October 08, 2021 6 min read
Japanese pop culture is particularly fascinating, so much so that this imaginary universe seduces young people all over the world. Over the last ten years, the archipelago has enjoyed an impressive cultural influence. An incredible craze, which is not about to disappear.
Between the kawaii style, the Harajuku fashion, the manga phenomenon, J-pop and anime, not forgetting the unique experiences of the Maid Café or cosplay: Japanese pop culture never ceases to amaze us.
Discover the basics of this totally insane mass culture that crosses borders.
Who never saw cat eared headbands or young girls dressed as dolls in the streets of Tokyo? In Japan, the Kawaii style, which can be translated as "cute", is omnipresent, whether it is in clothing, fictional characters or on store signs.
With a strong connotation to the world of childhood, the kawaii universe is part of the Japanese popular culture and brings a little tenderness in this world of brutality 😉. More than just an innocent fashion, this attraction for " cute " stuff is a form of opposition to the oppressive traditional culture and the demands of the Japanese society.
In addition to inspiring the trendiest fashion styles in Japan, kawaii is also used in manga, food, music and even in marketing strategies of companies through round-headed mascots with big eyes that can be seen everywhere. Find out more about the characteristics, history and influence of the kawaii style in Japanese culture right here.
Credits: Tokyo Fashion
As a true temple of fashion in Japan, the Harajuku district, located in Shibuya, is the trendiest place in Tokyo. This avant-garde district has witnessed the creation of many different styles ever since the 70's, each one of them being more extravagant than the other.
Their particularity? All of them are part of a protest approach, breaking with the Japanese society. Each weekend, in the streets of Harakuju, young Japanese replace their insipid uniforms with eye-catching outfits that revolutionize fashion. From Japanese streetwear to Lolita, Decora, Visual key or a punk look, there is something for everyone. Make way for freedom of expression and originality with the Japanese Street Fashion trend!
Indissociable from Japanese culture, Mangas are popular all over the world. This illustrated novel, created by the great master Hokusai, has become the most popular comic book on the planet. Simply look at the success of the manga series One Piece, Dragon Ball or Naruto, with hundreds of millions of copies sold.
Originally referring to a quick sketch, manga has greatly evolved over the years. Its origins are found in the ancient illustrated scrolls of the Nara period, impregnated with the ukyo-e art of the Edo period before being inspired by the Western satirical press during the Meiji era. It was the famous Japanese cartoonist Rakuten Kitazawa who created the first modern manga in the early 20th century. Later, the craze for Japanese comics broke all records with the American occupation and the influence of the comic-strip. This is when the famous Osamu Tezuka revolutionized the history of manga with his numerous works.
Nowadays, there exists a great variety of Japanese comics. From kodomo manga for children to hentai reserved for 18+, through shonen manga and seinen - there is something for everyone.
Moreover, the manga universe is that important in Japanese culture that big events are dedicated to it. Among the most popular manga festivals, we can mention the Comiket in Tokyo, the Japan Expo or the Japan Party in Paris. Want to know more about this Japanese cultural phenomenon? Read our article dedicated to the history of manga.
If you wish to live a completely delirious moment during your trip to Japan, head to the Akihabara district in Tokyo and enter a Maid Café. You'll find waitresses dressed as maids and looking like manga heroines, along with a kawaii universe. Something to transport you in a totally surprising imaginary world. Moreover, you will be able to taste some Japanese specialties nicely presented in the form of hearts, cats, little rabbits or other adorable creatures, all served with great attention. And as a souvenir, a picture with your favorite maid. If that's not cute!
Each Maid Café has its own particularities. Some are more video game oriented while others are known for their karaoke. In some places, you can find totally crazy animations like nasty waitresses for those who need to get a kick on the butt! Without a doubt, you will be disoriented by this crazy universe coming straight out of the japanime. For those who are interested in learning more about this totally crazy concept, check out this article.
In the Land of the Rising Sun, people love role-playing games and they are not afraid to dress up as fictional superheroes, even in the streets. From manga to video games or anime, the characters are varied and the art of cosplay is totally adopted by the otaku culture.
Cosplayers meet during events dedicated to manga culture and japanimation, such as Comiket, Anime Fair or Japan Expo. Moreover, the World Cosplay Summit is an international costume player contest which is becoming more and more popular.
Born from an American concept, cosplay was first linked to the science fiction universe. It was democratized in the 70s and 80s with the release of Star Trek and Star Wars. When it emerged into Japan more than thirty years ago, the phenomenon caused a real craze among manga fans and geeks. And as the Japanese are known for never doing things by halves... The outfits and wigs are more than just a simple disguise, they perfectly reproduce the appearance of the hero on stage, but more than that... their gestures and attitude are also totally mastered. A real stage performance! Discover cosplay, a delirious Japanese hobby.
AKB48 j-pop group.
Continuing with the boy bands trend, the Japanese idols and their catchy hits are causing a lot of excitement. These stars, just out of their teens, their supercharged songs and their merchandise are everywhere: on the radio, on TV, in stores and in Japanese anime.
Imbued with traditional songs and western music, J-pop integrates many musical trends such as jazz, rock 'n' roll, dance and hip-hop. From the 70's onwards, Japanese record companies and art agencies were looking for new talents to form the idols of tomorrow. A veritable marketing industry of ephemeral stars was launched and of course, everything was calculated to make a maximum profit.
Among the most famous groups, we can mention J-pop AKB48 whose albums have been beating all records for years, or the famous Hatsune Miku, a virtual idol with international fame. As a true icon of the Japanese pop culture, this long blue-haired star has not finished to be talked about. Focus on the J-pop phenomenon.
Just like manga, Japanese anime movies are a true craze in the archipelago as well as in the United States and in Europe. Born in the early 20's, the Japanese anime cinema developed during the war, under the influence of the anti-American propaganda.
Later, Japan became one of the biggest producers. Among the giants of Japanese animation are Toei Animation Inc. (the Asian equivalent of Walt Disney) and the famous director Taiji Yabushita. In the 60's, Osamu Tesuka, considered as the father of Japanese anime, popularized manga television series by adapting his illustrations, such as for Astro Boy.
Because of a tight budget, Japanese cartoons lacked fluidity, which gave them a bad reputation in the West. It is only in the 80's that Studio Ghibli revolutionized the quality and success of Japanese cinema. Moreover, its founders (the great cartoonist Hayao Miyazaki and the director Isao Takahata) are at the origin of many masterpieces (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo on the Cliff...).
As time went by, japanimation obtained a well-deserved worldwide recognition thanks to its magnificent drawings, its elaborate plans and its inventive scenarios full of emotion. The Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro or Your Name... discover the best Japanese anime movies through our top 20 japanimes.
For the last ten years, Japanese pop culture has radiated beyond the borders thanks to mass media. From the Land of the Rising Sun to the USA to Europe and the rest of the world, Japan is becoming a cultural superstar. Its gentle influence is now reaching Japan addicts all over the world.
And you, what do you think about Asian Pop Culture?
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