Selling a Bit of Japan

Japanese pop culture is slowly but surely eating away the cultural stronghold that the US has kept for more than half a century. From manga to animated movies to food, Japanese influence is increasing worldwide.

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America’s top food show, “Iron Chef,” originated in Japan. The glasses made famous by Sarah Palin, were made by a Japanese designer. US total manga sales in 2007 rose some 5 percent, and in France, 64% of the 1,787 foreign comic books were Japanese. Baltimore’s Japanese pop culture convention Otakon pulled in a record-breaking 26,000-plus attendees this August.

No doubt about it, Japanese pop culture is glowing hot.

One of the net’s top shopping sites for Japanese pop culture products is J-List, run by Peter Payne, who also writes, a very popular blog on Japan which every day attracts some 1,000 visitors. I talked with Peter about how he ended up selling a bit of Japan to the world.

Peter talks about how he first got interested in Japanese culture, his study of Japanese, his life in Japan, how J-List came about, the immense loyalty of his customers and the world’s love for the Japanese mystique. At the end of the interview, Peter also suggests some fun gifts from Japan for the holidays.

Listen to the interview:

Peter’s suggestions for some very original holiday gifts:

1. Japanese Bento Boxes

Bento Boxes

Japanese bento boxes come in all sizes and designs and are an important part of daily life for countless Japanese. They are lots of fun and very environmental friendly because you use the same box again and again.

2. Japanese Calendars

Japanese Calendars

Think of Japan every single day of the year with these great Japanese calendars that you won’t find at any of your friends’ homes.

3. Hello Kitty Onigiri Makers

Hello Kitty Onigiri

Onigiri rice balls form part of the majority of Japanese bento. Leave it to the Japanese to create something amazingly cute out of ordinary every day things.

4. Domo-kun Products


Domo-kun is the loveable mascot of Japan’s public television station NHK. Since he first appeared in 30-second sketches on the channel, he has been extremely popular in Japan. People outside Japan are now discovering this square-faced “strange creature that hatched from an egg” as well.

All can be purchased at J-List.

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

Comment (日本語もOK)

Love Domo. I’m so very happy that there are more and more Japanese products available in the US.
But my question: Is Japan losing some of it’s ground in Asia with the K-pop and
K-Drame and such?

Jun 9, 2009 (4726 days ago)

I don’t think so. I think it is very healthy competition. Until now, Japan has never tried really hard to export much of this stuff, especially TV dramas. The Korean pressure is making Japanese producers take a second look, though.

Kjeld Duits (author)
Jun 20, 2009 (4714 days ago)

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