I’m very pleased to announce that I spoke with Peter Payne, founder of www.jlist.com, and can now post the interview on the blog for you lovely readers! This could not have come at a better time as there’s currently a sale on their Japanese sweets and chocolates, so get cracking and buy some stuff!
Not heard of Jlist before? Here’s an introduction straight from the website itself:
Long story short, I bought a Tiger & Bunny calendar for my friend through Jlist at Christmas and was surprised when another friend bought me the same thing. I’m in love with the range of products on the site (mainly the sweets and drinks) and would like to point out that my birthday’s soon! *hint hint* I tweeted Peter asking if I could send him some questions, he kindly said yes, and the rest is history. On that note, let’s jump in!
For the benefit of those who don’t already know, please introduce yourself.
Well, I’m Peter Payne, an American who came to live in Japan in 1991, during the reign of Bush the First. Before the Internet really hit, so it was really old school back then.
How did you move from teaching English in Japan to setting up Jlist? What was the best thing about teaching for you?
Really Netscape was a pretty important moment for me. Just hearing all the silly news about Netscape’s IPO and how the “new economy” was coming was a wake-up call, and I told my wife Mrs. J-List (note, not her real name) that I wanted to start a company. Before officially starting I tested the water for a year or so by posting lists of products I’d had for sale (mostly used music CDs, which is where we got our start) so by then I knew the demand was enough to make the business viable.Along the way we learned the power of blogging, and we’ve had a wild ride ever since.
What was the inspiration for Jlist? Was running such a business always a dream for you?
We really started porting dating-sim games, aka eroge, though no one called them that back in 1996. We literally started J-List to “tide us over” until the H-game business took off, which was silly, looking back.
What would you say is the single weirdest item you have on Jlist?
One of the products that defined us was the Hello Kitty shoulder massager made by Sanrio, which everyone naturally assumed was for massaging some other part of the body. That kind of mix of wacky with cute was really fun.
Can you tell us a bit more about your family in Japan?
I blog about them quite a bit. Just me, my Japanese wife, son and daughter. They are bilingual, having grown up with a dad who is American rather than Japanese, but they’re average kids. My son is becoming quite an otaku, and actively scouts 2ch for “neta” (topics for me to write about) in my blog posts. I often thing our life would make an interesting 4-koma manga, something like Darling wa Gaikokujin with otaku jokes in it.
Seeing as Jlist is having a sale this month on its chocolate, what do you recommend?
Hmm, just about anything is good. Green Tea Kit Kats are another iconic item from Japan these days. One thing is, we are forced to remove all chocoalte products from May to October since summer is so hot here, so anyone interested in ordering some of these items should do so before May. (We always get a flood of mails when chocolate goes away on the site.)
What advice would you give to people would want to become fluent in Japanese and live in Japan?
Hmm, big question. I’d recommend anyone considering a move here visit and look around, see what jobs etc would be realistic. While I did the ESL teaching thing and it was good, it’s really not the best job in the world, and Japan is frankly flooded with would-be teachers now. (If you don’t have a degree, you can’t even get a visa, so obviously go back to school if you are considering Japan in your future.)
Do you get to visit other places in Japan outside of work?
Oh, I get around quite a bit. Took a nice trip up to Tohoku and Hokkaido a couple of years ago, and want to go back soon, in part to spend some money to help the region recover economically.) Though the life of a business owner is never an easy one.
So, what’s next for Jlist?
Hmm, we have some new project to announce soon, but I can’t discuss it right now. It will be non-eroge and will hopefully be of interest to all anime fans. I wonder what it could be!