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Oh Japan: Things About Japan That Fascinate Me!

Updated on January 13, 2013

Land Of The Rising Sun

The Japanese term for Japan is Nippon or Nihon which literally means "origin of the sun". The name is derived from the country's position (eastward) relative to China. The Japanese call themselves "Nihonjin" and their language, "Nihongo".

The country is one of the modern world's industrial superpowers, recovering fast from the ravages of the Second World War compared to other Asian countries or other nations in the world for that matter.

The Nihonjin are previously known to shun outsiders as evidenced by their terms pertaining to foreigners such as "Gaijin" meaning non-Japanese or alien, "ikokujin" meaning different country person and "gaikokujin" meaning different motherland person. Today however, they have learned to blend Western cultures with their own and the result is quite fascinating.

In this lens, I will share the things about the Land Of The Rising Sun that interests me, from the people and culture to the fashion to the food.

Image Source: Images Of Asia

Japanese Street Fashion

Colorful outfits, violent blending of hues and various materials, a shocking depiction of current trends all at once - that is how Japan's street fashion is.

Like anywhere in the world, Japanese clothing trend come and go but unlike anywhere else, the Nihonjin have a rather long list of subculture attire to choose from and show off. Young adults are often seen on the streets strutting in attires that portray various subculture styles like "cute" Lolita where child-like clothing are used; the colorful Visual Kei with flamboyant costumes and striking makeup and hair color; Dolly Kei, which portrays the nation's view of the Middle Ages; and Decora where layers and layers of neon colored outfits and accessories are worn.

Lolita Fashion

Decora Fashion

Ganguro Fashion

Bosozoku Fashion

Visual Kei

Mori Girl

Japan's Subculture Fashions on Amazon

There are three main segments to Japan's classical theatre: the Kabuki, the Noh and Bunraku.

The Kabuki is the more popular one, it was declared by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. One of the interesting facets of the Kabuki is the fact that it is acted exclusively by male actors. It wasn't always that way though. Before the Edo Period (1603 to 1868), the Kabuki was performed by women. That stopped only when the Tokugawa Shogunate forbade the women from acting. Till today, male actors portray both male and female roles.

The Kabuki is very rich in showmanship: the costumes are always elaborate, the makeup carefully done and made to enrapture the audience and the wigs are fashioned in deliberately outlandish ways. Every movement of the actors is exaggerated and full of meaning.

There is a very good risk that a viewer, even a native Japanese, would be lost and fail to follow the flow of the act because the language used in this theatre is an old fashioned form of Nihongo. It is always advisable for one to read or understand the story before attending a showing. Kabuki plays are always based on events from history and well-known folk tales that tell of love, moral conflicts, tragedy and conspiracy.

The Noh and Bunraku branches of Japanese classical theatre were also declared by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. Noh involves dance, music and drama with comical interludes known as Kyogen. The Bunraku is the traditional puppet show of Nippon.

Anime is derived from a shortened pronunciation of the word animation. This word is also recognized in English to mean a style of animation that originates from Japan.

Anime has a large following in Japan as well as all over the world. This style of animation is known for its distinctive features that include large-eyed vibrant characters, colorful graphics and plots that are always action-filled. There are many different themes including mecha which is futuristic and involves battle robots, romance, comedy, drama, slice of life which depicts everyday things and activities, moe which are aimed at girl audiences, and supernatural which revolves around topics such as ghosts and magic.

There are also various types of Japanese animation: kodomo is educational and for young children, shonen is aimed at boys and examples include Dragon Ball and Naruto, shojo is a type of Manga (Japanese comics) but can also be used to refer to Japanese animation aimed at girls and examples include Sailor Moon and Angel Sanctuary, seinen are for young men older than high school age and josei are for women older than high school age.

Image Source: 8Tracks

Favorite Anime

This is a list of my favorite anime series on TV. It is in no particular order and if you want to add anything to it, feel free to do so. :)

Favorite Anime Films

Here's a short list of my favorite animated films (Japanese). They are in no particular order and you can vote your favorite up or add to the list. :)

The Horror Films

Japanese horror films can really spook!

The best J-horror films for me are:

  1. The Ring

    This is one of the well-known horror movies from the Land Of The Rising Sun and the story is familiar to many. People who watch a certain video receive an eerie phone call right after then die mysteriously 7 days later.

  2. Noroi (The Curse)

    A lot of Japanophiles (J-horror enthusiasts) claim that this is the best horror movie to ever be produced by Japan. The ‘found footage’ movie follows the investigations of Kpbayashi, a journalist who is fascinated by the paranormal. As he continues to document strange events that surround a mysterious woman and her son, he unravels a demon ritual which used to be practiced in a small town now submerged in a dam. On the day the ritual was to be performed for the last time, something went wrong which might have started the string of supernatural events Kpbayashi doggedly record in his camera.

  3. Ju-On (The Grudge)

    People who enter or come in contact with a house in Nerima is then haunted and killed by the vengeful spirit of a woman who used to reside there. She and her son were murdered brutally by her husband, and apparently, they died with such deep grudge or resentment that a curse was born in that house.

  4. Dark Water

    About a newly-divorced woman and her daughter who move into an apartment where they start to experience strange events. An American remake of the film was released in 2005 starring Jennifer Connelly and Tim Roth.

  5. Suicide Circle

    The opening of this movie is really gory and nor really for the faint hearted. More than 50 high school students make their way to the train station and as the train nears, they jump to the rails as one. The next scene is of bodies crunching, blood spurting all over and screaming. Welcome to the Suicide Club!

Honorable Mentions

  1. One Missed Call
  2. Kairo (Pulse)
  3. Purei (Pray)
  4. Unholy Women (Kowai Onna)

J-Horror In Amazon


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