JapanaTen: The top ten Japanese things I'm thankful for


While Japan does not celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, that's not going to stop me from giving thanks for all the wonderful things that have come out of the little island country.

Some aspect of Japanese culture is in at least one part of our everyday lives. We kind of take it for granted, don't we? We forget that they made things like your trusty car, or your eye-searing high-def television in your living room. More obvious things, like video games, anime, and manga are easier to connect to Japan, but we still go to our non-Japanese store to pick these things up, which makes it easy to forget where these items came from.

Even more than that is the culture. So much of it has permeated my everyday life that I forget about it.  I don't ever think I've said Thank You, Japan. It's high-time I do, so here's a sort of love letter to Japan, offering up my thanks.

10. Electronics

Aside from my lovely Cupertino, California-made computers, I think most of what you'd plug into a wall in my house comes from Japan. Sure, you could buy some cheaper third-rate American brand DVD player or television, but you know in the back of your head that its inferior. Don't pretend you don't think that.

Televisions, music players, game systems and more all benefit from Japan's culture of quality workmanship. What's great is that building quality products for themselves just as much as they are for us. Walk into any 8+ floor electronics department store in Japan and you'll see that. They love this stuff as much as we do!  Japanese name brands are synonymous with quality. I, for one, am glad that they're sharing their work with the world.

9. Idols

While all of the world's cultures have found a way to somehow wrangle up all their pretty girls and show them off, Japan has come up with one of the most unique. They start at ground level (high school?), looking for the Girl Next Door. They clean her up, put her on TV and in magazines, make her charming, and see how it goes. Sometimes they become big-time actors or singers. Others fail. But they're all lovely. 

It's sometimes kind of shameless, and there's some skanky stuff that goes on there, but it's mostly good clean fun. I love opening up something like Jump and seeing lovely ladies in provocative poses. Smiling. I'm smiling too. And think about it: everyone wins. We win for the great pictorials. They are genuinely smiling in those shoots, thinking about their payday. 

Keep 'em coming, Japan. I'll keep being a pervert.

8. Karaoke

While our American variant of Japan's after hours past-time is a bit different in ways, we can appreciate that there was a sound idea at its roots when someone came up with it. Drinks, bad singing of good songs, and friends is a fantastic combination. It was probably less of an inspired idea and more of a happy accident. Regardless, it's the best.

Some of the best times I've ever had were spent in some karaoke session. In Japan, trying to find songs that I know, or in America, in shady bars where everyone gives you dirty looks for your howling voice. Thanks so much to the Japanese person who came up with Karaoke. My next rendition of Ken Hirai's "Canvas" will be dedicated to you.

7. Tourism

Everything on this top ten list comes from one little place. Look at that little undercase j-shaped island! It's so nice and compact and foreign that it's just begging to be visited. You should go. They want you to go.

No, really. They want you to go. They like that tourist money. Aside from the rare scoff or under-breath muttering, the Japanese people are great to tolerant of the multitudes of foreigners that come to visit. And in the touristy places, they're used to you. I remember being at a coffee shop, ordering in my poor Japanese accent, and having the girl at the counter respond in perfectly flat American English, "Is this for here or to-go?"

No, but really, go see Akihabara. Shibuya. Party in Roppongi. Odaiba at night. Fish market at 5 a.m. Take a train to Kyoto. Do it. It's incredible.

6. Music

Japanese music gets a bad rap, both abroad and in Japan. It's not fair, though. Just like in many other cultures, the offerings that fall under the umbrella are too varied to just flat out call them all bad. Everything from lavish movie scores to disposable pop comes out of Japan, and there's tons to like in the mix. Famed composer Joe Hisaishi can make you cry at a wave of his baton. Pop group M-Flo can have your ass shaking in 8 beats. And there's something to be said for that sappy love ballad, you ol' hard asses. I always say that if you don't like Japanese music, you haven't heard enough.

5. Television

Game shows, off-the-wall dramas, idol specials, whacked out commercials, mind-blowing newscasts. No one does it better than Japan. All of these things share some traits. They all seem strangely under-budgeted. They all seem to show production values that are a tad bit less than what we're used to. They're all amazingly formulaic.  Same actors over and over? Yep. These all sound like negative things that you'd want to avoid, but they come together to make television magic that I can't break away from. 

Most of the time it's like watching a 24-hour train wreck. Other times, it's like being sucked into a black hole...a black hole of the same story you've heard 50 times, but somehow want to hear again. In the evening, game and variety shows are doing things that would only seem normal in Japan And late at night, it's busty, stupid idols running around a set in bikinis. How could you not love Japanese TV?

4. Food

Tokyo is one of the world's food capitals, but really, I can have fine dining anywhere. Las Vegas, New York, Paris. For Japan, give me the Everyday Man's meal any day. Duck into a hole in the wall for a 2,000+ calorie donburi, covered with a raw egg. Follow your nose on the street until you find the real yakitori, with dark meat and livers and the best sauce ever. Eat sashimi straight out of the ocean, right onto your plate. Lightly seared fatty toro on rice, for only 800 yen.

Even beyond that is Japan's junk food. Candy, chips, strange ice creams, all wonderful. Konbini culture is amazing. Get tiramisu, custard, and a coffee in a can, all for less than $5, and be on a sugar/caffeine high for the day. Japan's fast food is equally wonderful and sinful. Pack your arteries on burgers that would make Americans cringe. Realize what you've been missing this whole time with their inclusion of pork in burgers. 

I could go on, but I'll never stop salivating if I do.

3. Manga

Manga, one of Japan's finest exports, has an extensive reach. It's pretty amazing to consider that something they made for their own entertainment is now extremely popular the world over. I was in France last week, and I wanted to check out the manga scene in the local stores. I did, and there were several French otaku perusing books, making selections, and enjoying reading. It was very nice to see. When I came home, I made my weekly visit to the book store, and there I had to step over all the readers in the aisle. Japan, you should be proud. Your art and your stories have spread to millions. 

2. Anime

For as much as I love manga, its evolution, anime, is even more dear. As anyone reading this page likely knows, anime is a form of entertainment like no other. It's insanely visual and wholly unique, and can be everything from hilarious to heart-wrenching. Japan has elevated animation to such a high art form that the rest of the world tries their best to mimic it. Anime truly is art packed into 22 minute sessions.

Whether it be television broadcasts or international movie releases, anime has become the gateway drug to the Japanese culture. Come for the lovely visuals, stay for the result of thousands of years of rich history. Anime is a window to the Japanese people. It's their expression, their release, and their entertainment, and they have no problem showing every bit of themselves to anyone who will watch. It's the perfect example of the Japanese mindset: they've put so much work into something that you can't help but notice. 

My people.

1. Otaku

Out of everything I'm grateful for from Japan, the otaku top the list. Simply put, without them, we wouldn't have the video games or the sleek electronics to play them on. Geeky music would be nowhere.  Manga and anime would've died off a long time ago.  All of my hobbies benefit from (and originate from) hard-working people that love their craft. They usually don't do it for the money, either. They love this stuff just as much, if not more, than we do. 

Even more than the creative Japanese otaku, I'm grateful for the resulting worldwide otaku. Otaku like you. Ones that come to read this page every day. Ones that keep me in a job, doing what I love to do. We're an international brotherhood--a huge family. I see it everywhere we go.

It's quite amazing, actually. I wonder if Japan as a whole truly realizes what they've created. People from all countries of the world are in love with their culture. Thanks for sharing, Japan. 

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Dale North
Dale NorthAssociate Editor   gamer profile

I am Destructoid's Editor-In-Chief. I love corgis. I make music. more + disclosures



Filed under... #JapanaTen #Japanator Original #top stories



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