Posted by: kmolsberry | May 3, 2008

Nationalism and Popular Culture

Sosoren is a Japanese manga written by Yoshinori Kobayashi. It was a bestseller in 1998 and is a nationalist retelling of Japan’s history during World War II. It defends Japan’s position in the war and critiques modern Japanese society, stating that problems in Japanese society right now have their root in the American occupation after the war. It also attempts to justify Japan’s actions in China, such as the invasion of Nanjing and shift the blame for the incident away from Japanese soldiers.

Presenting this information in manga form was a good way to reach young readers. It is written in a more scholarly style than typical manga in order to make it appear more credible as a source of historical facts. While popular among the target auidence, it received a less accepting response from educators.  Some universities responded to the book by offering seminars on wartime history to address its misconceptions.

Yoshinori Kobayshi was formerly a member of the Liberal Historiography Study Group, which was responsible for advocating textbook revisionism and some of his ideas displayed in the manga are closely linked with theirs.

Anti-Korean sentiment can be seen in Kenkanryu, which was published by Shinyusha Co. on July 26th, 2005. It’s sequal, Kenkanryu 2 was released Feburary 22nd, 2006. The title translated to “Hate the Korean Wave.” The books were released at least partially in response to a recent Korean pop culture wave in Japan, where Korean music and television dramas such as Winter Sonata became very popular.

The first book contains a debate between Japanese students and South Korean students at a university.  It makes the claims that the Korean team had unfair advantages in the 2002 World Cup and that Korea as a country ultimately owes its success to Japanese colonialism.

There are two Korean manhwas released under the title Hyeomillyu– Hate the Japan Wave, in response to Kenkanryu.

Japanese nationalists are making their own movie about the Nanjing Massacre to counter other movies being produced about the subject recently. The planned title for the film is “The Truth of Nanjing” and it is being directed by Satoru Mizushima. A comittee of conservative scholars and politicians helped finance the movie’s production. References to the Nanjing Massacre have bee previously cut from Japanese school textbooks, and there were protests in China due to this. In this film, the claim is made that the number of those killed was far lower, that they were Chinese soldiers, not civilians, and that numbers were inflated due to Chinese propaganda. The war criminals depicted in the film are shown as sympathetic or heroic.

From what I found, it seems that ideas about nationalism have become more visible recently, expecially among young people, due to the use of the internet as a means of communication about nationalist viewpoints.  Overall, however, the mainstream media in Japan is not so nationalistic, for example, Kenkanryu’s author had trouble getting it published initially and it existed only in webcomic form for some time.

Posted by: ryuichi0111 | April 11, 2008

Japanese hairstyles

 My topic is about hairstyles. The most important thing on the topic is  that Japanese really care about their hairstyles. Hairstyles are essential for Japanese fashion. Both men and women set their hair as usual before they go out. Some of them spend an hour to complete their hair setting. There is so much attraction about hair in Japan.


Take a look of Japanese hairstyles on following website. 1


There are so many kinds of hairstyle in Japan. Briefly, women have three kinds, “Long”, “Medium” and “Short”. These are just length of hair. Hairstyles for male are usually categorized into just one “Men’s” Japanese hairstyles are always changing, so it is too many to count.

   These hairstyles are created by hair conditioners, wax, mousse, and gel. Actually, Japanese have trend on the hair conditioners. First, Gel used to be popular form late80s to middle90s. This hair conditioner was mainly for holding hair. This is because of influence from music which was popular in those days. For example, rock music was popular then. Many people tried to imitate hairstyles of famous musicians like X JAPAN.  

Example of X JAPAN’s hairstyles 


And, next, mousse became popular. Mousse is a French word, means fresh cream. Mousse is made of water, so it is easier to set hair and keep hair holding. Japanese still had the trend holding hair. Then, wax got the most popular for setting hair. It enables people to create many kinds of hairstyles, so it is flexible. Now, most people mix mousse and wax for their setting as new trend.


 These are hairstyling movies. Watch what it is like. 3 4


     Hair styling has been popular recently. In 1990, beauty shop was only for women, but many men visit beauty shop now. People’s point of view about hair is changing. Actually, fashion magazines are the most influential for many people. They usually get information about hairstyles and fashion from magazines. Men also tend to be interested in fashion by the magazine, and a lot of fashion magazines for men are published now. Briefly, there are two kinds of fashion magazines in Japan, for clothes and for hairstyle.  5  6


These magazines introduce new hairstyles and how to set hair. Many people, especially students are influenced by these magazines, and get interested in hairstyles. Some people desire to be hairdressers by the influence. Of course, there are many schools for hairdressers in Japan. Students usually study about hair for two years, and need to get a license to work.


These movies are about classes in a beauty school in Japan.  7   8


 So, all I want to say is that hair is the center of Japanese fashion now. That’s why I chose hair contents in Japanese fashion topic. Hair is very influential, and many Japanese people care about their hair more than any other countries people. Hair is not only a part of body for Japanese. It plays important roles as one of Japanese fashions.


Traditionally, Japanese music was like nothing one would find in the Western world. One typically couldn’t tap a foot in time with it, there wasn’t a use of chords in the way Westerners understand it, and silence was considered as important as the sound. Music in Japan was meant to follow and mimic the flows of nature, not a man-made structure of beats and bars. Some of the instruments used include the koto, shamisen and shakuhachi.

However, more and more as time goes on, the sounds of traditional Japanese music is being relegated to kabuki theatre houses or other specialized venues. The instruments are still used on occasion in popular music, but the original style is fading from popular culture. Replacing it is a more Western sound, which began infiltrating Japanese popular culture at least as far back as the ’50s and ’60s with rock-a-billy and the Beatles. Since then, it seems that the music eminating from Japan sounds much more familiar to our ears, including many genres Westerners would be familiar with: rock, pop, rap, punk, metal, electronic, etc. Then there’s the glam/punk/goth/metal lovechild: Visual Kei; a movement often credited to X-Japan and the genre stomping grounds of Gackt.

Children also seem to have some sway in the music ratings if the top 30 charts earlier this year are any indication, with Oshiri Kajiri Mushi sticking around for a good length of time, much to the surprise of the Japanese students and teachers I asked about it.

Despite the similar sound, the language barrier has kept all but one Japanese musician from claiming a spot on the charts in the West. Sakamoto Kyu in 1963 with a song called Sukiyaki. However, with the rising popularity of anime in the States, some bands who do anime theme songs get some attention from American fans.

A difference between music here and in Japan is how some musicians go about getting recognized by the general population. We’ve seen songs and artists rise to fame by a hit song used in a movie, or on occasion a television theme song (though how many of you can say what the Rembrandts have been up to recently?), but how often can we say songs get notice via a cartoon show, a commercial or even a video game? These are all viable ways to get your music heard in Japan and it’s done often. Popular groups loan songs as anime themes and perform at concerts with other groups who had theme songs for the same show. Songs used in commercials can be found on the radio. Pop singers are heard during the end credits of video games and, if they’re Gackt, even get a character based on their voice and appearance.

So, the Japanese seem to have adopted and adapted Western sounds to their musical culture, but in the process have mostly pushed aside the distinctiveness of their traditional music to traditional venues…at least for now. I prefer rock too though, so can’t say I blame them. 😉

Here’s the compilation of the videos shown in class:

Asian Kung-Fu Generation ~~ Gackt ~~ Maximum the Hormone ~~ Orange Range ~~ Perfume ~~ Rin’ ~~ X-Japan ~~ Yui ~~ Zeebra

Posted by: hdinger | April 2, 2008

Japanese Fashion


 First off Japanese Fashion, especially through the years is a very large topic, so only focusing on a few areas was key.

Currently this year at the 2008 Japanese Fashion week one of the themes was ethical fashion.  This is a type of fashion that looks enviornmentally friendly or is at least enviornmentally inspired. Also within Japanese Fashion week it has been said that the 80s trend is going to make another appearance.

The term street fashion basically a person is taking their clothing and making it their own personal style by using a mixture of current and traditional trends.  Most everything worn is either home-made or has some aspect of being altered to make it someone’s own personal style.  Google street fashion in images and it’s easy to see what street fashion is.  It’s almost like a hippie area of fashion.

Kimono is a somewhat ancient if not historical aspect to Japanese fashion.  It is a t-shaped straight-lined robe that falls to the ankles.  There is also a certain fashion to putting on a kimono, always left side over right side when it is wrapped around the body.  An obi which is like a giant belt is what holds the kimono in place and on the body. Also there are specialy types of kimonos that are worn to weddings or other special occasions.

Final area I looked into was Ganguro, which was popular in the 1990s.  It’s actually a very scary type of fashion given that most girls who participate look like modern day drag queen or rainbow brite.  It was inspired by the 70s surfer girl look.  Ganguro requires a very deek dark tan, bright colored hair (usually yellow or orange), a ton of makeup especially eye shadow in bright colors, facial gems and white lipstick.

Posted by: cliffm | April 1, 2008

Internet culture

The internet in Japan is generally faster and/or less expensive than it is here in the U.S. Given that one usually views Japan as technologically ahead of the curve, this is probably no surprise. The median download speed in Japan is about thirty times what we get here. The foundation came from the wiring in Japan. Since the country is small and the population density is high, wiring is shorter. Also, because of the Pacific War, much of Japan needed rewiring so much of it is relatively new compared to that of the U.S. The primary reason for the higher speed is competition, though. In 2000, the Japanese government told big companies to open their lines up to new internet providers. Renting these lines was cheap and that meant lower prices for the consumer, ultimately. With companies competing, faster and cheaper internet was the way to get customers and that fueled the drastic speed up.

Competing on the same level as new, upstart companies is hardly fun though. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) is Japan’s largest domestic phone company and was “compelled” to open up some of their lines to these companies. Rather than compete on a level playing field all dealing in DSL, NTT pioneered a large-scale fiber-optic  connection operation. This technology leaves the previous DSL connections obsolete, even though they would be faster than most in the U.S. ironically. Without the competition, companies would not have been pushed to drive down prices or hook up many people with fiber-optic internet connections. One example of what they are doing with this technology is telepathology, or diagnosing someone from a distance. Using internet teleconferencing, doctors in urban areas can look under microscopes in rural clinics and accurately diagnose patients across the nation. This system is supposed to be put into use this spring.


Despite the blazing speeds compared to the U.S., among youth in Japan, the internet as we know it doesn’t get seen much. Much of Japanese youth today are using their cell phones to access a smaller, Japanese-language internet designed for cell phone use. However, most get a cell phone for email, not the internet. This trend has some people worried that Japan’s youth is becoming computer illiterate because of it. Why cell phones and not computers? For starters, cell phones are cheaper than computers. One can get a cell phone with many features of a computer (such as email, internet, word processor, spreadsheets, and so on) for still less than a computer with those features. Computers also take up more space and in Japan, space is at a premium. It is more convenient to have a compact phone rather than a computer and space to accommodate that computer. Since many kids have cell phones for these reasons, there is significant peer pressure for other kids to have them and an email address.

In the U.S., text messaging is far more prevalent and cheaper than emailing from a cell phone. In Japan, emailing via phone is fairly cheap. In the public transit system, for example, there are verbal and textual notices advising passengers not to talk on their cell phones and to turn them off or on vibrate. Since emails can be lengthy (around 10,000 characters), are inexpensive, and verbal communication is prohibited or at least frowned upon in some places, emails are the primary means of communication via cell phones. And just like Americans can be proficient at writing text messages and likely receive many of them, Japanese have an analogous relationship with emails. Some youth send and receive over 200 emails daily.


Despite all of this, the relative percentage of those in both Japan and the U.S. who have internet access is around 70%. Also in both countries, this is a fairly large increase compared to where we both started out in 2000.


One aspect I did not research much about was internet gaming in Japan. I do not have a lot of information, but what I did find was, not surprisingly, that games for cell phones are popular. In contrast, online computer games are not as popular as they are in the U.S. and online gaming not on a cell phone is typically done via video game consoles in Japan. That is how some browse the internet, too. Here is somewhat amusing commercial for cell phone games that I found during my research.

Posted by: nathanhuskey | February 26, 2008

Otaku Unite… Or Don’t… That’s Cool Too…

So how do people actually become otaku? What would drive someone to become a Pocky-scarfing, Asahi-swilling Narutard more interested in Tifa Lockheart and Rei Ayanami than any real girl?

 Well, for most otaku, it probably starts with video games. Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, all are good “gateway games” for an otaku. It’s especially easy for RPG fans to get interested in otaku culture, as most RPGs are straight out of Japan and involve a lot of anime artwork.

 Anime is the segway to every other part of otaku culture. If otaku culture were drug abuse, anime would be marijuana. Once someone becomes curious about anime, they seemingly become opened up to an entire world of strange and wondrous pieces of Japanese pop culture. If said person already went through a few Japanese video games, this may pique an interest in all other parts of Japanese culture.

Compounding this whole thing is the age at which most people probably become otaku. By the time kids have racked up a few Japanese games and anime, they’re probably already in their teens, at which point they’ve thoroughly explored much of American culture already, and are just angsty enough to determine that quite a bit of American culture just sucks. Japanese culture on the otherhand is something new and different to them, and thus an otaku is born.

The most obvious shiny new toy for an otaku is manga. Having now watched an anime or two, the new otaku is now eager to check out the books that inspired the shows.

 Next up are the cons. A place for anime and manga nerds to hang out and meet others like them? What new anime nerd wouldn’t jump at the opportunity. And thus, the eager young otaku goes off to one of many conventions to include anime and manga. If we are to use my earlier drug abuse analogy, then one would liken these cons to a crackhouse. Here the otaku finds cosplay, Jrock, Jpop, pocky, and many more new Japanese things to obsess over.

Cosplay is, without a doubt, a huge part of the cons. To many non-otaku, it seems strange that you would dress up as some anime character for a convention. To those who go to cons, however, it might seem strange that you wouldn’t. As with all cultures, there’s pressure to dress “normally,” and it’s a strange feeling to be the only one around NOT dressed in samurai robes, catears, or battle-robot gear.

Jrock and Jpop are also surprisingly easy to connect to cons and anime culture. Chances are an otaku has already heard Japanese music over and over again in video game after anime after movie. Thus, they become accustomed to it quite easily.

But what about pocky? Why does every anime nerd you know love it? Well that’s easy to explain as well. You only see pocky at EVERY con and in tons of manga magazine ads. As for sushi and Asahi, it’s about the same. They’re in anime, manga, cons… anywhere an otaku might look.

And what about the internet? Well damn, now otaku don’t even need cons to be flooded with ads for Jrock, pocky, other anime, video games, and all the rest. All you need to do is pop over to some anime or manga site, or even some nerdy American site, as they link to the nerdy Japanese sites too.

 The funny thing about otaku is how they never really consider themselves to BE an otaku. My friend who wouldn’t loan me his manga unless I kept it in an airtight plastic bag when I transported it? My friend who never listens to anything other than Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki? My friend who just borrowed Gankutsuou because she’s done with FLCL and she needs something to do until Death Note comes on? None of them think of themselves as otaku. It’s like even they are going off the stereotype of the fat, pimply kid who adjusts his glasses as he watches one of his 5000 torrented anime on his computer (when he isn’t eating more pocky or collecting anime figurines of course).

Posted by: 山口智美 | January 23, 2008

class blog

This is a class blog for ANTH353, Popular Culture In/Out of Japan class at Montana State University, Spring 2008.

The image in the header is a photo of Omote-sando/Harajuku area of Tokyo, with many, many people! I took the photo this month.