Dating in Japan is not the same for foreign men and women. Foreign, especially Western, men have it often relatively easy to date in Japan For some reason (maybe through the consumption of too many Hollywood movies) Japanese women think that foreign men are like that! They’re not afraid of showing their feelings in public or telling their girls flat out how they feel about them. Of course, having a foreign boyfriend is also “cool” and “exotic“.
Kokuhaku Have you ever wondered about the romantic confessions featured in and Well, those are not just a plot tool. It’s called a kokuhaku (confession) and it’s a fairly common way of asking someone to start dating exclusively. In fact, many people won’t feel as if they’re truly dating until one of them confesses. Asking someone out on a date is not the same as confessing your romantic intentions. When you confess, it means you’re telling the person you want to date exclusively.
Some adults may even be upfront about the prospect of marriage in their kokuhaku. It really takes the guesswork out of dating. Romantic confession | © jasicaJaew / Pixabay Hanging Out While group dates are common among young people, the concept of being “friend-zoned” is not. People don’t like to waste time, and Japanese women especially are unlikely to want to hang out unless there is potential for romance.
A lot of importance is attached to what to some may seem like a casual date. So, like with any relationship, it’s important to be clear about your feelings if it turns out you’re not interested after all. Hanging out | © I’m Priscilla / Unsplash Language Barrier The Japanese expression suki desu is often translated to English as both “I love you” and “I like you”. English speakers place a big distinction between “like” and “love”, and for any number of reasons there’s a stigma against confessing one’s love and being the first to say “I love you”.
But in Japanese there is no such distinction, so it may seem like things are moving too fast when they tell you daisuki desu when actually it just means “I really like you”. Wishing plaques or ema | © Colin and Sarah Northway / Flickr Role Reversals Unlike in many Western cultures, where there is still pressure for the man to make the first move, it’s not uncommon or weird for women to ask out someone they’re interested in.
In addition, many Japanese men often expect the woman to pay her own way on a date – yes, even for the first one. Special Dates, Special Places In , certain days have especially romantic connotations that don’t always align with their Western associations. Christmas Eve, for example, is a day for couples to go out for a fancy romantic dinner. Some places are just known as popular destinations for dates or hanging out with your love interest.
For example, is a popular place for couples during holidays, not just families. Tokyo Disneyland Easter parade | © Kentaro Ohno / Flickr Valentine’s Day & White Day On Valentine’s Day, women give gifts to men they like, but they also give obligatory chocolates ( giri– choco) to co-workers.
So, getting doesn’t necessarily mean someone likes you. In return, girls receive chocolates from their romantic interest on White Day in March, as well as reciprocal chocolates from those who received giri– choco the previous month. The price and quality of the chocolate should be a clue to the giver’s feelings.
best dating in japanese culture movies - Movies for Japanese Culture students
What better way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture aside from its tantalizing food? Movies of course. This year we’ve compiled a list of JOC readers’ Japanese movie recommendations that promise some cultural enrichment, fun, laughter, heartfelt tears and more. After sharing our last year, we received some very passionate responses from many of you!
So we decided to put together a list of JOC readers’ top Japanese movie recommendations. If you are new to Japanese films, this is a great place to start. And even if you are a seasoned patron of Japanese films, we hope you will find something new to check out.
From classic to drama, animation to documentary, these films are more likely to surprise us and very often give us a peek into Japanese culture and values. Now, you just have to pin down a few dates for the movie nights. Planning to invite some friends over?
Here’s some delicious for the party. 1. Departures おくりびと – 2008 A winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009, Departures is loosely based on Coffinman that explores the subject of life and death and the human emotions surrounding it.
The story follows a talented young man who returns to his hometown in Northern Japan after his unsuccessful career as a cellist and accepted an accidental job as nōkanshi—a traditional Japanese mortician (an equivalent of modern day undertaker). Having to start all over again with a new disreputable job, he has to stand up to social taboos, self dignity and prejudice from others and his loved ones.
A beautiful moving ode to life and death, and confrontation of traditions and modernity, Departures is one of the rare movies that touches deep inside of us. You’d be surprised by its powerful cinematography and sophisticated sense of humor. 2. The Secret World of Arrietty 借りぐらしのアリエッティ – 2010 Raise your hands if you have an affinity for all things miniature? If so, The Secret World of Arrietty will take you to a fantastical world of very tiny people who live secretly amongst us.
It is a tale of open-heartedness, endearment, courage and friendship in an extraordinary adventure where the two different worlds collide. The Secret World of Arrietty will touch the heartstrings and imagination of children and adults alike. Although the premise of the story may not be the first, there is a richness and wonder to the animation, and you’d love the visual effects too!
3. Castle in the Sky (Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa) 天空の城ラピュタ – 1986 Almost 30 years old, this animation is one of the earliest works from the Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki. As you may have guessed, the story takes place in a castle in the sky. It follows a young boy who stumbles into a mysterious girl who falls out from the sky.
Together they begin a high flying adventure in a search for a legendary floating castle, a site of a lost civilization promising riches and power. Along their voyage, they have to fight with pirates, spies, foreign agents and perilous terrains.
If you are a fan of Star Wars, you will most likely enjoy Castle in The Sky. This airborne fantasy epic promises a lot of fun. 4. Ballad of Narayama (Narayama Bushikō) 楢山節考 – 1958 & 1983 There are two versions of Ballad of Narayama. The older film was released in 1958 and presented in a stylized kabuki approach. The newer film was directed by the famous Shohei Imamura who is the leading figure in Japanese post war cinema. This story is based on Shichiro Fukazawa’s novel and is set in the 19th century in a desolate and impoverished mountain village in northern Japan.
In this fictional society, once the citizens have reached their seventieth year, they must be carried to the summit of Mount Narayama, where ancient gods reside, and left to die. Haunting and raw in its own way, both films are masterpieces of the human conditions. 5. Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime) もののけ姫 – 1997 As the first animated film to win the best picture at the Japanese Academy Awards, Princess Mononoke is being described as an entrancing animated epic with brilliant visuals, characters and poignancy.
The movie tells a tale of Ashitaka, an exiled prince trying to keep peace between warring animals and humans. The greatest strength of Princess Mononoke, in my opinion, lies in its contemplative craftsmanship in a simple story, where the characters are morally complex and ambiguous. 6. The Birth of Sake 酒 – 2016 This cinematic documentary makes a great companion when you have a few friends over for sushi and sake. It offers a rare peak at the daily grind of traditional sake makers of Yoshida Brewery, a 144-year-old family-owned brewery in northern Japan.
A poetic tribute to the traditional brew and pride of Japan, The Birth of Sake also opens up the whole conversation of an endangered way of life that is prevalent in our ever-changing technology driven world. 7. The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) たそがれ清兵衛 – 2002 Set in the declining years of the Edo era, The Twilight Samurai is a Japanese historical drama film by veteran filmmaker Yoji Yamada.
It tells a story of a widower samurai, who struggles in the everyday challenges of raising his young daughters, an elderly mother, class bureaucracy, and the sudden reappearance of his childhood sweetheart.
There is a profound quiet power that exudes the nature of honor. It is a bittersweet story that will have you cheering the samurai all the way. 8. Kabei: Our Mother 母べえ – 2008 Kabei: Our Mother is another delicate work of Yoji Yamada. It tells the struggles of an ordinary Japanese family through the perspective of a mother during wartime Japan. The performance is so compelling that it’s hard not to be drawn by the perseverance and grace of Kabei, the Japanese mother, who holds her family with great dignity despite the adversity.
I think Kabei is also a love story of family and it gives a wonderful insight into the Japanese culture during the time. For those with tender hearts, you may want to get your kleenex ready. 9. A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story (Bushi no Kondate) 武士の献立 – 2013 If you’re looking for an easy and light hearted movie, A Tale of Samarai Cooking: A True Love Story may be your choice. Set within the Edo Period of Japan, the story follows a culinary gifted young women who married to an heir of an esteemed cooking family.
However, the husband himself turns out to be an incompetent chef that she has to step in to show him the way of the culinary world in order to save the family’s reputation. Essentially a romance drama, you can expect a mix of food scenes, gorgeous costumes and production design. 10. Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog クイール – 2004 The movie is about a Labrador retriever named Quill, who is sent to be the companion of a lonely and quick-tempered middle aged blind man.
The man initially resisted the idea of having a guide dog and the outside world, but eventually he was able to open his mind and learned to be accepting of others and the loyal guide dog who stood by him.
You will learn about the world of our canine friends and how they work with people who need them. 11. Ikiru 生きる – 1956 Ikiru, which means ‘to live’ in Japanese, is one of the ingenious works of Akira Kurosawa. Timeless and transcends cultures, Ikuru tells a story of a man who has been living a mundane life as a civil servant for many years.
When he finds out he has only a few months to live from stomach cancer, he is determined to seek meaning of his life. Many of us can relate to the subjects of the film explores – our very own existence, the establishments, family life and the verity of humanity.
If you’re inclined to something deep for your choice of films, you will enjoy Ikiru. 12. The Cats of Mirikitani ミリキタニの猫 – 2006 The Cats of Mirikatani is not exactly about cats, but a documentary about a compelling life of a 80-year-old Japanese American street artist named Tsutomu Jimmy Mirikitani.
Born in Sacramento and raised in Hiroshima, Mirikitani moved to New York later in his life and lived on the streets by creating arts. We learn the remarkable connections between his past and the present as we wander along back to his home and family in Japan, his early career as an artist, his internment during World War II and the streets of New York.
This film is a truly a heartfelt work by Linda Hattendorf, a local filmmaker who made friend with the artist and gave him a shelter when 9/11 shattered his life. You will be taken by this genuine documentary. You can get the DVD from the . More Japanese Movies? Enjoy Japanese Movies! We hope you enjoy the movie recommendations above. You can find them on Amazon, Netflix, your local library or watch some of the trailers on Youtube. Note: We are only listing out movies and documentaries, not TV series.
But if you have some favorite movies that we missed out, please share them in the comments below because we’d love to know! Sign up for the free delivered to your inbox! And stay in touch with me on , , , and for all the latest updates.
Originally from Penang, Malaysia, Reese lives in Minnesota with her husband and their baby boy. She previously ran an Asian spice shop, and also worked on UNESCO Heritage projects in Penang in the areas of performing arts, history, and arts education. Reese loves spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, and reading up on art & design. And of course dreaming of another trip to Japan to hike mountain trails and eat her favorite street food Okonomiyaki.
Nami san, Though we have seen a good number of these and enjoyed them immensely, we are grateful to learn of others (with a great synopsis of the story). We would like to humbly offer ‘Kono Sekai no Katasumi Ni’, which tells the story of World War II from a place near Hiroshima, close to where our family is from. Would also like others to enjoy ‘Kimi no Na Wa’, which is also amazing.
Our family agrees that the ones you’ve offered and we’ve seen are some of the best films ever. To be honest, I haven’t seen many Japanese live-action films, but more so the animated ones! Mostly studio Ghibili but there are new filmmakers that make movies a lot like Hayao Miyazaki like the ones who made the Wolf Children and Bakemono no Ko.
They were all amazing, and I could even put in Summer Wars! Kimi no Na Wa was popular last year (I’m pretty sure), and I found it funny and sweet 🙂 There’s a lot more I’d be willing to name but that would practically be as long as an essay :p Thank you for sharing this movie recommendation! I love every Japanese movies/dramas about food and any kind of specialty. I want to see “The birth of sake” the most in this list. “The tale of samurai cooking” is on my to-watch-list too. I am fascinated by the Japanese film industry, because they can make film about every jobs out there.
😁 I have the dvd of “Departure”. Sadly only samurai or yakuza movies or old arthouse movie are released in Germany. As usual, I am really sad when I read such kind of lists.
Why? Japanese culture, traditions, aesthetics, and art is not only cute anime or cheap melodramatic stories. Of course, these things are now part of the Japanese culture, and are important too (I like anime, too!).
But traditional Japanese aesthetics and culture is too beautiful and complex to be forgotten. Most of the young Japanese people now are forgetting their traditions and are changing their tastes toward something more “American style” or more “kawaii style”, When I talk to such people about very traditional Japanese things, usually the answer is always the same: “these are boring and old things which only my grandma liked!”.
Well, after this introduction I want to suggest to someone who is interested in a deep story about Japanese family relationships depicted using a very strong traditional Japanese aesthetic, a movie of Yasujirō Ozu called “Tokyo Monogatari”, in English “Tokyo story”. Although considered a masterpiece by critics, that movie reached western countries with difficulties only several years later, because considered “too much Japanese” for westerner! Although now also young Japanese people do not know him, Yasujirō Ozu is considered by scholars and critics the most important Japanese director together with Akira Kurosawa.
So, if you are interested in Japanese culture and traditions, please do yourself a favor, and watch this movie! 🙂 Thanks for suggesting Tokyo Monogatari to us, Marcello!
It’s so true that younger generations (or the public in general) are more drawn to anime, action packed, light hearted or melodrama films. We wonder why super heroes are so big everywhere! That’s why we try to include a wide range of films in our recommendations. We featured some of the classic films in our previous post, so hopefully some readers will check them out.
Thank you very much for the kind response. I want to add that my first comment has not to be intended as a critic for the specific movies listed in this post! It was only a my very personal consideration about the shift of public taste toward a more uniform and “global” direction. In principle, while this tendecy cannot be considered a completely negative thing, there is however the risk of losing and forgetting the peculiar nuances each different culture/society can express through art (e.g., movies).
So, I have nothing against anime or light hearted or melodrama Japanese movies/drama, because they reflect other aspect of the Japanese culture which do not have to be ignored! I am only worried that people miss the opportunity of coming into contact with the deepest aspect of the beautiful Japanese culture!
PS: in any case, I noticed that I am not the only one who liked Tokyo Monogatari or Ozu, so I feel myself less lonely! 😀 No worries, Marcello. You are right about your observation. And it’s true that all genres of films play various important roles in introducing and reflecting various slices and aspects of a culture.
Each one is unique and engaging in its own way. Like you, we sure hope that movies with more profound or traditional themes will continue to get appreciated.
And I am sure there is always an audience for that. Oh yes to Tokyo Monogatari! This is telepathy! My daughter just returned back to Finland from her exchange year in Hiroshima.She speaks quite good Japanese now and she wants to maintain that.
We were wondering if she could find some films…and now you gave us a good list! Thank you!!! We have all Miyazaki films, but we need more!
Beautiful was also Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase. Have you heard of Kamome shoduko by Naoko Ogigami? That is filmed in Finland This is an interesting list – I’ve seen several of them, but will make an effort to see the rest. After many years, I’m still haunted by scenes from the Ballad of Narayana (Imamura) – it’s more disturbing than any horror movie I’ve ever seen.
I would add a few of my own favorites to this list. Spirited Away is my favorite animated film ever. I’ve recommended it to many others and never heard later that any didn’t love it. Any Ozu film is a must for a top 10 list, in my view. Ozu isn’t everyone’s taste, but his Tokyo Story is on many lists of all-time greatest films. Kurosawa has so many more great films than just Ikuro, but how about Seven Samurai?
I could go on, but won’t, except to say that there is so much truely great Japanese cinema to discover for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered it. Thank you for the list of more Japanese movies. Hope I can find them in the local library. It is always difficult to have a library make purchases as I am told it’s hard to find distributors.
I would like to suggest Fuon (The Crying Wind), an old movie that is shot on location in Okinawa and was based on award-winning book. Hi Christina – I wish you luck in finding the movies too. Not sure where you live, but may be you can try some arthouse theatre/ Japanese association/ Netflix/ Amazon if you do get access to any of these resources. Some universities may have the media collection for these too. Look for film & broadcasting department. Thank you Reese for putting this website together!
Our family of four will be travelling to Japan this summer, and we want to find out more about the culture before we go – watching some of these movies will certainly help enlighten us, while at the same time provide some enjoyable family entertainment. Cheers – David A., Kula Hawaii BTW: I spent a couple days on your home island of Penang while travelling through S.E. Asia in my early twenties – very nice. Quite a contrast to Minnesota I would imagine, both culturally and weather wise?!
I’m not saying that in a judgmental way – about either place / culture. Hey, variety is the spice of life, yes? Hi David – I’m so glad that you are going to watch some of these movies before you go on your trip to Japan! Oh, I contribute articles to Just One Cookbook once in a while. Nami is the one that put everything on the website together. There are some Japan travel info that Nami shares on the site too if you’re interested.
Def check it out! PS: How neat to know you spent a few days in Penang! The island has gone though tremendous changes since it was given the UNESCO heritage title.
There is just so much development going on right now. Yep, it’s currently below zero in Minnesota and boiling hot in Penang. I think I’ve come to appreciate what each place has to offer, although I must say I miss the foods and the festivities back home.
Mention ‘Japanese culture’ to any foreigner, and ‘anime’ is going to be one of, if not the first thing that pops up in their heads. In fact, we all know that anime and manga occupies a central position in Japanese popular culture, and thus consuming this particular form of entertainment is undoubtedly a good way of gaining knowledge on Japan.
This writer, for one, learned, or at least think he learned, a lot about Nippon through anime. However, making a list of anime that can help you understand Japanese culture a somewhat complicated task: without getting too technical, one has to point out that ‘culture’ is a hopelessly vague concept, and thus the task of trying to introduce ‘Japanese culture’ can easily become a confusing one. For the purpose of this article, however, culture basically encompasses everything that has ever been done or thought on the Japanese territory, just to keep it simple.
Anyway, no matter how we understand ‘Japanese culture’, the task of introducing such a complex thing in mere ten series and 2000 words is difficult to say the least, and, consequently, this list will be an inconsistent mash-up of all kinds of stories, styles and subject matters, but will hopefully help you gain a deeper understanding of the culture of the land of the rising sun. A lot of those interested in Japan tend to overlook the fact that much of what we think of as ‘Japanese’ indeed came from other places, with those ‘other places’ often being China: though entertaining enough, people like Atsugiri Jason should really be yelling “WHYY CHINA!”.
Along with stuff like kanji and ramen, the premise of the Dragon Ball manga was borrowed from slash inspired by the novel A Journey to the West, one of four novels considered as the great classics of Chinese literature. That is not to say that writer Toriyama Akira blatantly copied the story of Sun Wukong's (who became Son Goku) journey to collect Buddhist sutras (which, in turn, became dragon balls) – although the main protagonist maintained his monkey tail, martial arts skills, strength and carefree attitude, this is merely the premise of the story.
One could in fact claim that an important part of Japanese culture is the peculiar way imported elements are slightly changes before being absorbed, be it philosophy, food or language. Just think of Waseigo, even though the components of word like paso-kon comes from English (personal and computer, respectively), it is dissected and put together in a new way, creating something almost entirely different from the original source material.
A prime example of this is Dragon Ball (including, of course, Dragon Ball Z), which is a good reason to pick it up (again, if you’ve already watched it).
Otaku culture is referenced in pretty much every anime, but few go as far as I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, this tale of the daily life of a stereotypically normal Japanese girl marrying a stereotypical otaku male can be treated as an encyclopedia of everything essential to this stereotypically Japanese subculture. If you take the time and google all the things referenced, you’ll end up with a knowledge of the otaku culture that will surpass even the frequent patrons of Akihabara’s maid cafés.
As important as this, however, is the fact that the story is told from the perspective of the absolutely-not-otaku-at-all Kaoru, which also teaches a lesson: most regular Japanese people would react in the same way as ‘we’ do when observing some of the strange customs and obsessions of otakus, thus giving a more unbiased view on the subject matter.
Obviously, one of the picks had to be sex-related. If you were to make a list of movies that would help a foreigner understand American culture, something along the lines of Deep Throat would be an obvious choice, right? Japan has a flourishing pornographic industry as well as a long history of erotica. Sex is, as everywhere else, everywhere in Japan, though not in the same way as you’d see it in other countries – what many foreigners that come to Japan or watch anime for the first time will react to, is the widely used image of ‘the schoolgirl’, in the innocent, slightly suggestive, and straight out sexualized form.
So I decided to choose one that combines everything that’s wrong with temporary anime (and, consequentially, the people that consume it): a disturbing fascination with high school prepubescent-looking girls, almost comically stereotypical objectification of women, as well as a lust for something forbidden – incest in this particular case.
Of course, what needs to be underlined is that including Imouto Paradise in this list doesn’t mean that this genre represents the cup of tea of most Japanese people – as we all probably know the ‘weird Japan’ stereotype is vastly overstated – but it does have an audience and thus represents a subculture worthy of attention.
The 19th century saw great changes in Japan’s relationship with the outside world: Before 1853 the country had been isolated under what was known as the sakoku policy, and any Japanese trying to leave the country faced the death penalty.
After the so-called Meiji-restoration this all changed though, and Japan was opened up. This is the historical context of Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, where a young Japanese girl named Yune follows a visiting Frenchman back to France and eventually starts working in his family’s ironwork shop.
Life in Japan is obviously a lot different than that of her home country, and the cultural differences she encounters is indeed one of the main themes. Apart from the occasional hafu tsundere character, foreigners and foreign cultures aren’t a very prominent element in anime, and that’s what makes Ikoku Meiro no Croisée stand out. Its premise gives us a different perspective on Japanese culture by contrasting it with that of 19th century Paris, meaning that there’s a lot to learn from this East-meets-West SOL.
University life is one of the subjects left largely untouched by the vast majority of High School obsessed anime writers, despite the fact that the time spent as a university student surely is an important period of many Japanese people’s life.
Tatami Galaxy is, apart from one of the arguably best and most original anime series to date, an interesting look into the daily life at one of Japan’s most prestigious educational institutions, Kyoto University.
Set in one of the most beautiful cities of Japan, it depicts an unnamed protagonist’s struggles with choosing the right student circle to join, as this apparently has a definitive impact on one’s social life on campus. Tatami Galaxy is packed with references to traditional and modern Japan, introduces one of the most iconic universities in one of the most iconic cities in Japan, and has one of the best sidekicks in recent anime.
A swordsman and a ronin (masterless samurai) with opposite personalities decides to help a 15-year-old girl named Fuu search for the ‘Samurai who smells of Sunflowers’, all while sick hip hops beats float in the background. Break dancing samurai – it sounds like a ridiculous concept, but under the direction of a genius like Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop) Samurai Champloo naturally became a masterpiece.
Part period drama and part cultural mashup almost bordering the parodic, Samurai Champloo is set in one of the greatest eras of Japanese history, the Edo period, like the genre known in the west as Samurai cinema (chanbara in Japanese). Although its handling of history is sometimes questionable (and it probably never meant to be taken seriously on this point), it does include several events that actually occurred, providing more or less relevant information for the history-interested.
The image and ‘way’ of the samurai occupies a large space in Japanese culture, both in the version perceived by foreigners and the one seen by natives. A mix of old and new, traditional and modern, Samurai Champloo is probably the ultimate samurai anime. Ordinary working life is not that common of a theme in anime, and this makes Shirobako a welcomed addition to the world of anime. A story of five high school friends that all decide to pursue a career in anime, making Shirobako kind of a unique peak into the ups and downs of everyday work.
As most Japanese, instead of piloting EVAs, hanging out with their magical girlfriends or getting forced to work at strange bathhouses, are probably a) going about doing their comparatively mundane jobs or b) watching anime like the above mentioned, Shirobako is a good pick because it offers insights into both the anime industry as well as the ordinary office life that so many Japanese experience every day.
And, on top of that, it is a brilliant series. It’s obviously hard to pick just one anime from a studio that is regularly hailed as one of, if not, the greatest in the business, but if we had to do just that Spirited Away wouldn’t be a bad choice. For one, it was a definitive hit not only in Japan – the highest grossing film in Japanese history – but also in the US, where it was the first anime ever to win an academy award.
Most of you will probably know the story, which revolves around ten-year-old Chihiro who after a mysterious chain of events is forces to work at an old bathhouse which happens to serve as a resort for various deities. Many will also have recognized the universal elements of the story, such as the coming of age of Chihiro or environmentalism, there are other more Japan-specific elements that are easier to miss.
Ecology and respect for nature are common theme in Miyazaki’s movies, and these thoughts as well as the images used to portray them often exhibits influence from Shintoism and Buddhism. Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke are the most obvious examples of these kinds of movies, and the many gods and spirits that appear resemble the gods believed to exist in living things and natural phenomena. Another obvious pick, Usurei Yatsura might be old but is still running strong – main protagonist Lum Invader can still be seen promoting products in commercials on the Tokyo subway, proving that she is alive and kicking in the collective Japanese pop-cultural consciousness.
As with many other series on this list, there are two main reasons to check out this series: firstly, it’s regarded as a classic and has, as stated above, has a lasting impact on Japan, but also, secondly, it’s packed with references to pretty much everything Japanese: from old superstition and customs via folklore and mythology to classical literature.
A word of warning: you will definitely need good subtitles with good footnotes as well as an episode guide for this unforgivingly dense anime. Sazae-what? Upon asking a Tokyo friend which anime series would be suitable for a list like this, I was told that ‘Sazae-san’ was a must.
I’d never heard of the series before, and was embarrassed to find out that such a large hole existed in my Japanese pop culture knowledge. Sazae-san is the character that gets the whole family gathered in front of the television at 18:30 on Sundays, and has been doing so since 1969. Adapted from a newspaper manga strip that ran from 1946 to 1974, it is the longest running animated television series in the world with 7181 episodes (compared that to the Simpsons, only 574 episodes!), and still tops TV ratings per 2015.
The upbeat and cheerful Sazae-san is a housewife in a happy but turbulent marriage with Fuguta Masuo, who lives together with Sazae-san’s family in Tokyo. Even though the titular character originally was somewhat controversial for being ‘left-leaning’ and ‘liberated’, the main selling point of the anime is the nostalgic appeal it gives – a throwback to a time where several generations where living under the same roof, where mothers were happy housewives and fathers would come home early and play with the children.
Through Sazae-san you can learn a lot about Japanese family life, as well as pre-otaku, pre-anime (ironically) and pre-bubble economy Japan. Sazae-san and her family often participates in Japanese traditional festivals (matsuri), and offers a good chance to get to know a thing or two about traditional Japanese customs. Hello there, I’m Magnus (no relation to Vampire Hunter D villain Count Magnus Lee), and I hail from the cold, northern part of the European continent.
I like music, anime, movies and literature (aka ‘anything remotely artsy’), and am currently living in Tokyo, attempting to slay the dragon that goes by the name of ‘Japanese’, as well as figuring out the meaning of life. Recently started podcasting: https://soundcloud.com/helpodcast
Natsuki: The Movie (Life in Japan Documentary)