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Yearning Japanese

Help out Annual Gift Man with some bizarre holiday gift ideas from perhaps the only country with a more twisted vision of commerce than ours: Japan

Americans are sometimes so wrapped up in their cultural ownership of Christmas that they forget that even the Japanese have Santa Claus. But according to one of our most respected educational texts—and this would of course be The Simpsons—they absolutely do. "Except over there they call him 'Annual Gift Man' and he lives on the moon."

OK, perhaps John Waters' guest appearance on an animated TV show isn't the best place to start. But Petty Booka singing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in Japanese? If the Ghost of Christmas Present could play a ukulele, friends, that is what it would sound like.

Even better, Japan may be the only country with a vision of holiday commerce even more insane than ours. And who doesn't want wacky gifts from Japan? One website with several is www.jlist.com. It's all there. If you don't want to be assaulted with all the adults-only stuff, you can go to www.jbox.com instead, which filters out all the more risqué items. If you want a bona fide Japanese schoolgirl uniform, this is where you go to get it. For the twisted Japanophiles out there, most of the weird stuff that follows is available directly from the J-List folks themselves.

Japanese Bamboo Ear Cleaners
In Japan, a common method to clean out the wax in your ears is by using a mimi-kaki, which is a tiny bamboo hook with a puffy thing on the end. Of course, somebody somewhere had to fetishize the instrument and now there exists a bona fide mimi-kaki fetish, where men like to have their ears cleaned by their wives or girlfriends. You gotta love it—only in Japan would somebody come up with such an idea.

Black Black Gum
Once written up in Wired Magazine, Japan's infamous Black Black gum is loaded with caffeine and niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3. Since caffeine in gum gets absorbed much faster than its coffee counterpart, these little sticks pack a punch. Black Black even gained enough popularity to convince Jean-Claude van Damme to do their commercials back in the '90s. According to the J-List website, the gum contains sugar, starch syrup, grape sugar, erythritol, oolong tea extract, gingko extract, chrysanthemum flower extract, gum base, flavorings, coloring agents (cacao, gardenia), caffeine and niacinamide. It's rockin' stuff.

'Person of Sake' Shirts
Several shirts with Japanese calligraphy are available, including this one, which says, sake-bito, which translates as "person of sake" or someone who loves to drink all forms of alcohol. The shirt is a ridicule of the famous shima-bito (Island-Person) designs, and instead proclaims you an imbiber supreme. Show this to a Japanese person and you'll be in store for all sorts of nefarious activities.

Revenge of Perverted Women
Here's one for the ladies. The Yamanote subway line in Tokyo is infamous for groping incidents. Women get groped all the time. Men consistently seek out the selected derriere and then they stealthily cop feels at will. It got so bad that the authorities began installing signs that said "Beware of Perverts" (chikan chui). J-list now offers a reverse chikan sign that says "Beware of perverted women," warning men to hide their private parts.

Girlfriend Knee Pillow
Don't have the guts to grope somebody in public? Well, if you're home alone, Jlist can provide a sexy "Girlfriend Knee Pillow" (Hiza Makura). It's a foam pair of miniskirted legs that one could lay his (or her) head down into the lap of. So if you're down in the dumps, rest your lonely head down on her lap. It just might soothe the blues away.

I Want a Girlfriend
The most famous product J-List sells is the notorious "I want a Japanese Girlfriend" T-shirt. We're told it translates as "now accepting applications for Japanese girlfriends," or "Wanted: Japanese girlfriend." When J-list first released this T-shirt in 1997, they opened up a Pandora's box they never even knew existed. Apparently minions of dudes throughout the globe would like to have a Japanese girlfriend. It is the biggest selling item J-list offers. Who woulda thunk it?

The Other Japan
Taking it one step further, another swell gift for twisted Japanophiles would be volume 12 of the Gothic & Lolita Bible, a perfect introduction to the "Other Japan," chock-filled with glossy photos, tips on clothing, food, the dark side and more. At $19.95 you can't beat it. Japanese Goth Lolitas are known worldwide for their impeccable taste in dress and bizarre costumes.

Tokyo Damage Report
Last and certainly least, Tokyo Damage Report (www.harmful.org/homedespot/ADIARY.htm) is one of the most hysterical explorations of underground Tokyo idiocies and absurdities. Just go through the archive—you'll be on it for hours. Exactly one year ago, he broke the news that there actually exist Japanese hooker trading cards. Each perforated card has a photo, phone number and relevant information. (Yeah, they're just way ahead out there in Japan, I know.) What a gift. Add those to your stockings now.

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From the November 30-December 6, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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