When I first arrived in Japan, I viewed the country as a fabulous high-tech wonderland, and for a time this was true: thanks to the “Galapagos Effect,” Japan had highly-evolved notebook computers and PDAs that were different from anything seen in the West, and even semi-decent mobile browsing (NTT’s i-Mode platform from 1999). But as technology progressed, the reality that Japan is having difficulty keeping up with the rest of the world has set in. I’ve heard Japanese lament that no company here could have produced world-changing ideas like Google or YouTube, or be a major technology player on the world stage like Samsung. Before Windows 95 came along, Japan’s computer industry was dominated by NEC’s PC98 platform, which ran a proprietary version of DOS. (The golden age of ecchi visual novels and RPGs dates back to this platform.) But even though we live in a much more modern era today, with smartphones and tablets and cloud computing, many of these old PC98 beasts are still chugging along, running vital systems at factories in Japan. If you happen to be able to program and service these ancient computers, you can get a sweet job maintaining the old tech.
Although the Japanese generally have both feet firmly on the ground, there are times when they can be very superstitious. They dislike the number 4 because it has the same pronunciation as “death” (shi) — department stores, hospitals and airline ticket counters omit the number for this reason — and you’re not supposed to cut your fingernails at night, or you won’t be able to be with your parents when they die. The Japanese are interested in feng shui, the Chinese aesthetic study of direction and placement of objects, and Edo (Tokyo) was chosen as the new capital in 1603 because it lay in a “lucky” direction from Kyoto to ensure maximum good fortune for the nation. One unexpected source of good luck in Japan is…poop, due to the similarity of the word for the bodily function (うんこ unko) to the word for “good luck” (運気 unki). That’s why when a seagull happened to release an unpleasant package squarely on my daughter’s head one day, my wife exclaimed, “That’s great! I always knew you were lucky!” The most famous poop in Japan is the Asahi Beer Hall Building near Tokyo Sky Tree. While the company insists the “golden flame” represents the frothy head on a glass of Asahi beer, everyone knows it’s a talisman to bring good luck and financial success to the company.
J-List stock hundreds of fun and awesome snacks from Japan, but there’s just one problem: every summer we’re forced to remove chocolate products from the site to keep it from turning into so much Meltykiss during the hot summer. Well good news…we’ve got all our Japanese chocolate back today, from Green Tea and Sake Kit Kat to Pocky and more. And with a $5 off coupon, too (use CHOCONOW), good for one week only. Browse it all now!