One question I like asking on Facebook and Twitter is, what was your first exposure to “non-traditional” gender and relationships in anime? Was it a light-hearted “yuri comic relief” sub-plot in a mainstream series? Ranma 1/2 changing into a girl whenever he gets doused with water? A serious story about same-gender relationships like the “cousins with benefits” Sailor Uranus and Neptune? Japan has a long tradition of exploring these issues thanks to the 400+ year history of Kabuki, which uses male actors to expertly fill female roles, or the all-female Tarakazuka Revue, which does the reverse (with sexy results). I’m happy to report that Flowers (Spring Arc), the beautiful and dramatic visual novel about girls who love girls, is nearing release very soon. You should totally preorder the Limited Edition, which comes with a large box, super cute acrylic figures of 2 of the main heroines in the game, artcards, the game on DVD-ROM and a Steam key inside the box. (Future releases in the series will also feature thse figures, so you can collect them all.)
One subject I’m interested in is the way a country looks a certain way when viewed from far away (both geographically and culturally), but quite different when you “zoom in.” While certain Japanese foods from sushi to ramen to onigiri rice balls have become famous all over the world, I often find myself eating foods that are a lot more obscure. Like soboro, teriyaki flavored hamburger and scrambled eggs served over rice, or okonomiyaki, a kind of pancake of batter, cabbage and that heavenly Japanese sauce. (If you want to learn to make either, J-List’s cookbooks are on sale this month.) Later today my family is going out for unagidon, or grilled river eel served over rice, a traditional food for stamina in summer, though not one I’m terribly fond of.
Some common foods eaten here are downright embarrassing to the Japanese, like nekomeshi (rice and miso soup mixed together, considered only suitable for cats) or mayo rice, just mayonnaise eaten over rice, which people act horrified by yet seem to be secretly eating. One food that came to symbolize Japan’s postwar poverty is hinomaru bento, or “circle of the sun bento,” a lunchbox with nothing but white rice and a single pickled umeboshi plum in the center, making it look like a Japanese flag. When my mother-in-law was growing up, she was so poor that the ume plum rusted a hole in her metal lunchbox, but they had no money for a new one.
J-List has great news for everyone: We’re having a huge sale on our popular anime and kanji T-shirts, which are in stock in our warehouse in San Diego. We’re closing out dozens of our otaku-friendly shirts at special prices. Want to grab our Mirai Suenaga shirt, or Toradora shirt, or “Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend” shirt? Order now before the sizes you want sell out!