Sunday, October 12, 2014

Popular Culture in Hiroshima and Nara (Chris)

Pop culture is not as prevalent as one would think in Japan. It might just be an American stereotype of Japan, but it is not as noticeable as Americans may think. The things that I think of when I think of pop culture in Japan are J-Pop music and anime/manga.  Some of these things show up more than others.  The fictitious J-Pop character Hatsune Miku shows up every once in a while. The anime/manga Shingeki no Kyōjin (also known as Attack on Titan) is currently really popular alongside One Piece, which has been around since the late 90’s. It is fairly easy to find promotional items that feature characters from either of these anime. But these things are things that show up if you look for them. Stores do not play much Japanese music, but a lot of American-styled music, and covers of American music. One of the grocery stores near where I live seems to play the ABBA Greatest Hits Album only. Manga are not seen much publicly, but you step into a bookstore, and you will see a lot of different manga. It seems that stereotypical Japanese pop culture only appears in pockets around Japan. Denden Town was where I saw most of these, but other than that I do not see many of these types of pop culture.

The might-be-mascot-of-Hiroshima-Castle cat
The main type of pop culture that appears in Japan is mascots. Mascots in Japan are cute, simple, and usually represent a company, a site, or even an entire city and prefecture. Mascots appear in all shapes, and sizes. They are used as a marketing campaign to make a lovable character that will become associated with the company. A popular mascot is Kumamon. Kumamon is a black bear that represents the Kumamoto Prefecture. In the city of Nara there is a mascot named Shikamaru-kun.  Nara is famous for its overly friendly deer, and Shikamaru-kun is supposed to represent that aspect of Nara. Another mascot of Nara is Sento-kun. Sento-kun is a Buddha child with an antler rack on his. The reason that I see for him being a mascot of Nara is that Nara is famous for two things: friendly deer, and Todaiji Temple.  Hiroshima, on the other hand, was much harder to find a mascot. The closest I found was a samurai cat at Hiroshima Castle. I have no idea what this cat’s name is, but this cat appears to be a mascot at Hiroshima. There is no mascot for the Peace Garden area, which makes a lot of sense due to the history that the garden represents. Mascots are thing in Japan, there are just some that are more popular than others.

Group shot with Sento-kun
My trip to Nara was terrific. The friendly deer is something I would not expect. In America, deer are not friendly, and seem more nervous than anything else. In Nara though, the deer are very friendly, and will play with you. Todaiji Temple was quite a site. The main thing about this 1300 year old temple is the giant Buddha that fills the temple. It is a sight that cannot be described in words. So, if you go to Nara, play with the deer for a few hours, and go to Todaiji Temple. There are other places to go, but those are the most famous things in Nara.
Picture of me with a majestic deer
The buddha at Todai-ji
In Hiroshima, I went to the Peace Garden and the Genbaku Dome (a memorial near the hypocenter of the first Atomic Bomb), and listened to a testimony given by a bomb survivor. It is difficult to go to these types of places. The still air and the large amount of feelings that exist on the topic can be felt.  It is a sad place that marks a scar on humanity that cannot be erased. It is really hard to go about the rest of the day with the thoughts of the destruction that happened at Hiroshima. 
Genbaku dome
The rest of the day consisted of wandering around the city and visiting Hiroshima Castle. Sadly, by the time I got there the castle had closed for visitors for the day, but there was a shrine nearby that me and my friends visited. From there we had to start the long walk back to the train station to catch an overnight bus back to Osaka. It was a long day, and an even longer night. The night concluded with my falling asleep on my futon at 8:00 in the morning. I currently have no plans for the weekend as this week is the start of midterm testing for me at school. So, until next time. Sayonara.

Hiroshima Castle


Crystaline Hoover said...

You know, I've heard a lot about mascots, but I never seem to notice them. I'm not very observant, though, and I unfortunately haven't really been anywhere besides Osaka or Kyoto. Does Hirakata have one? Or is only cities that are more touristy?

In Search of Modern Japan: Writing Capital Cities (Moderator) said...

Akita has the Namehage and AIU has a green Akita Inu named Wan. They're definitely very visible up here, but then again, Akita seems to be on a tourism push, so maybe that's why. (from Dylan)

Christopher Aaron Koerner said...

There are surprisingly a lot of mascots all over the place. I think there is a mascot for a pharmacy over by Makino Station, there is also a sushi restaurant that has a mascot. and there are many others. You do not have to be all that observant when looking for them. I do not know if Hirakata has its own mascot or not. It is in the realm of possibility that Hirakata does have a mascot.

Crystaline Hoover said...

I think you underestimate how unobservant I can be. I honestly can't recall noticing a single mascot in the Osaka region or in Tokyo.

I did notice a couple in Hokkaido, though! At the Sapporo TV tower, I was marveling at what appeared to be an anthropomorphic watermelon before I realized that it's actually an anthropomorphic tower (of course). Mt Moiwa also had a mascot, though I have absolutely no idea if it is supposed to represent a real life animal.

Actually, in doing some googling, I found this article, which describes how Osaka's mascots haven't had much success. Apparently "Moppy" is supposed to have become the main mascot of Osaka, but I haven't seen him anywhere.