Hey all, how’s it going? I’ve made it safely to Japan and am spending my first few days being a tourist and checking out what I can before flying up to Sapporo for the exchange program. I’m currently in Osaka, the jewel of western Japan’s Kansai region. I’ve only been here for a day, and my experiences here already ranked it as one of my favorite places so far.
Roy and I are staying at a quaint little hostel where the rooms are everything I’ve heard of when it comes to small Japanese rooms. It barely fits our bunk bed. However, despite the spartan look of the room, the place is really nice. We have our own A/C unit, the showers and toilets are just down the hall, and the place is super clean. I think we may have come just after they renovated the place.
Anyways, today we were guided by our wonderful professor, Dr. Jayson Chun from the University of Hawaii at West Oahu. As he lives here in Osaka during the summer, he showed us around his neck of the city. It was very rainy today, but I’d take rain over the sweltering Japanese summer any day.
He took us to a local blue-collar restaurant where the food was all prepared fresh and right in front of you. I just have one word to describe the food there. DELICIOUS. I can’t begin to describe how good it tasted, and it was all just $10!
One of the places he took us was Osaka’s equivalent to Tokyo’s Akihabara, DenDen Town. Just like Akiba, DenDen Town is an area that has numerous shops dedicated to electronics and, of course, ANIME! This place has tons of shops to fulfill all of your otaku needs, without the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s city.
We also stopped by Dotombori, the area famous for the running Glico Man and the giant crab.
We didn’t stay too long as it was getting late, and we had to go back to DenDen Town before the stores closed. We spent almost 4 hours earlier in the day just scouting out the area, so by then we knew exactly what we wanted. I couldn’t resist and bought myself some stuff direct from the source. Beats paying shipping!
Anyway, it’s getting late here, and we have a big day tomorrow. If you read my blogs from January, you may remember me going to the famous shrine at Fushimi Inari. I didn’t get to hike all the way to the top last time because of the Kakehashi Project’s schedule, but this time … I’m gonna make it all the way to the top! Look forward to it!
Hey all, Lancen here. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I guess I got caught up in the freedom of summer break. Well now that the semester is over, I’m finally back … Or am I?
Well I am back, but I’m also leaving. Where am I going? Why, back to Japan of course! I recently had the honor of being selected as one of six students from the University of Hawaii at West Oahu to attend a month-long exchange program at Tokai University in Sapporo, Japan. There, we’ll be studying the Japanese language to increase our skills, as well as taking in the culture of Japan through field trips and cultural activities (summer festivals, just like in the anime!) I’ll be in Japan from June all the way until August!
However, my friend Royce and I will be taking an additional three weeks to travel around the entirety of the country to really make our experiences there unforgettable. We’ll also be meeting up with some of the friends I made during the Kakehashi Project back in January!
We’re both very excited to be travelling together and experiencing our own self-guided journey through the beautiful country of Japan. Just like last time, I’ll be making an effort to post about my experience there, travel blog style. I’ll be revisiting sites I went to in January, this time on my own schedule. Be sure to keep watch, as I’ll be posting articles and pictures documenting our journey as we go. Anyway, I’ll be flying off to Osaka soon. Until then!
… and off he goes on another adventure. Hi everyone, Jason here. You may know me as the blogger who’s been busy enough with a new job (and other things during downtime) that it’s taken me three months and counting to write up a proper preview of Anime Ohana Fest and the Hawaii Anime Awards. You know, the pair of events happening this Saturday. Gaaaaaaaahhhhhh.
While I’m working on (slowly) transcribing this interview, though, there’s a bit of housekeeping that we need to take care of here. Those of you who follow this blog somewhat regularly know that Lancen came on board with us here at Otaku Ohana as an intern back in January. He’s added a new dimension to our coverage ever since. Heck, he’s probably written more over the past semester than tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I have managed to post in the past, what, year or so? (Adulting is haaaard.)
Talent like this rarely, if ever, falls into one’s lap like this. Lancen just kinda gets what we’re about here. Which is why, even though Lancen’s internship semester officially ended back in mid-May, I’m happy to announce that he’s now officially the third member of our Otaku Ohana blogging team. I’m looking forward to his summer dispatches from Japan, and I hope you will, too.
The future is grim. You did everything your parents told you to do to succeed. You studied hard. You passed your exams. You graduated and applied for a job at a company. Surely, there would be a job waiting for you. Just like it had been for your father.
Instead, everything your parents told you was a lie. Companies are no longer hiring younger workers en masse, preferring to hold onto their older employees to not break their promises of lifetime employment to them. Only the top 10 percent of graduates are even considered now, with those missing that cut falling by the wayside. What’s even scarier is that the competition to enter the workforce is nothing like what your parents faced. Hyper-confident and hyper-capable women are now able to enter the running, and the companies are scooping them up in droves.
Welcome to the Post-Bubble Era of Japan. As you may recall from my last Anime is Culture article, Japan started making huge concentrated efforts to rebuild their broken country after World War II. With the rise of democracy and assistance from the American government (as shady as it was, it did help their recovery), Japan rose from the ashes like a phoenix.
With Article 9 in place, the Japanese were prevented from funding a full standing military. Instead, they focused on promoting their peace policies by developing technology that could be used to improve the lives of people around the world. In doing so, during the 1970’s and ’80’s, Japan became an economic powerhouse. Companies like Toyota and Sony were worldwide names that put out products sought by millions around the world. This would be Japan’s economic bubble.
Such success led to the prosperity of the Japanese people. During this time, the vast majority of Japanese considered themselves middle-class on the socioeconomic scale. Men would go to school and then apply for company jobs. After graduation, these companies would pick them up, and their careers would be set. Everyone was able to earn a living wage and live relatively comfortable lives.
However, this would not last. Around 1990, the economic bubble burst, causing thousands of companies to lose money and default on loans. This led to massive unemployment, and a huge economic crisis fell upon the people. The generation of young men and women that came of age during this time were promised the same opportunities that their parents had enjoyed, but the bursting of the bubble effectively shut them out. Instead of accessible employment, there was now a small window where only the elite could enter through.
This grim and foreboding atmosphere was what influenced the tone and stories of anime during the ’90s. One of the greatest examples of a post-bubble series is the highly influential anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the series, the world has been destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as the Third Impact. As a result, more than 50 percent of the human population was wiped out, and those who are left struggle to survive in a world where the sea is dyed red like blood.
The main character, Shinji Ikari, is a young adolescent man that is forced by his father to fight in a giant robot against alien lifeforms known as “Angels.” However, this isn’t the only struggle he faces. He also struggles to come to terms with the new social norms he’s entering into.
He is forced to do the dirty work of NERV headquarters when fighting the Angels. When he’s not fighting, he’s under rigorous testing and examination. Not only is he constantly bombarded by work like this, he is also surrounded by capable women that outshine him. Rei Ayanami, the First Child, is a model soldier, following her orders without dissent or complaint, almost like a machine. Asuka Langley Soryu, the Second Child, is a German-born pilot that demonstrates superiority in everything she does.
This is representative of the the world seen by the Post-Bubble Generation. Shinji is the post-bubble male who has to struggle to survive in the unforgiving world of NERV, which is representative of the Japanese company. He managed to get in, but only because his father is the head of NERV. However, his performance as a pilot is an utter disappointment compared to the other more capable women, and it shows in his father’s favor for Rei. This relationship he has with the other pilots shows how the post-bubble male viewed his job prospects. If he was lucky enough to get a job, he still would never be able to compete with the influx of women into the workforce.
This mindset lead to many men losing confidence in themselves. Just like Shinji, they viewed themselves as weak and unable to do anything by themselves. They want to rely on the help of their parents, who know that they are struggling but can’t really help. This leads into Shinji’s struggle with the adults in his life. Much like his strained relationship with his father, Gendo, the post-bubble male wanted desperately to gain the recognition and acceptance of the older generation, but they were left to fend for themselves instead. The companies would only accept them into the fold if they found a use for them, just like how Gendo did with Shinji. The women who entered the workforce ahead of the post-bubble men could now exert their power over these young males, and the shift in gender-power dynamics was incredibly daunting to them.
On one hand, you have Ritsuko, NERV’s chief scientist and the one in charge of monitoring the usefulness of the EVA pilots. She is cold, calculating, and regards Shinji not as a person, but more of a lab rat or tool to further her own research and goals. On the other hand, there’s Misato, Shinji’s direct superior and caretaker. She pushes herself onto him, making him roommate with her. While she does it in good nature, Misato lords her femininity over Shinji as she tries to mold him into what she believes is a better man.
So what do you do when your world view and job prospects mirror the apocalyptic world of Evangelion? How do you survive in the world when you can’t get a job because of the rise of women and the highly selective hiring process? We’ll discuss this in my next “Anime is Culture” post, “Hide to Survive: Otaku, NEET, and Hikikomori.”
We started the day with an early visit to the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine on the Southern outskirts of Kyoto. This shrine is famous for the thousands of red gates that line the path up to the summit of Mount Inari. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to make the entire trek to the top, but it definitely gives me a valid excuse to come back to Japan (as if I didn’t already have enough).
Words are a poor way to explain the beauty of this place (and I’m also pretty exhausted tonight), so here are some pictures of the parts of the trail I traveled.
After our visit to Fushimi Inari, we packed up on the bus and traveled to the northern end of Kyoto. Nestled at the base of Mount Hiei sits the campus of Kyoto Seika University, known for its concentration on the creative arts. There, we were met by humanities professor Rebecca Jennison.
She introduced us to some of the students of the university with whom we briefly exchanged interests and questions. Our group was met by Natsuki Jiku, a foreign exchange student from China who is studying animation at the university. She’s a big anime fan and instantly clicked with our group. She’s a big fan of Love Live and is even part of the university’s school idol club!
After we talked to the university students, Ken Rodgers, head of the International Education Office, gave a brief presentation about the history of the university and Kyoto itself. The university was established in the 1960s, during a time of civil unrest among the nation’s students. While protests were being held in Tokyo, the students in Kyoto instead established a new teaching system that would eventually become the university as it is today. Their philosophy was to focus on international exchange and education, developing students’ interests and skills from the ground up, and keeping classes small to allow for more teacher/student interaction.
The university has many programs that deal with the creative media. Some of the most popular and well-known ones are the manga and animation programs. Many of the students graduate to become part of big-name anime studios, including local studio Kyoto Animation (KyoAni).
After his lecture, Prof. Rodgers gave us a quick tour of the campus. The buildings were all designed by alumni architecture students and teachers. Once again, it’s hard to explain the sight of these works of art, so I’ll use pictures to hopefully show you just how skillful and awe-inspiring this campus visit was to me. All pictures are collections of student and alumni-produced works (yes, even the buildings!).
Tomorrow, we’ll be visiting the Kyoto Manga Museum and then heading to Shiga Prefecture, where we’ll be staying in a traditional Japanese inn! I heard that there’s a good chance there will be snow! It’ll be my first time touching actual snow, so I’m definitely looking forward to it. I hope you will as well!
Today was a very exciting day! We started off by visiting the famous Ghibli Museum, seen above, in Mitaka Forest. Unfortunately, taking pictures inside the museum was prohibited, but we could take pictures of the outside. The architecture and design of the whole place was very surreal. The inside would bring the inner child of any Ghibli fan out. There were corridors and secret stairwells that made you want to explore every nook and cranny of the building. They were also showing Ghibli short films that you can only view at this museum.
After visiting the Ghibli Museum, we traveled to Tokyo Tower. There, we entered one of the buildings nearby where we received a lecture about anime and its impact on Japanese pop culture. The lecturer, Ryusuke Hikawa, is a graduate of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and an adjunct lecturer at the Meiji University Graduate School. He is an anime critic and writer who served as the judge for many anime/media-related awards like the Mainichi Film Awards, Tokyo Anime Award Festival, and Japan Media Arts Festival.
His lecture covered what he considered the four turning points in anime: Space Battleship Yamato, Evangelion/Ghost in the Shell, Spirited Away, and Your Name. He started by talking about the history of television in Japan, and its role of shaping the youth after World War II. Up until the 1970s, most animation was targeted toward very young children with shows like Astro Boy. Those raised on these cartoons were dubbed “TV Children” by the Japanese, as they were growing up in an age when TV was more readily available in the home.
These children would soon grow into teenagers, and the stories of the programming they watched grew with them. This resulted in titles like Space Battleship Yamato, Gundam, Evangelion, and Ghost in the Shell. Instead of being character-based stories, these series took on more serious tones, explored deeper and philosophical themes, and pretty much reflected the collective mindset of the generation of directors and sociopolitical and economical views the Japanese had of their country.
Hayao Miyazaki took the good points of both the early character-based series and the deeper themes of the following years of anime, and he created his own brand of anime storytelling. Through Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki’s films carry an appeal for multiple generations. His films appeal to the child in everyone, while the frequent female protagonists and themes of self discovery and philosophy appeal to the youth. The maturation of the characters over the course of the film appeals to the older generation, as he communicates his own personal feelings as a grandparent through his film.
However, most of these series were all for a generation that grew up in the analog age. It would be directors like Makoto Shinkai that shape the future of anime. Makoto Shinkai, unlike his predecessors, developed his anime in the digital age, which blurred the line between professional and amateur animators. Shinkai’s works like the recent smash hit Your Name (Kimi no Nawa), were all independently directed and produced by him and his small team veteran animators and writers.
After the lecture, we headed to Kyoto via the Shinkansen. We were lucky enough to be booked on the Nozomi, the fastest and most expensive of the Shinkansen lines.
We were even able to catch a view of Mount Fuji!
In Kyoto, some friends and I decided to go exploring the back streets and alleyways during our free time. We found a Book-Off where I scored some sweet kuji prizes!
Now I’m back here at the Kyoto Hearton Hotel. Tomorrow, we’ll be visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine, as well as the Kyoto Seika University, home of the Manga Masters Degree Program.