After making a comment on one of Danny Choo’s posts on Saturday, I thought that I’d share with you how I came to be such an avid anime/manga fan and a researcher of modern Japanese culture.
My History With Japan
For me, I’ve been into cartoons as far back as I can remember. Back in the late 80s – early 90s when I was a wee lad, I had a cornucopia of excellent shows to watch. Some have stood the test of time and others are too embarrassing to admit to watching. I pretty much loved everything on Nickelodeon at that time and I watched Saturday Morning Cartoons on a regular basis.
In the early-to-mid-90s, my cousins went to Japan to live on a Naval base. I remember when they sent me a small Lego boat for Christmas and a pair of good looking baby-blue chopsticks. I liked reading the Kanji on the little booklet that came with the Lego boat that showed all of the other Lego sets. I was mystified by the meaning of each character, and to a certain degree, I still am. My family and I were going to visit my cousins in Japan for a couple of weeks, but it didn’t happen for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. C’mon, it was the early 90s and I was like 8 years old; I can’t remember everything! 🙂
Although at the time I was watching Japanese-based shows like Power Rangers and Samurai Pizza Cats, I didn’t begin to discover anime until around the late 90s when I found DragonBall-Z and other shows on Toonami.
I think it wasn’t until I watched the Tenchi series (Tenchi Universe I believe) in early 00’s that I began to get interested in the Japanese culture.
I discovered and got into reading manga when Shonen Jump first came to America in 2002. I’ve collected nearly every issue short of two. The thing I love about SJ is that it’s like a manga sampler platter so if you’re not sure about reading (read: investing in) a certain series and you don’t wanna get it illegally over the internet where the picture and translation quality can also be dubious at times (but has greatly improved over the years), read a couple chapters of it in SJ.
When my best friend Eriopolis bought Excel Saga in 2003 and we watched it together, I started to look online for anime outside of what Toonami was showing, which included stuff that was spoken in Japanese (a first for me at the time).
I didn’t really start to get into learning more about Japanese culture until around 2005-2006 when I was first watching vlogs by guys like TokyoCooney, Rodger Swan, and numerous others that have either since moved out of Japan or quit making YouTube videos altogether. After that, I became hooked on learning more about Japan through the eyes of those who are there and those who have been there.
I also began to watch live-action Japanese shows on YouTube like Atashinchi no Danshi, Hebi-Meta-San, and Rock Fujiyama. The latter two featured Marty Friedman and had some American musicians on as guests like Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big), Andrew W.K., and Kerry King (Slayer).
What Japan Means To Me Today
Today, I’m still watching videos on YouTube on a regular basis and using other learning material to learn more about not just the Japanese language, but how Japan as a society works. There are some aspects about Japan that I don’t particularly agree with, but there are some that I absolutely love.
One of the things I hate about Japan is how foreigners are perceived. In anime and TV shows, the foreigner is often portrayed as a bumbling idiot, a menacing troublemaker, or outlandishly promiscuous and rude. Although there are some Americans like that (I can’t speak for the rest of the world), the majority of them are just trying their best to not offend anyone and have a good experience in Japan.
One of the things that I love about Japan is the scenery and how the buildings & surrounding areas are constructed. Just go to Danny Choo’s A Week In Tokyo section, or anywhere on his website for that matter!! Danny has the best selection of pictures of Japan that I have yet to see, and he takes them all himself with equipment that’s often just sent to him to demonstrate or whatever!
So tell me, what does Japan and/or Japanese culture mean to you? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!