Konnichiwa everyone! Finally, I can blog about the winners of the (extended) Japan Essay contest from January! *_*
We had to screen 40-50 entries and we really had a hard time to choose! SO MANY GREAT ENTRIES!! You guys ;___;
To everyone who submitted their essays, domo, domo arigatou gozaimasu!!
This contest is proudly sponsored by Japonista Sole ♥
Essay Guide Questions
- What do you like about Japan and since when did it start? What is your Japanese dream if you have one?
- How do you see the current Japanese Pop-coolture compared to K-Pop and other similar pop-cultures growing in Asia these days?
- How do you see your own country’s pop-coolture growing compared to Japan’s ?
- Where do think the global cool-ture is heading? Do you have any ideas about that?
- How do you relate living in such a materialistic and obsessed generation to ideas of achieving world peace and cultural harmony…can you explore this and do you have any hope and aspirations for the future being part of this kawaii, otaku and kakkoii generation?
Phew.. these must be so hard to answer!
The World Where We All Follow Our Dreams
Essay by Giambra Silvia
The first glimpse of Japanese culture I took was with manga and anime. Since I was little, I watched Sailor Moon, The Rose of Versailles and Saint Seiya on the TV and my mom always reminds me how much I wanted to go to Japan even at that age.
When I grew up, I started getting more into anime and manga and at the same time, I started reading articles, books, blogs and everything I could get my hands onto about Japan. When I was 14, I stumbled upon a blog about Harajuku Fashion and it was love at first sight. At that time, I didn’t really care about my image, but when I found Decora, Visual Kei and Lolita, I wanted to look like the people I saw in street snaps and pictures.
My love for fashion has grown since then, when I took my first steps into Japanese fashion culture. At the age of 16, I really started dressing Lolita, but after a couple of years, reading magazines like Kera, Zipper and street-snaps blogs, I started wanting to make my own style. So, at 18, I started dressing how I felt, just letting my emotions go through my closet and my clothes. My style has been changing a lot, sometimes it is really colorful, other times I wear black&white outfits. I even uploaded an “evolution” album on my Facebook to show how much I had changed through the years.
Now my dream is to go to Japan, someday, feel all the things I have been watching from the distance, get a work there related to fashion or books. It’s a simple dream but just being there would be the happiest thing to me.
Japanese pop culture is under evolution, as it has been since I can remember. Trends come and pass by, but maybe now Japan is “absorbing” what’s on fashion nowadays. K-Pop is having a great impact worldwide, so it’s obvious that Japan, being nearer, must have been under its influence.
That’s what I like about Japanese pop culture. It’s always changing, adding new things and giving a special twist to everything, even if it comes from another country. But where I live, there is no such big boom about that.
Spain’s pop-culture is not as big as in Japan. There are communities scattered around my country, but I think the biggest ones are the Lolita community (like Lolita in Wonderland) and the Gyaru community. As they have some kind of rules that defines them, they’re easier to spot and they’ve had a bigger impact on the Spanish people. People who are not filed under any style are harder to find, as I have seen and I have been a Lolita too, my closer friends are also Lolitas. I’d like to find more people who dress freely and without boundaries, but I think that’s a question of time. Japanese pop-culture is starting to be well-known in Spain, so I hope one day we’ll see more kinds of fashion, because right now, culture around the world is under a big change.
There’s a worldwide crisis (in my country there are lot of problems related to it) and the younger generations grow up with the feeling that they’ll never have the opportunity to success in the fields they love. Lots of my friends are studying degrees they don’t really like just to be able to “survive” in the future. And that has an impact on culture, of course.
From what I’ve seen in fashion, resale and second hand shops are a big hit. They’re cheap clothes and they may be customized at your taste. That brings back clothing from other times, the ’70, the ’80 and the ’90, which were also times of change. Younger wants to show their spirit of fight from their clothes.
But there are a lot of opposites right now. We obsess over clothing. I obsess over clothing, I know I do. But I think, as I said, that we’re trying to fight for something better and bigger as world peace and cultural harmony goes beyond that, but also starts from respect and love. One of the things I have to endure being part of this generation is others mocking me for dressing freely. If people could just accept differences, just starting by the way others dress, act or live, as long it’s in a respectful way, we would start caring for each other.
One of the things I like more is making presents. I can sew, knit and write short stories. I love giving stuff I have put effort into, because it’s a way to show love to others. It’s still materialistic, maybe, but it makes people happy. If we all started giving a little part of ourselves to others, freely, without expecting anything in change, maybe we could be better people and help our world to get better.
Kawaii, otaku and kakkoii culture is a start. We love cute things, so we should try making our world a “cuter” place. A place where we can love and live freely and happily. Where trees grow, where there are no wars, where people don’t suffer. Where we all follow our dreams.
Essay by Katie Blackbourne
For me, the attraction of Japan is the richness of the culture which is so different from the one in which I grew up. The fashion is very attractive, everyone I've met who is Japanese is very polite, humble and friendly, the music culture is so diverse and true to itself, and the language is beautiful. I first found myself becoming attracted to Japan about six years ago when I discovered the band 'the GazettE' accidentally one day. In fact, that day I was feeling very depressed, just following random Youtube links for something to do and I stumbled across this band. I thought to myself, "Wow, this is like nothing I've heard before. They look like nothing I've seen before and the words they use ..." I was utterly captivated. I did some more research and fell more and more in love with their sound. I discovered more Japanese bands then started doing research about the fashion. I gained an enthusiasm and self-confidence I'd never had before and the new music releases gave me something to look forward to. I started to teach myself Japanese to help myself better understand the music and to be able to read more about the fashion. This helped me find more people online who were in the same position as me - full of passion about Japan - and the more I learnt, the more I wanted to learn. I worked harder at school in order to get into a university to study Japanese language at degree level, and it's kept me going even just over the last few weeks. My dream is to work in Japan as an English teacher, to visit Harajuku every week, to follow the GazettE on a tour of the country and to keep learning about Japan until the day I die.
The Japanese pop-culture seems, to me, to be much more unique than, say, Korean pop-culture. In Japan there are idols like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who pushes boundaries with her costumes and acts as a role-model for young people who want to express themselves. In Japan there is also the predominant rock culture, following visual kei bands, Harajuku style and the smarter oshare kei, which contribute to the rich fashion culture as well as the music scene. Although there is a little enmity between certain groups of fans, in Japan it seems that music really inspires people and brings them together. I also follow Korean pop-culture (as Korean is another language that I enjoy studying) and it seems much more reserved and less experimental. K-pop idols seem to be clean-cut, well behaved and nicely dressed, which contrasts with the radical styles of Japanese music. I think K-pop is more popular in the Western world because pop speaks to a lot of people and it's easy listening, whereas Japanese music and fashion is perhaps a little more obscure. To me, followers of Japanese 'coolture' have more opportunity to express their uniqueness and I think that will carry through beyond the trends in K-pop.
As for the 'coolture' of my country, England, I think it has grown as far as it will ever grow. There are surges of fame for certain boy-groups or girl-groups that takes over suddenly and many people follow each other to listen to it, but to me this extinguishes the opportunity for self-expression. Those who want to follow the crowd and conform to the pop-culture of England can be as enthusiastic as followers of Japanese 'coolture', though, and that's the most important thing. If that kind of music makes many people happy, it will continue to exist. But everything has been done once before and, although trends change, there are rarely artists in this culture who push boundaries and express their uniqueness, which is where English culture differs from Japanese culture so much.
Overall, I think 'coolture' will continue to grow and change in the way it has since the 1950s, if not faster due to Internet access these days. Things come and go in trends but I think that, as equality is growing more and more important (with the current issues of gay marriage, feminism and self-image) I believe that 'coolture' will travel more and more the same way as Japanese 'coolture', that is to say uniqueness and expression will be more important than conforming. However, Internet sensations and viral videos mean many millions of people view the same things at the same time and this leads, of course, to millions of people liking the same thing, whether it's the same clothing style or the same music. A healthy balance of uniqueness and enjoying what everyone enjoys looks to be the way forward to me, but we'll have to wait and see!
In spite of this, I think that the materialism of this generation is a shame. Spoiled children don't learn the value of hard work and it becomes difficult to make progress when people won't work for it. However, there are many conflicts going on in the world and the continued bloodshed saddens many people. This materialistic generation has grown up seeing war and poverty in many parts of the world and my hope would be that they will learn enough of it to halt the violence when they become the next world leaders. Being a part of the otaku/kawaii society, I have a lot of hope for cultural harmony. The people I've met who belong to this sub-culture are very accepting of everyone and love any kind of self-expression. This kind of understanding will be key to peace in our lifetimes and I think that this generation can lead the way. If we show kindness to everyone and accept the expression of our neighbours then they will be encouraged to act the same way to their neighbours. It has a knock-on effect and my hope is that the next few generations will inherit this mindset and explore their own uniqueness - perhaps becoming the next Kawaii Ambassadors and passing on the message of kindness our generation will show them.
I DREAM OF NIPPON
Essay by Reese Lansangan
I guess most things start with innocent obsessions.
I was probably in kindergarten when I started unconsciously obsessing over Sailormoon. This interest gradually manifested in all things - my toys, my dreams, and my drawings. Every girl I drew then had to have long, dreamy pigtails with "shiny, mouse-like ears". My whole encyclopedia set was littered with drawings of accordion-pleated skirts and sailor collars. I picked out jewels from my Mom's clothes and stuck them to my forehead as some makeshift tiara. I bought Sailormoon candy in my school's canteen because I was told by my then-best friend that I was going to transform into a Sailor warrior at night. But of course, no amount of twisting and twirling made me so. And so that dream died, but the obsession didn't.
It actually carried on to my later years. There was a time when I obsessed over Magic Knight Rayearth's Marina and Saber Marionette's Otaru (I literally wanted to marry him). Detective Conan sealed my ambitions of becoming a professional super sleuth. The whole of my 4th grade was anchored on being obsessed with Fushigi Yuugi, to the point that my friends and I kept a number of clear books and fillers with photos, trading cards, drawings, and sheets of character bio-data. I could tell you straight-up what Hotohori's blood type is (A), or Tamahome's birthday (June 28). By that time, I also couldn't decide which character I liked better, so I christened my first ever email address as "miaka_chiriko". I am not one to compromise.
My friends and I, who were all equally obsessed, also held daily anime drawing contests. This involved trading the day's drawings amongst each other and rating them according to "beauty". Although I mostly got 99%, I had friends who got 105%, so scores didn't do much to affirm me.
As I grew older, I jumped to different anime: Pokemon, UFO Baby, Ghost Fighter, Love Hina, Please Teacher, Rurouni Kenshin. I developed a love-hate relationship towards sushi: I loved how it looks but hated its taste. I tried to learn Nihongo on my own, armed with a book my cousin loaned to me (which I never returned). I desperately wanted to wear, more so own a kimono, the real highlight of this I thought was getting to wear a 'pillow' at the back. I wrapped colorful pieces of cloth on my waist to make my very own obi belt. I painted a humble collection of restaurant-stolen wooden chopsticks to match my weekend outfits, so I could stick them in my hair. And at home, I wore socks with my slippers - the closest to a pair of geta as I could ever get.
Subconsciously, my interest in Japanese pop culture and traditional costumes soon translated into a snowballing obsession for Japanese street style. Looking back, I actually don't know where it all started. Was it a Google image from FRUiTS? An accidental stumbling upon Dropsnap? A flurry of online search prompts on Tokyo and Harajuku? I don't really know. But it was love at first sight.
Before finding these Japanese fashion subcultures, I didn't realize that people can take everything good and pretty and wonderful in this world, hang it on their bodies, and go on with their normal, merry lives. The idea fascinated me: that our bodies could be our own personal Christmas trees to dangle our obsessions with - be they eyeballs, bows, candies, hearts, frills, petticoats, bats, skulls, an army of safety pins.
I embraced Japanese street style wholeheartedly, devouring image after image of youngsters in platforms and coloured hair and TOYS on their necks. I amassed a small collection of Japanese magazines and soaked up everything that appealed to me. I guess that was all stemming from hunger for the lack of craziness (style-wise) here in the Philippines, where I've been born and raised.
I guess it's mostly the weather. Most Filipinos dress for comfort than for artistic or cathartic purposes. Our staples stop at shirts, jeans, skirts, and dresses to cater to the sweltering heat of the summer in our country.
I guess it's also partly Western influences. While Europe and America have fostered a lot of insanely brilliantly creative designers and artists, experimental fashion tends to start and end on the runway. Throughout history, fashion risks have been made, redone, and repurposed to define generations. But the risks almost never dare become impractical or inconvenient for the sake of self-expression.
To our credit, the Philippines is starting to put value on individualism.
I'm naming K-Pop, fashion blogging, and the proliferation of foreign brands in the local market as three of the major catalysts for Filipino individualism.
It's not as unusual as before to come across Filipino youth with colored hair, exploratory fashion styles, and DIY attitude. These people make the general society more appreciative of the existence of fashion outliers. As a Filipino girl with stark pink hair and Asian inspired style influences, people mostly associate my attributes with Japanese ideas. Construction workers, vendors, and passers-by call out every possible Japanese association they can name to me: "anime, cosplayer, Japanese doll, Sailormoon, Cardcaptor Sakura" - you get the picture.
Despite more and more young Filipinos trying to break the fashion mold, taking inspiration from mixing our intrinsic creative sensibilities with Asian and Western influences, the Philippines still remain to be collectively conservative in the sense that you won't go around seeing stuffed toys on people's shoes on a normal basis - even if it is a local creative hub. And the people who make an effort to be different are sometimes scorned, humiliated, or labeled as weird. It's not the most encouraging thing sometimes.
I don't know why, out of all places, I fell in love with Japan. Given that they gave birth to anime and their collective style consciousness, I find that I still can't run out of things to love. Japanese food packaging, crazy vending machines, super robotic toilets, wonderful gachapon prizes, the STICKY RICE - I can't stop identifying with all of these things that are culturally embedded in Japan. I guess in a way, it makes it so much easier for me to love and base my fantasies on, over any other country. Even sometimes, over my own.
It's weird cause I find that I need to defend my love for Japan, and separate it with my love for the Philippines. As a Filipino, I feel intrinsically wired to love my own country more than any other land, and that all my Japan-oriented dreams is a form of betrayal, somehow.
I've been taking the extra step in trying to find more and more things about the Philippines that I can personally relate with, but instead I explore reasons as to why I hold Japan so dear.
Maybe because it's a country for people not afraid to declare their obsessions so openly. The society understands the tendency of people to display their affinity to the most specific of things, such as punk music, doll-like fashion, or a certain cat cartoon that wears a bow. The society supports the need to create physical manifestations for obsessions, even caters to that need with every new maid cafe, girl group theater, or fashion subculture created.
Japan is for people who are not afraid to go all out, to center their whole lives in a pursuit of what they love. It's for people who will happily spend hours adorning a single fingernail. For people who can spend a lifetime bejewelling a dresser. It's a country that celebrates change and modern thinking, but at the same time a country that respects tradition, honors values, and values honor.
As an outsider, I keep thinking how Japan did it. How was it able to establish its place in the world as a superpower that continued to look back despite blazing forward. I wonder how it was able to make its distinct mark in the world. How people know of Harajuku despite never stepping foot in Japan? How a single mention of the word manga or kabuki or even robots can represent a whole, entire nation?
One truth resonates. It's the people. They've simultaneously worked hard to uphold traditions while fostering new ideas. What they owned, they proudly claimed. And they declared their stories to the world.
I can't say the same for the Philippines just yet. Admittedly, there will be people who will know nothing about the Philippines outside of a Manny Pacquiao mention. But what I've realized is that it starts with pride - a pride for what is ours as a nation. And love - a love for the country big enough to want to declare it to the world.
Anyone with a passion for creating can direct that passion to making things that matter more. Like Japan, anyone can boast of their own country's culture and history in a modern appropriation. Gather stories behind your local street foods, your mythical monsters, your nation's heroes, and tell it to the rest of the world.
The great thing about our present is that technology is literally at the palm of our hands. We can easily whisper our own stories to the rest of the world who would be willing to listen. It's as if with technology and connectivity, we are able to stretch our little piece of land - the place where we were born and nurtured, toughened up and shaped - to reach foreign shores so that they too, can be charmed, informed, and fascinated.
The world is so rich with stories - stories of lands, places, people, and things. But these stories often remain within a comfortable reach of those who own them. I imagine a world that gives and shares. A world enamoured in so many different stories, a world that explores and wants to know, a world that seeks to understand what they cannot easily comprehend, a world that coexists peacefully because of stories.
It's this world I'm starting to get to know.
To be quite honest, every day I am still overwhelmed with an extreme desire to fly to Japan and bask in it as much as I could. I keep building a series of ideas and images in my head. Maybe in the future, I'll live in Tokyo for a few months, find work and explore things on my own. Drown in the lights of Shibuya and Akihabara. Cross intersections. Ride trains with no destination in mind. Walk down alleys, count the street lamps, following the beat of the Japanese born and bred. I'd love to open up a small art studio & boutique in Tokyo, share my life's obsessions and just make things happen. I'd love to have tea ceremonies, to learn how to properly bow, to eat rice off a big bowl while kneeling down on a mat. I want to spritz water on my Ikebana flower arrangement, twirl in a kimono for 5 seconds, bike down a hill and wake up to a morning in the land of the rising sun. So much of my life has been anchored in my pining for the things I know about Japan.
But right now, I am here.
So I'll remain for now.
Congratulations Reese, Katie and Giambra!
Kindly send your complete address + contact details to the.rainbowholic[at]gmail.com with [Japan Essay Contest Winner] as the subject!
Kindly email me your shoe size (in cm / Japanese sizing) and your favorite / chosen ninja pop jika tabi shoes!
Striking / Notable Essay Entries
I also enjoyed reading these.
Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and observations! :-)
An English country bumpkin's long-lived and eccentric dream of Japan.
Essay By Megan Craig
I guess it's hard to pinpoint when exactly I started loving everything and anything Japanese... Maybe in the womb? Haha!
For as long as I can remember Japan has been my final destination, my ultimate dream. To begin with it was just a fleeting idea but surely it grew into an aspiration. I can't really put into words what draws me to such a place as Japan, maybe it's the lights, the idea of the big bustling city? But then if I wanted that I'd just move to London. It's everything about Japan, from the crazy, amazing street fashion to the complex beauty of the language. When you live in a country such as England it's hard not to embrace the different cultures, but it's so much more for me. I fell in love with the idea of Japan, does that make me weird? When people are asked what they want to do when they're older it's always the same... It's always a vet or a doctor or maybe a dentist but those idea's just don't fit with me. I want to be able to travel, to see the world and experience first hand my perfect country. I aspire to teach English in Japan when I'm older, and I've accepted the fact that this will be a hard dream to achieve but I know that no matter what life throws at me I will be able to overcome it, if it's for the sake of that dream. At first my parents didn't really believe just how serious I was about this, but after several years of bringing it up and countless career advisory sessions they've finally come to terms with the fact that this is what I want, and that I'm as serious and is physically possible. I always get the same questions from people when it comes to discussing the idea of Japan - "Will you be able to cope with being half way around the world from your own home?", "Why do you like Japan so much? What's so special?", "What about the weather? Driving over there? The laws?" and number one "How will you learn the language?" But it's just the same as any other person who've moved away from their country, for example at this current point in time there is on average 1 million immigrants living in London alone... If they can do it, why can't I? I already spend several hours of my day watching anime or reading manga, so I've picked up allot of Japanese just from that. And when it comes to weather... Well lets just say I am writing this whilst I should be at school, which has been cancelled due to the snow storm that has unexpectedly hit, I can handle whatever Japanese weather has to throw at me... (That rhyming was not intended, wink wink.)
One of the main things I love about Japan is it's constantly growing and evolving pop-culture. I would say that nothing compares to it, which some could argue but what's not to love about it? It's upbeat, happy, complex and super cute! I am hooked onto the multi-million industry which is anime and manga. Nothing beats a good manga, nothing. At the moment I am currently months away from finishing my final year at school before I attend college, which in England is the next rank of school that you attend after 5 years of High School, because of it being my final few months I'm buried under a mass of exams and I have been using anime and manga as an escape from the stress of High School life. But I guess I've been doing this my entire school life... My entire life in fact! I breathe anime and manga.
Equally nothing compares to Japanese street fashion... Whoever said Paris was the fashion capital was massively mistaken. Everything from Lolita fashion to Visual Kei is beautifully unique and amazing. I follow the Facebook page of a company called Tokyo Fashion and their photos never cease to amaze me, and fill me with envy. I wish from the bottom of my heart I could wear an Angelic Pretty dress and some kawaii accessories when I go shopping, but the closed minded industry that is British Fashion would highly judge. Everyone wants to be different and to stand out but the only place that truly accepts the concept of being your own person is Japan, and no other country will ever be able to take that crown. England is very much a society that bows down to the image of conforming. When walking through the streets of London you are struck by a barrage of people wearing the same colours and clothes, and this all because of how trends are set. You rarely ever see someone who looks completely different because everyone always goes for the same trends, and if you want my honest opinion? It's because people are scared to be different, they're scared of the idea that someone might judge them. That is what England lacks, the ability to stand up tall and be your own person, entirely.
I will admit that I like some K-Pop such as their popular bands Super Junior and Girls Generation but I personally believe they'll never compare to what Japan has to offer.
I honestly couldn't say where I think the global couture is heading, because who can predict the ever-changing winds of this world. But either way, I believe that everything happens for a reason and only fate can decide.
I have just accepted the fact that the world we live in is very much materialistic, but to be honest who can blame anyone? When we live in a generation that is constantly evolving we can't help but get sucked into the madness. We all want that new phone or those new pair of shoes, it's human nature to want. But it when people can't draw a line between wanting and needing, and that is what is wrong with today's society. I don't come from a wealthy background and I've learnt through my life that the only way I will ever get something is if I work for it, and I agree with that. I will admit that I am quite a materialistic person, but I'm constantly surrounded by so many cute clothes!! But I know if I was given the choice between all the cute clothes in the world or world peace I'd go for B. I think as humans we're always desperate to find some harmony in this crazy world, and we know that we can't change everything by ourselves but I always believe that everything happens for a reason. If I could I would stop all the world hunger and all the world's wars but I can't. I can only wish for a better future for my children and my children's children! This applies not only to England but to every country in the world, we all have the same desire to want and despite the 9 hour time difference, there will be as many people wanting something new in Japan as there is in England.
I know in the future I will achieve my dream of living in Japan, because there is nothing I will ever want more than that. I just hope Japan loves me as much as I love it.
Watch this space, because I'm coming for you Japan!
My Japanese Dream
Essay by Elizabeth Ng
My contact with Japanese culture started when I was really young, watching Mandarin-dubbed Japanese anime on early mornings on weekends. I was 'trained' to become an early riser even on weekends when I was a child just so I could catch Digimon and Akazukin Cha Cha on TV every morning :P Subsequently, I chanced upon my favourite animes of all time: Sailormoon and Cardcaptor Sakura! I was really mesmerised with the shows back then (and now), and that was what planted the seed of love for Japanese culture in me. As I grew older, what really attracted me to Japan was its people. Japanese people are very generous and very kind! They made me want to give back to them more than what they have given me. When I interacted with Japanese guests (as part of my part-time work), they were always very appreciative of whatever I did for them, even if it was part of my job. As luck would have it, I currently run a J-culture & nonsense blog under Japanese moniker 雨夜, and am also a contributing J-addict for Japanese-based company, Anibee! They have given me many opportunities to try out Japanese fashion, Japanese food and attend related exhibitions!
In recent years, I have also stepped into several J-culture circles! Fashion styles such as Gyaru and Lolita, and I've even tried meido (: Though not a cosplayer, I have helped out at a few cosplay events, and once again, the people have touched my heart very much with their humility and expertise (both Japanese and non-Japanese)! I would definitely keep on helping out (: Another circle that I absolutely enjoy now is Vocaloid music! It wows me with how much creativity people have within themselves, to give these voices a liveable character through songs (: Being a long-time chorister, Japanese music has formed a substantial portion of the songs in my iPhone now XD The diversity that Japanese choral songs have is also something that fascinates me.
In Singapore, there was much advertising put into Japanese pop culture back in early 2000s. I remember seeing ads on Ayumi Hamasaki, Do As Infinity and Nakashima Mika whenever their new albums came out. Advertising was my primary source of information before the rise of the Internet. The K-pop wave came quickly enough, and partly because of the marketing strategies of K-pop and J-pop, J-pop became largely unheard of pretty quickly. However, there are still several J-culture events that Singapore has to allow fans to come together to share interests and exchange information! Singapore has traditional events such as Natsu Matsuri and huge anime conventions such as Anime Festival Asia to keep giving J-lovers a place to keep in touch with Japanese culture and for new fans to experience the passion J-lovers have.
Personally, I find that much of the diversity in Japanese pop culture and subcultures get disseminated to the world much more than other pop cultures, but I would have to admit that I'm biased :P It might be just me craving for more Japanese information, so I see more of it than any other culture (formally called confirmatory bias, by the psychologist in me XD). Singapore's pop culture is largely influenced by English and Mandarin pop, though Korean & Japanese influences are creeping in fast, especially from the fashion and cosmetics end. Gyaru and ulzzang (Korean for 'best face') are very popular styles here. ^_^
Every culture is unique, and what is considered desirable and undesirable behaviours would differ. I feel that each culture would have their own black sheep, so it is sad to see others labelling other cultures as bad simply because of a small group of extreme people, or because people in this culture do not think it is desirable to exhibit this behaviour. I hope that everyone will learn more about each other's culture, and have an open heart to accommodate each other and teach by example (:
My Japanese dream would definitely be to travel to Japan one day (hopefully in 2014 after I graduate). It would be an eye-opener to experience the culture first-hand! I also hope that through my humble blog, I can share what I will experience with my readers and inspire them to come to Japan too! Lastly, I would love to work with more Japanese people through my part-time work to show them my beautiful country, and to give back what they have selflessly given me.
Dreaming in Japanese
Essay by Jenny Schneider
When did your love for Japan start? Why? How is that even possible? Why would you want to go there - our cultures are so different?!" Just a few of the question everyone asks when they find out about my love for Japan. Some people are like 'Wow, cool!' others are like 'uh-huh, interesting' and then there are the ones who simply don't understand why I would love Japan, why I would love a country I have never been to or why I would love a country whose culture is so different from our own? To all these things there is one answere: it is because Japan is fascinating, because the culture and the people are fascinating and the huge difference between my culture and the Japanese is what makes it all the more interesting and because I feel like I can relate much more to Japanese people than I can relate to the people in my country, it's simply because it's Japan.
My love for Japan started a good 2 and a half years ago. Starting with the simple obsessing over an anime called InuYasha- not that this was my first anime ever though, I already loved anime when I was 3 years old, Sailor Moon was my hero back then. It started with watching it in German but then the German episodes stopped and I had to switch to Japanese with subtitles and I fell in love with the language, the language alone already fascinated me because I thought that it was beautiful but this is not what started my love for Japan. What started it was when I listened to the soundtrack of InuYasha and somehow the opening made it onto the soundtrack and that was when I heard the first Japanese song in my life, it was Hamasaki Ayumi's song 'Dearest' and even though this was not even the whole song, I fell in love with it. I listened to it over and over and over again until one day I decided that there has to be more than just these 2 minutes of that one song so I started looking up Japanese music and in the end ended up with J-Rock and Visual Kei.
A few weeks passed, if not a few months, and I was just listening to the music, enjoying the sound of it, enjoying the voices and enjoying the language- not really caring about Japan as a country and a culture at all. Though one day this changed rather drastically as I found a book about a 'geek' in Japan in my local bookstore, I bought it but mostly because there were a few things about Visual Kei, cosplay and maybe a few other subcultures in it. While I read it though something inside me changed, first I did not give Japan two thoughts about Japan but while I read this book I started to be utterly fascinated. These people- whom I just knew as these annoying little Asians who are always taking pictures of everything, flooding my city- suddenly started being interesting and suddenly became someone to me. Their culture was so different to mine, much more like how I would imagine my ideal culture where everyone is polite and where not every single person is rude and impolite but where people still take care of other people. Their views were completely different from what I always knew, they cared more about the whole group than the individual as it is the case in Europe. They knew better than to be rude and impolite. The Japanese started fascinating me from this point on where I realized just how they think and how they act and what is normal for them.
After that nothing could stop my love for Japan anymore, I bought tons of books and I read them all, trying to absorb every little Japanese detail into my brain. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know about the culture, the people, how it is living there and I wanted to know about their mentality and ideals, about the nature, about the cities, about the problems, the history. Just everything suddenly seemed interesting to me. Things that never interested me before, suddenly did. Soon their sense of fashion poked me too and the next things happened that I was interested in the fashion and the different subcultures in fashion. Their style seemed amazing to me, Harajuku fascinated me as a place where no one would ever judge you or laugh at you because of what you wear but as a place where it's awesome if you have your own weird but somehow stylish sense of fashion, not caring if it's lolita or morikei or visual kei or all of them in once. There was no such thing as a bad sense of fashion as long as you feel comfortable in what you're wearing and just wear whatever you like and however you like it.
I believe that loving Japan has changed my life. It has given me a reason to always keep fighting, keep working hard and keep absorbing everything that has to do with Japan. I would even go as far as to say that finally having a dream and taking an interest in something has saved me, saved me from failing all the way in the future. It gives me hope and energy every day to reach my Japanese dream.
The dream of living and working there one day and to finally one day be able to speak Japanese properly which is an endless struggle, with me not really having the time to put more time into studying Japanese right now. Japan has given me a perspective and made me realize what really interests me and what I really want to do for a living one day. It showed me just hooow much I adore languages and how I would to once teach them in Japan and to teach it with the same passion and love that I have for Japan. It gives me hope and a dream and a reason to work and fight hard for this one dream, my own personal Japanese dream.
One of my main interest of Japan has always been the culture as well as the pop-coolture of Japan's streets, especially the one's of Tokyo. I found myself comparing the Japanese pop-coolture with other Asian countries' pop-coolture and the way I see it, the other countries, like Korea or China, do have their own pop-coolture in a way but I sometimes feel like these too have huge similarities to the Japanese pop-coolture. The street fashion in particular is very similar if you comapre China with Japan, if you ask me, because they all have a very similar but crazy and fashionable style. As I see it though Japan has the most influencing and most trend-setting pop-coolture. It's not the other countries that set the trends in fashion nowadays, so the other pop-cooltures are not as strong yet as the Japanese though I see the Korean coming pretty fast since their fashion and pop-coolture has been made widely known through k-pop and especially PSY last year. So the others are slowly rising I would say but none of them being as popular and amazing yet as the Japanese pop-coolture with all their otakus and fashionistas setting trands all over the world, not only when it comes to fans of Japan but also to others. I just think that Japan's pop-coolture is influencing the others a lot but not only in Asia but all over the world.
I do not think that the global-coolture is heading anywhere in particular. It is just always going to keep being influenced by other cooltures from other countries, there will be no such thing as a general global coolture since basically that would mean that every country kind of has a similar coolture and this will never be the case. There will always be countries who influence other countries cooltures and the global coolture is just a big, crazy mix of all of them coming together and if someone likes something, they pick it as their favourite coolture. In a way for me, each person has their own coolture, a mix of things they like and consider 'cool'.
Looking at my country I don't see such a thing as a coolture. Austria is a country that gets influenced heavily by American things, American fashion, American trends, American food, you name it. Austria has never been and will probably never be influenced by Asian cooltures as here everyone just thinks that America is doing it right in all kinds of things regarding the coolture. So basically, my country adapts a lot to the American coolture, simple and woah, just don't dress differently or look different because you'll be laughed at and judged for it to no end. Not just by the elderly but even from young people you get a lot of judgmental glares and looks for looking a tiny bit different from the rest.
I feel like in my country it is as bad as it can be, regarding Europe. You get judged from the beginning to the end, people here can't tolerate a diffrent person. Another reason for me to adore Japan because they don't care what you wear, young people won't judge you. It is quite scary here to see how everyone looks so similar and likes the same music and the same things, it's like everyone is identical to the other with only a few exceptions, which then get judged for having their own coolture, for not adapting to what is considered normal in Austria.
As a final thought regarding our generation of people obsessed with the idea of world peace and cultural harmony, there will never be such a thing. People will never learn how to tolerate other people, other cultures. Their will always be cultural differences that can never be broken down. Western people are not really able to adapt to eastern cultures and it is just the other way around. The differences between east and west, rich and poor are too big to ever vanish completely. Cultural harmony can't be achieved, completely in this world since the idfferences are just to big and same goes for world peace. As sad as is but I don't think that world peace will one day be possible, there will always be some crazy people who will try to take over a country on their own, there will always be crazy people who will bomb others and start wars with others. This is just not a thing that can be stopped from one day to another. There will always be things that come between people and countries and these will be the things that start wars. It's just unstoppable.
The differences between people, cultures and countries are just too big to ever be able to overcome them.
Our generation is ruled by materialism and the wish to be powerful and some take it too far, starting wars with their obsession to be a powerful leader, to lead a whole country, no matter what it takes. They even kill for their ideals and dreams, hopes and views.
We live in a crazy world with lots of different cultures but with every single one of them being fascinating. All these cultures have a long history and people who love these cooltures. If it's the Japanese now or any other. In every country lies something that will always fascinate people, no matter how different we are. If there is one thing that can overcome this differences than it's people sharing the same interests, then it doesn't matter what god you believe in or where you're from, all that matters then is the love for a thing that you share.
It's important to keep dreaming and to never stop trying to fulfill this dream. Dreams are what keep us going, what keep pushing us forward. No dream is an impossible dream and as long as you fight hard for it, nothing can stop you and take this dream away from you.
Dreams are there for us to live them.
And so will I, one day I will live my Japanese dream.
Essay by Nyala Allen
When some people think of Japan, they may think sports cars, weird gadgets, and crazy clothes. When I think of Japan, I imagine an exciting new place full of diversity and possibilities. I think of celebratory reds, cherry blossom pinks, grass greens, a full array of colors and lights. I started to learn about Japan in my middle school years, always taking a trip to the school library to visit the sections about languages. Japanese stood out to me, and I thought the characters were so beautiful. The language was so different from my own and at the time, I was deciding that being different was good. Ever since then, I researched about Japan, eager to know more and more. To be apart of a world so far and different from mine. It became my dream to live there someday, being able to try the foods, discover interesting places, and just live the Japanese lifestyle. At one point, I thought I wanted to be an illustrator for manga, but my dream became more than that. I wanted to exchange my culture with the Japanese culture by becoming an English teacher.
When I look at both Japanese pop-coolture compared to K-pop, I see lots of color compared to edgy looks. I believe J-pop pursue a more fun approach to music, but K-pop has a stronger look. I think this may explain why many K-pop stars do well in Japan. When I look at my countries coolture compared to Japan’s, I see a lot of sexualized looks and music. Because I have grown up with this, I view it as normal, but I am aware of the difference between my culture and Japan. I am unsure of where the global coolture is going, but I do hope it leads itself to a much more diversity-driven state.
I like to think that this generation is not purposely materialistic, but it is due to the fact that technology and other superficial things are all the recent generations know. Despite that, I think this generation still has the potential to bringing world peace and cultural harmony. In fact, because of things such as technology, people are able to receive information about cultures at the click of a button. Thus, making it easier, faster, and more desirable to look into other parts of the world. In the end, I like to think that we all can be accepting of everyone and that world peace is more easily obtainable than it ever was before. I hope that in the future, this generation will do great things for our world, such as cure more illnesses, bring more awareness and action to world problems, and sending love in great numbers.
They Always Ask, Why Japan?
Essay by Essence Jackson
Japan is a country that pushes boundaries. Dressing strangely where I live can either lead to two things: one, you're applauded for it but no one would dress like you, or two, everyone thinks you're weird and doesn't want to be anywhere near you. Being an American girl, people assume that my outlandish taste comes from the works of Lady Gaga. It is a completely different story than that, dating back a few years ago. Gwen Stefani was one of my favorite artists. Paying close attention to her lyrics, there was always one phrase that she would constantly use: Harajuku Girls. Who were these girls? Why was she so interested in them? I grew curious and took to Google images! I was shocked at what I was witnessing, youth my own age were dressed in vivid colors. Their hair, striking and rebellious! Wicked fashion that would cause most people to arch their eyebrow in confusion. Harajuku was more than just a fashion like many had assumed, but a place! A place where you could just be yourself without the constant judgment and insults like I had experienced. How was it that on the other side of the world, the Japanese youth were living in pure creativity and freedom to be themselves? I grew envious, but my envy was secretly admiration. I dreamed of contributing my own art and creativity to the Japanese culture. I guess you could say, that I wanted to pay homage to the country that has kept me motivated over the years. Even though my dreams were too unrealistic and above my own grasp, it has never stopped me from thinking about it daily. It's not only the fashion that captivates me, but Japan's history, atmosphere, and culture. I would rather miss the last train and explore the nitty gritty of Tokyo after hours, than just shop for a large Hello Kitty plushy and lounge around in my hotel room all day. Japan has both allure and grotesque and there is something to learn in both. Some day, I want to experience what the country has to offer me and explore every nook and cranny of its beautiful land. There is a special place in this world for everyone, and I believe with all of my heart that Japan is my haven, but even if I never make it that far, I'm truly blessed to have known about such an amazing place and how much of an impact it has had on me.
Japan is so much more than Hello Kitty and Anime, the country also has its fair share of unique music. You will never hear songs similar to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's Pon Pon
What is so great about being the best or being your country's own materialistic view of beauty? Growing up, I was always teased about my features and Japan was my only escape into a new world. I was inspired, I wanted to be just like them. Was it a bad thing? I don't think so, but I had known that if anyone from my town had spotted me walking down the street in an Angelic Pretty one piece, I would get laughed at and accused of being ashamed of my nationality and my race. It doesn't matter where you come from, or what you look like, everyone should have the right to be interested in any culture that intrigues them. If they weren't, there wouldn't be so many conventions and other special events all over the world dedicated to different cultures. It made me cringe knowing that because I was an American, better yet an African American, I wasn't allowed to like things that weren't from my cultural background. How can we unite as one world, if we cannot expand our horizons, get to know each other, and try out something new for a change? When you explore, you never know what's around every corner, what you'll experience in the next twenty seconds or the amazing stories waiting to be told. In the future, I hope everyone will be less judgmental and more understanding of things even if it doesn't appeal to them, that they will just accept things as they are and keep their derogatory commentary to themselves. It could save lives and the world would be a much more peaceful place.
To Megan, Elizabeth / Amaya, Jenny, Nyala, Essence, you will receive special boxes prepared by yours truly! :-)
Actually, there were 5 winners from the Big Blog Giveaway last January 2013 who didn't claim their prizes.. :O
I think that it's just meant to be that you guys will receive those instead. ^^
Kindly send your complete address + contact details to the.rainbowholic[at]gmail.com with [Japan Essay Contest Winner] as the subject!
Thank you, thank you everyone for joining!
I am still overwhelmed by the quality & quantity of essays that we have received.
Arigatou for sharing your JapanLove with us.
Let's all chase our Japanese dreams!