Featured Image from: Youtube
Today, the popularity of anime in the US is seemingly exploding. As someone who grew up in Asia, I was exposed to anime ever since I was young. Not the kind of exposure like it is in Japan, but if I wanted Japanese cartoons, they were available from morning until the night where I grew up. So, as with things that we grew up with, it becomes less of a deal for us. So when I started traveling to America and eventually made Oregon my home, I was surprised that American kids are just starting to pick up on anime. I would’ve thought that it was big here, so much to my surprise, it was still on its infancy here when it was just normal where I came from.
So I went with this second phase of my love (or like, at least) for anime. It didn’t last long, but I picked up on a couple of things that I thought were the reasons why anime wasn’t as popular here as it was in Asia. For one, it didn’t come from this region. That would mean kids here didn’t get the newest manga or series as quickly as we did back in the east. Two, and I think this is a big reason, all of the anime here was dubbed in English. Anime was also dubbed in Filipino back home, but if you know stores like Comic Alley, you can get bootleg DVDs with the original Japanese dialogue for as low as $1 per seven episodes. There’s something missing in dubbed anime that makes the whole thing unsatisfactory. Still, it didn’t take people here long to catch up.
But the actual reason why my second wind for anime didn’t last long was because I was so enraptured with all kinds of shows about Japanese culture. There were shows for everything about Japan, from the mundane to the ridiculous. I was, and still is, captivated about life in Japan. I learned German, but I wanted to live in Japan.
J-Vloggers Are Living the Dream
For me and probably millions of millennials who grew up watching anime and short features about Japanese life, J-vloggers are living the dream. Leaving your home for Japan, which is still an alien country to most of us foreigners, couldn’t be easy. But if you’ve loved the country’s culture, like many of us did, it makes the separation less painful.
You don’t even have to subscribe any vlogger, you can just start searching for videos in YouTube and you’ll go down a rabbit hole with the amount of content dissecting the why’s and how’s of Japanese life. Call me a sucker for long-distance relationships, but I’ve been following Rachel and Jun from their early days five or six years ago. I follow some other channels, but not as much as theirs. There’s an undercurrent of cultural clash in their videos, which I love so much when it’s unfolding in front of the camera. They’re definitely the one I encourage my friends to watch. There’s so much to learn in their videos, which are a handy introduction to Japan if you’re going there.
But as big as Rachel and Jun is, they’re the tip of a mountain. I probably have watched videos from hundreds of J-vloggers over the years about Japanese food that still aren’t exported and their perception of the biggest events in the western world. I’m speaking as a Japan fanatic here, but it’s so fascinating to hear the comments of Japanese about what happens in the international stage. They are the perfect outsiders: they remain neutral and see the good (and the bad) about things that occur outside of their country.
One of the biggest attractions of the country to me that aren’t so popular to most people is their powerful streetwear culture. I say powerful because the culture here is so intense that the biggest brands in this particular world, Nike, Adidas and Supreme among them, release one-offs exclusive to the country. Most of them are in Tokyo, and you won’t be able to get those items anywhere in the world. As an aficionado myself, I look forward to finding rare sneakers in Japan and getting my hands on Tokyo-exclusive merchandise.
There’s always something to love about Japan, no matter what you like. I can’t wait to book my ticket to the country, to be honest. But if I’m not thrilled about anything, it’s about people not accepting Japan as a whole. As a history buff, it’s hard to look past Japan’s history while admiring their culture. If there’s one more thing you should learn about them, it should be their actions in the past.
A Small, But a Deeply Black, Mark
Japan won’t escape its history, however amazing their culture is. That’s not to say that the sins of western countries are any less, but Japan’s aggression in the past is rarely talked about. When there’s news about Japan and China, I know exactly who feels aggrieved and who’s defending themselves. You can trace that clash back to the First Sino-Japanese War and Second Sino-Japanese War, which coincided with the Second World War. If you think the atrocities in Europe were astounding, you should see the body count in China. I had to read several books about the Second Sino-Japanese War to confirm that 22 million Chinese civilians died during that war alone.
Then, there’s the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. My own country suffered up to a million casualties during the time of the Japanese here, and it gets even worse when you hear stories of rape, mass murder, and racism. That’s why I know exactly how to frame everything that comes from Japan. I know what cultural advances are just for show and what those that aim to undermine my people are. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying Japanese media, but consider it as a permanent microscope pointed at the Japanese.
There’s also some societal peculiarities about Japan that I simply find odd. Their obsession with schoolgirls is one that stands out. It’s both intriguing and disturbing at the same time. It makes for a good read, but I doubt I’ll just be as idle when I actually see it in person. In addition, their society is seemingly headed to an individualist future. Right now, it’s every person for themselves. We may be framing solitude the wrong way, but it’s hard to achieve happiness all by yourself, which is exactly what’s happening in Japan.
It’s safe to say that there are things I love about Japan, and things I can’t stand about their society. I’m the same with western cultures, but there’s something that connects to me personally about Japanese culture. I still can’t pinpoint what it is, but I don’t really worry about it too much while enjoying anything Japanese.