Observations on the views on Japanese culture

Right, my first post and its going to be about the varied ways in which I have noticed people can view another culture. I personally have an interest in Japanese culture, ranging from Manga and Anime, to Japanese films, culture, history, zen and social traditions, however I am by no means an expert.

Recently I attended a seminar on Japanese popular culture, and what struck me, was not the seminar itself, but rather the varied ways in which Japanese culture is viewed, and the lenses through which people choose to see it.

There were those who had a passing interest in Japan, perhaps knowing something about the pacific war, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic bombs, and more recently the terrible earthquake and following tsunami. There were also those who had heard about Japan in some way, and there were people who knew a fair amount about Japan and its culture. But finally there were those who knew an astonishing amount about a specific aspect of the culture, about the games, anime and manga and all that follows.

I have noticed this before where people know an awful lot about a very specific aspect of another culture, and often view the entire society and culture from this fairly skewed viewpoint.

Now looking at a culture from your particular interest is not necessarily a terrible thing to do, but I do think that it narrows what you can personally gain from the culture and society. In the case of Japan, if all you think about is the anime and manga scene, then you are missing out on many other aspects of life.

What is very interesting is what appears to be the utter reliance on one aspect of a countries culture to fill in the blanks for the rest. I myself have been guilty of doing exactly that, reading or watching an anime or manga and taking some elements as truth of Japanese society. However in the last year or so I have tried to learn more about the culture and society, often through sites such as wikipedia that do give a good if brief account of various terms, ideas and elements of Japan among others.

This way of looking at a different culture was further emphasised in a Japanese class that I have been taking, where several people cited manga and anime as a reason for starting Japanese lessons in order to learnt the language and perhaps more about the country.

I think this way of working and viewing a culture is important, in order for a culture and a society to thrive you need to have a variety of ways in which to view that country and a number of interests. If everyone were to go to Japan for the same reason then it would be a rather bland and dull place, it is precisely because of these eccentricities and differences in opinion and view point of this country and culture that make it so appealing. And this on its own makes it worth going to the country to experience it for yourself.