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MARZO 25

Japan Travel Guide

Pop Culture in Japan



Maybe, almost all Japanese will be able to recommend some play or tell you how to formulate an ikebana flower display. Ask them again to name their preferred comedian or karaoke song and the response will be instant. Popular culture rules in Japan and with 126 million avid consumers to draw upon, its products and buzzwords are all pervasive.
  • AUM Shinrikyo (Aleph) and Aribi-ya
    The Aum Shinri Kyo was a destructive, doomsday cult centered in Japan. Their name was a combination of Aum which is a sacred Hindu syllable...
  • The Bubble Economy
    At the same time, what came to be called Japan's "bubble economy" of the 1980s, which typified an era that combined easy credit...
  • Comedy
    Spend one night watching Japanese television and you'll realize that the stereotype view of the locals being a dour, unfunny lot is rubbish.
  • Doraemon and dango
    Doraemon is a Japanese manga series created by Fujiko F. Fujio (the pen name of Hiroshi Fujimoto) which later became an anime series and Asian franchise.
  • Enjo Kosai
    Enjo-kosai or its shortened form enko, in which enjo means subsidy or support and kosai means company or association, literally translates to subsidized dating or compensated dating.
  • Focus, Friday Flash
    The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, saw Japanese media rip into foreign paparazzi, somewhat rich considering the weekly, high-gloss scandal-mongering and intrusive behaviour...
  • Games and Gyaru
    Golf was the sport of the boom decade, but is in the bunker now that recession is biting and casual players can no longer afford the ultra-expensive membership and green fees.
  • Hello Kitty and Hanako
    The Japanese have a fatal attraction for cuteness, which manifests itself in a menagerie of cuddly toys and cartoon characters on everything from bank cards to the side of jumbo jets.
  • Idols and iMode
    Japanese idols (aidoru) are a polymorphous bunch, switching between singing, acting and modelling careers, regardless of where they got their start.
  • Juku
    Japan has one of the most highly educated populations in the world, but its educational system is not without its faults. The pressure-cooker atmosphere...
  • Karaoke
    The Japanese were partial to a good singsong long before karaoke, literally meaning "empty orchestra", was invented, possibly by an Osaka record-store manager in the early 1970s.
  • Love hotels
    There are around 35,000 love hotels in Japan, which rent rooms by the hour to couples, often married, seeking a little privacy. Once called tsurekomi ryokan...
  • Manga and Muji
    All types of drawn cartoons, from comic strips to magazines, are known as manga, and together they constitute a multi-billion yen business that accounts for...
  • Nihonjinron
    Nihonjinron is a bizarre nationwide phenomenon in which the study of the specialness of Japan has been elevated to a high art.
  • Otaku and OLs
    Nerdish characters who become obsessive about a particular subject are known as otaku and Japan has millions of them, highly knowledgeable about their chosen field, be it a particular cartoon character or computer game.
  • Pachinko, Purikura and Pokemon
    One of Japan's top pastimes and major industries, raking in a staggering ¥26.3 trillion a year, is pachinko , a pinball game of limited skill.
  • Quiz shows
    The combined travel and general knowledge quiz show Naruhodo za Warudo (I Understand the World), which began on Fuji TV in October 1981, revolutionized the quiz show genre in Japan, with its lively presentation and use of...
  • Rusu sokkusu and robo-pets
    It's on the wane now, but you'll still see plenty of high-school girls in rusu sokkusu (loose socks), baggy white legwarmer socks, worn as only the most dishevelled...
  • Salarymen and soaplands
    The dark-suited salaryman is generally a clerical office worker, although the term is applied to many other types of jobs.
  • Taiga and trendy dramas
    Long-running soap operas are very unusual in Japan, the exception being the public broadcaster NHK's taiga dramas.
  • Uyoku
    The loud-speaker-mounted trucks of the uyoku, or ultra-nationalists, are an inescapable and noisy feature on the streets of every Japanese city.
  • Virtual pets and pop stars
    The virtual pet game Tamagotchi is one of the most successful gizmos of recent years, selling some twenty million units worldwide.
  • Worlds and Will
    The length of Japan it's possible to visit many other worlds than the one you're actually travelling in. These theme-park facsimiles of other countries...
  • Yakuza and Yamamba
    With membership estimated at around 80,000, the yakuza is believed to be a far bigger criminal organization than America's Mafia.
  • Zoku and zodiac
    Prior to the mid-1980s, Japan's media often reported the latest youth subculture sweeping the country under the tag line of zoku (tribe).






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