-male or all-female. In the evenings, salarymen are expected stay out late drinking with their male colleagues, while groups of women may hit the shopping mall or theater together, so gokon is a great way to bridge that gap.

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 22, 2008 at 4:06 pm

The Art of Cellotape (Cellophane tape)

Among my collection of stationery goodies, I never seem to run out of cellophane tape. I use it to wrap presents, stick paper to the wall and occasionally hem long-legged jeans (though staplers work better). Other than that, there are always at least two rolls sitting in my desk, hoping to see the light of day.

So let’s say you’re a manufacturer of adhesive goods. In woeful times, how do you stir up demand for your unsung product? How about by giving a crazed artist access to all the gumminess he needs?

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That’s what tape manufacturer Nichiban decided to do when artist Ryo Sehata asked for bulk amounts of what Japanese people call cellotape (cellophane tape). In return, Mr. Sehata has been plugging them all over the place, most recently penning an essay for the national newspaper Nihon Keizai News about his obsession.

So just how crazed is he? For his prized work, titled “Rolling Sculpture.20” he used a whopping 4,000 rolls of tape. Each roll is about $1.40; you do the math:

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And unlike a baseball, he didn’t use a rubber core to anchor the thing down. It’s 100% tape that he wrapped from a tiny ball – sore fingers are a problem, he says. Though the sculpture weighs over 200 pounds, so I can’t imagine worrying about it rolling away.

This is my personal favorite:

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Once a struggling artist, Mr. Sehata has gone on to open exhibits across the country. It took him a while to feel confident sculpting something most people use to lift cat hairs with. But once his art took off, he was happy to find a company that would supply him with enough tape to work his magic. It’s a partnership that’ll stick for a lifetime if you ask me.

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 19, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Auto Companies Gunning For the Future

As the U.S. auto industry enters crises mode, begging Congress for a $25 billion cash infusion, CNN International reports that Japan’s big three auto companies — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — may be better positioned than their U.S. counterparts for the challenges of the future. This is because they employ different business and management styles.

U.S. manufacturers in Detroit have kept the same business models for the past 20 years (i.e. make ’em big and proud), favoring SUVs and other large size cars and trucks and focusing on shorter-term profitability. Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, Toyota and Honda have been investing in research and development, with an eye toward helping their companies grow. Going green has proven to be an asset. Fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius or Honda’s zero-emission car take into account the changing needs of a global market.

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Another reason Japan is not feeling the same economic crunch, according to the CNN article, is because they pay their non-union automakers a bit less and don’t necessarily offer the same level of benefits. There is a lot to be said for the American style, which provides workers with fairly good wages (starting at $14 per hour) as well as full pension and health care plans.

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Finding a way to reconcile the two styles may be difficult, and it’s one of the first problems President-elect Obama faces in his new administration: How to protect the livelihoods of middle class auto workers while acknowledging that the same old gas-guzzlers from Ford, GM and Chrysler aren’t cutting it anymore.

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

New Years Postcard Frenzy!

The holiday season is in full swing which means that 2009 is just around the corner. For most Americans, New Year Day is reserved for nursing that after-party hangover. For Japanese people it’s the day to wait at your mailbox.

They call it nenga-jo, New Year’s postcard greetings typically inscribed with messages like, “I wish you good health and happiness” or “I’m sure I will be indebted to you this year as well.” You send them out to most anyone you know, especially the people you wish to keep in contact with. When I received my inaugural batch, about 40 in all, I was humbled knowing how many friends I’d made. I also felt bad I left off so many off my own list.

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The entire process reminds me of my elementary school days when we’d pass out Valentine Day cards to classmates. Some kids splurged on cartoon-trademarked cards with Sweet Tarts. Some of the less fortunate resorted to making their own with scissors and a grocery bag. Some received more cards than others. Like Charlie Brown, some got hand-me-downs. The Japanese New Year card is the adult version of that same ol’ popularity contest.

The obsessed Japanese person will spend major bucks on them, buying printer machine or decorating the cards with colorful rubber stamps. Many people do away with the handicrafts and get them professionally done with glossy photos of their family or their prized parakeet. However way they do it, one of the most important things to do is handwrite a short personal message like, “How’s your mom?” or “See you at school!” That way it makes the person feel more special.

Though these days as people get a little more lazy and reliant on modern technology you’ll see more people simply texting or emailing their New Year’s message to friends. It might not feel as grand, but it still does the trick. First one to have their inbox flooded wins!

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 12, 2008 at 3:34 pm 2 comments

Haramaki in a Winter Wonderland

When I lived in Chicago and New York, December meant freezing temperatures and bundling up in lots of layers. I wore hooded sweatshirts, thick coats, mittens, and even that ubiquitous ’80s staple, legwarmers.

In Japan, you have another option when the weather turns frigid: haramaki, and it’s totally tubular (last ’80s reference, I promise). Haramaki wraps the center of your body in a soft tube and keeps your belly warm, over or under your clothes. You can also wear it as part of your pajamas.

haramaki-model

The theory is that if you keep your middle cozy, you’ll prevent heat loss from your extremities, because they’ll no longer be competing for distribution of warmth. The extra comfort, circulation and support for the lower back is especially good for pregnant women, but haramaki were originally worn by Samurai as part of their armor, to protect their kidneys!

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In the last year or two, haramaki have cast off unflattering comparisons to “granny panties” and been transformed into a fashionable accessory available in a wide variety of shapes, colors and styles, with or without pockets. My favorite is the tartan with matching blanket, but I may have to settle for making one myself (see how here).

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 9, 2008 at 1:09 pm 2 comments

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