Would A Yokai Turn You Into A Tree?|Gegege no Kitarou|Anime Review

An obnoxious YouTuber accidentally releases a centuries old spirit who wreaks havoc in the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo. All for views. He is then turned into a tree along with other helpless souls whose noses stuck to their phone screens. If only things like this happened in real life to Yt click-baiters, the earth would be a much greener place. (well, technically purple since that’s what color the trees leaves were…but you get my meaning)

Welcome to the Spring 2018 Anime Season!

Gegege no Kitarou (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 ), or Kitaro of the Graveyard is a 2018 anime based on the 1960s manga series created by Mizuki Shigeru. The opening song has a very old-timey feeling to it, reminding me a lot of an episode of Mushishi. It also has elements of my all-time favorite show, Natsume Yuujinchou, but strangely enough it reminds me the most of my favorite manga – Aku no Hana. I’m positive I am making this association due to the unsettling atmosphere and Papa Medama, who is quite literally a talking eyeball with legs.

The series starts off with a group of middle school friends. There is a set of siblings, the big sister of the group and her neighbor. They are discussing the current events and Mana-chan is defending her neighbor from callous comments made by the siblings. For some reason, I thought the nameless youngin would be our main character. I’m still surprised he wasn’t even consulted or brought along on Mana’s later adventures. His grandparents seem to frequently tell him folklore stories about youkai, and he is the reason Kitarou is able to be summoned. He could have added something to the conversation, but I digress.

Kitarou is a youkai in humanoid form. His name seems to obviously draw on The Adventures of Kintaro, the Golden Boy folklore legends. His father Medama is a small red eyeball with a body. Not sure of his backstory yet, but it would be interesting to find out if somehow his power had been diminished and that is the reason for his small stature. In Shinto culture, spirits and kami (or gods) derive power through prayer. In Natsume’s Book of Friends there is a common theme of divine kami leaving our plane or yokai losing power due to the newer generation’s lack of prayers. The deities are sustained through the older era’s prayers, and slowly as they die off their power is relinquished.

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After the inciting incident with the YouTuber, residents of Tokyo are being turned into trees indiscriminately. Well, I shouldn’t say that because there seems to be a theme emerging concerning the divide between the digital age and traditionalist era. Those who stopped to take photos for Instagram and other social media were planted with seeds of the vampire tree by Nobiagari.  Turning those addicted to their phones into vampire trees seems to suggest that modern digital culture can literally suck the life out of you and turn you into something hollow. Although trees do still have roots – a connection. In a vague interpretation, the spirit could want people to reclaim their link with the earth.

Mana seems to ask a message board for the location of the Yokai Mailbox to summon Kitarou and receives a reply. The group arrives at a street with high foot traffic and many office workers wrapped up in their own lives. Down a shady back alley is an old dingy straw mailbox reminiscent of Gassho-style farmhouses. I keep wondering if Mana saw the black cat above her on the pipes. The cat later turns into a rodent who turns into a bird who delivers the message to Kitarou. As promised, he appears to her at dusk with the “clop clop” of his geta signaling his arrival. In spirituality, dusk and dawn are attributed to sacred times; as is midnight or three a.m., which is commonly referred to as the witching hour depending on who you ask.

This kicks off Mana’s supernatural adventures and her belief in yokai, which grants her the ability to see them. Kitarou tells her countless times that there is more to this world, even if you can’t see it. Before being saved from Nobiagari’s seeds, she can only see a faint outline of the creature. After spending more time with Papa Medama while his son is incapacitated, she is able to see more than a faint outline. Although not stated in the anime, I believe spending time with the spirits also aided her new ‘gift’.

The contrast between generations is something that will definitely keep me watching this show. The technology age does have enticements with the ease of accessibility to virtually anything, but there are many drawbacks. Mana doesn’t remember or know how to write a proper letter before summoning the yokai. I admittedly cringed at this, before realizing that these kids probably were born in the early 2000s. I was born in the 90s, a time where landline telephones were still a thing and the internet consisted of AIM chatrooms and spaceship dial-up internet sounds. It makes me wonder how different our realities would be if we did remember the stories our grandparents might have grown up on. Would it change how we interact with the world? Or would things stay the same?

If you watched the first episode, how did you like it? Have you read The Birth of Kitaro? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more anime reviews. It’s a new season, and we’ll have a few more coming for you all!

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Natsume Yuujinchou Utsusemi Movie is Coming September 29th 2018 | Anime News

We are getting more Natsume Yuujinchou this year!

For those of you who have never heard of it or don’t know, Natsume Yuujinchou [夏目友人帳 ], or Natsume’s Book of Friends is the absolute best Slice of Life hybrid anime. No ifs, ands or buts. It is immaculate. I am overtly biased but I seriously have a soft spot for shows like this; focuses on personal growth, overcoming past trauma and coming of age. It also has strong supernatural and mystery elements rooted in Japanese Shinto practices and folklore.

The six season series focuses on Natsume Takashi, a boy who can see yokai or Japanese spirits. Natsume is an orphan frequently shuffled around to various relatives and foster families. Some of these people are kind, but this never lasts as he is gifted with the ability to see spirits. As a child he could not decipher between human and yokai, causing misunderstands that lead to rumors to spread about him. Word of mouth detailing unexplainable occurrences surrounding the small boy crept to local town folk ears.

Misconstrued by peers in school when attempting to make friends resulted in frequent loneliness.

Now fifteen, Natsume is placed with a distant relative on his grandmother’s side. Unbeknownst to him, Shigeru-san heard tales of his mistreatment at a funeral. He and wife Touko-san never had children and wanted to give Natsume a proper loving home.

Natsume arrives in the countryside of what is speculated to be the island of Kyushu. There are a few “sacred sites” in Kumamoto, and years ago I came across a Japanese YouTuber who found forest temples that inspired the show.  Sacred sites (or otaku pilgrimages) are locations around Japan that serve as the basis for dwellings in your cherished anime.

Think of it like this: manga is (usually) anime’s source material as sacred sites are to a mangaka’s inspiration.

Bad analogy aside, there is a historic site in Gifu prefecture called Ogimachi Village. This serves as the origin of Hinamizawa Village in Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni. Using sites such as this are in part to garner local regional tourism; other reasons being the author just may envision their story unfolding there. Other times a memorial is built for fans when there is no tangible place. Satsuki and Mei’s house from My Neighbor Totoro can be found in Nagoya’s Nagakute-cho district.

In a similar vein, I am reminded of the extras on the Spirited Away DVD that show Miyazaki’s inspiration for the infamous bathhouse the witch Yubaba runs. When I was younger I often watched that second disc to see the behind the scenes creation of its Foley track. Or each time it rained I’d watch Kiki’s Delivery Service. The soft pitter patter of the rain on the house was so comforting. It makes me very nostalgic, sharing things like this. I have so many good memories thanks to Japanese animation. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

But, back to the main focus of this article.

The TV show is based on Midorikawa Yuki’s work. She also created the source material for the short film Hotarubi no Mori e [蛍火の杜へ]. Comparable to the Kintaro folktale of Japan, a mysterious human boy named Gin is raised in the forest by yokai. Takegawa Hotaru meets him as a child and the two develop a relationship over time. Watching the film you can see the similarities between Gin and Natsume, especially in their ethereal demeanor and physical appearance.

The town Natsume lands in proves to be a hotbed for paranormal activity and he is constantly chased by spirits requesting their names be returned. In an old box at his new home, he finds a ‘book of friends’ or book of spiritual contracts collected by his grandmother, Natsume Reiko. After a particularly nasty pursuit by unfriendly spirits, Natsume stumbles into a local shrine and accidentally breaks a barrier. This unseals the powerful spirit Madara who is initially stuck, but grows to enjoy the Maneki-neko cat form he had been sealed in for an unidentified length of time.

(I once read somewhere that Kyushu itself is thought of as a portal for spirits and is cursed land. Well, not a ‘you will turn into a tree sort, but a place where you should tread lightly. This was many years ago at the start of the series in 2008. Sadly the websites I see in my mind’s eye may not even exist anymore. This is also the case with the YouTuber I referenced. The videos were in Japanese and used some of the OST. With YT being super extra with copyright claims of late, they may have been wiped from the net to a place I cannot tread. ((Regional blocked sites where I’d have to fire up a proxy)) I will update when I find more information about this or can confirm that it is not some queer fever dream of mine.)

‘Nyanko-sensei’ is what Natsume affectionately calls Madara, and the two slowly return the youkai names. In the real and spirit world, Natsume gains companions who understand and value him as a person. He searches for more information about his grandmother and in the recent season, Natsume Yuujinchou Roku, his grandfather.

I am excited about the upcoming film, I am excited at the possibility of more seasons and each convention I attend I literally hunt specifically for Nyanko-sensei merchandise. The more prevalent the show becomes in America, the more overpriced-UFO-catcher-licensed-merch I can find. I am determined to assemble a small army of plushies and ceramic figurines to guard my nightstands.

Based on the incessant fangirling you’ve just witnessed, hopefully, it sparked a bit of interest in the series.

Natsume Yujincho ~ Utsusemi [夏目友人帳 ~うつせみに結ぶ~ ] is scheduled to premiere on September 29th of this year. Here’s to hoping I can somehow see the Japanese release by proxy of subtitled indie movie theatres.

For now, since the spring anime season has begun the next few posts will focus on currently airing episodes. I am still debating on whether I would like to pick one or two shows to review weekly, or just do first impressions and wait until it’s over to do a series review. There are quite of few series reviews from last season I have on the backburners that I would like to trickle into the mix somehow.

Are you a fan of Natsume’s Book of Friends? What is your favorite anime with yokai? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you. Also be sure to follow us for more Natsume Yujinchou news! We may have some youkai themed content in future articles…

Why Recovery of an MMO Junkie Starts a Positive Discussion|NEET in Anime

I may have fallen back into hell. No, I am certain I have. It’s been over a year since I’ve watched an episode of anime, and I have finally sunken back into the familiar world that carried me through a million and one troubled times. So, do you want to know the first anime I’ve watched – now that I am back into my addictive abyss? Read on, my fellow anime enthusiasts.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie [ ネト充のススメ], or Netojuu no Susume is an anime I’d heard whispers of back when I was actively not watching anime. For reference, I was working almost every day surrounded by Japanese culture, Japanese people and Japanese food – I felt like I was in an actual anime. I was living my best life, as a shoujo maiden running for the train with toast in my mouth each morning. Okay, the toast thing is an exaggeration but the shoujo maiden thing is totally legit.

I love the ‘video game within an anime’ or virtual reality genre. It started with the first season of Sword Art Online, transcended with Accel World, fell off a bit with No Game no Life and still rests somewhere between hoping for a season 3 of Log Horizon and occasional rewatches of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. Maybe it’s because I actually love real life virtual reality; maybe it’s because I desperately wish to play an MMO with friends on Discord. Either way, I was really surprised at how fast I got invested in this show.

Have I also mentioned that I enjoy NEET characters? For those of you who might not know, NEET stands for Not into Education, Employment, or Training. It’s usually people in their late teens to even later twenties in anime, but statistics from the Japanese government suggest that those in their forties could even be qualified as NEETs. However, these individuals are usually not included in surveys – causing the overall number to be lower when it really may be much higher. These people tend to live with parents or alone in their own apartments, being supported by said parents or relatives. Some are self-sufficient, but this is not always the case. NEETs and Hikikomori share the traits of not liking to leave the house, as it gives them anxiety. They would rather order things online and have them dropped off in front of their doorstep, and do not socialize much. Many indulge in their hobbies, but some not even that. I have a demur enjoyment of learning about all aspects of Japanese culture, even the taboo bits that are usually hidden away.

We’re still getting to know one another with this new blog, but I’m really into this type of stuff. The subject of hikikomori in Japan interests me. It’s more of an interest in those people’s lives and how society perceives them, which although different from NEETs, episode two seems to focus on this subject based on the teaser preview. Our main character Morioka is a self-stylized “chosen NEET” who has retired from office work and honestly, I cannot blame her. The rat race is exhausting. I went from high school to college to internships all the while holding jobs without a break; until now that is, and let me tell you – I’ve been overwhelmed by having so much free time for the first time in literally eight years. Time to watch Netflix, time to watch my backlog list of films, anime, read manga, read books, finish reading the ASOIAF series. I think what really resonated with me in the first few minutes of watching this show is that Morioka jumps up hearing her alarm in a panic before realizing that she doesn’t work anymore. I still get anxiety anytime I hear my alarm go off…those are real feelings in our society today that I’m sure anyone reading this can relate to – whether it be an alarm for school, college or a job you’re not too fond of.

Morioka – which I am using her last name because it’s simply how I’ve grown accustomed to referring to anime characters and real-life Japanese people – reinvents herself as a turquoise haired male named ‘Hayashi’ in an MMO called Fruits de Mer. She is a newbie to the game and is kinda trash until she finds help from an angel in pink named Lily. Lily is actually an office worker, or 会社員 named Sakurai Yuuta. The two quickly hit it off, and through a somewhat nonchalant passage of time it’s almost Christmas and the Guild Master (Morioka joins a guild at some point, again super nonchalant passage of time) tells Hayashi that there is no romance allowed in the guild. Hayashi acts kind of dense and the episode ends with Hayashi and Lily exchanging gifts in a tree watching the stars at night. Romantic, but it was even more romantic that earlier in the episode the two (unbeknownst to them) met in their real-world avatars.

Maybe the camera panned in a confusing manner intentionally, but it seemed like when Morioka and Sakurai were in a discount Lawson’s together, the Fruits de Mer points card she was buying caught his attention. (Lawson’s is a popular convenience store chain in Japan, known for delicious chicken.)

The pair tries to purchase the same piece of konbini chicken, which happens to be the last. Sakurai recedes his offer, and Morioka leaves embarrassed. Again the passage of time is vague, but it seemed like she hadn’t left the house for at least a few weeks. Morioka upgraded her PC setup, but as I mentioned earlier she could have simply ordered it online. Her fridge was completely empty, but we have no determinate of how much she eats daily to calculate the exact amount of time she’s been NEET.

I enjoyed the first episode much more than I expected to, and I hope Morioka – rather Hayashi- has a supportive group of friends in regards to her new lifestyle choices. I will keep watching, but I wanted to make a first impressions post as I will most likely write more about this show.  It’s only ten episodes and seems to have an unaired eleventh episode special according to my anime list. I’ve had a habit since before film school of binge watching shows, even staying up all night to finish a season (here’s looking at you, Riverdale) but I am going to try my best to pace myself. I’ll share more thoughts on this show after I finish the series, but for now I’ll leave our conversation of NEETs here.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Netoju no susume. 1. and Recovery of an MMO Junkie: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Have you seen Recovery of an MMO Junkie? If you could play any game for an extended period of time, or enter any video game – what world would you choose? Leave your thoughts in a comment below, I’d love to hear from you! Be sure to follow us for more episode reviews (also analysis of NEET and hikikomori in anime) in the future!

(I will let you know which game I’d like to live in when I make my after-show post)

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Cowboy Bebop will return at Quad Cinema in NYC | Anime Culture

There is something about enjoying your hobbies and passions with a group of like-minded individuals. Conventions are great for this, but cinema is even better. The raw emotion charges the air, and you become even more invested in the stories being shown on screen. I assume this is why people love things like Broadway (I say people because I just can’t handle musicals unless it’s Disney). In the past few years, New York has upped its anime game. Theatres now offer animated films, show anime season marathons and even film festivals (The Complete Studio Ghibli Fest at the IFC Center and countless others). If you like Cowboy Bebop and would like to see it in theatres, read on –

Samurai Champloo, Michiko to Hatchin and Gurren Lagann are always lumped together. Mainly because they have some of the same production crew working across the shows. This causes similar signature aesthetics and of course, Samurai Champloo has Nujabes. I’ve constantly heard about Cowboy Bebop in the same conversations, but always as an afterthought.  Out of curiosity, I looked up who directed and wrote it, which happens to be Watanabe Shinichiro. He has also worked on a ton of other anime in varying degrees of positions. Of his works, I’ve seen Death Parade, Michiko to Hatchin, Samurai Champloo, and the ethereal torment that is Zankyou no Terror.

(Torment as in I adore every piece of it to bits and each time I re-watch I have this indescribable sense of longing. I also make a mental note to learn how to play chess. It’s been almost four years and I still haven’t learned how to play chess. Thinking back, I also thought about learning after that (kinda?) epic scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Ron is on the chess board and (kinda) almost dies then Dumbledore gives the House Cup to Gryffindor when Slytherin would have actually won. I mean, maybe my opinion is colored because I’d be a Slytherin through and through…but me thinks the headmaster was a wee bit biased. Almost as biased as my spellcheck recognizing every single HP word except Slytherin in this paragraph…haha, spellcheck. Anywho, back to anime…)

If you’ve ever heard about Cowboy Bebop but never checked it out, now here is your chance.

Anime NYC and Subway Cinema are holding a special event at Quad Cinema on April 22nd from 12 pm – 12 am. Cowboy Bebop: The 20th Anniversary Binge Sessions! Will show all twenty-six episodes of the series in Japanese with English subs.  I’d love to go, but instead I plan on attending every single Japanese cultural event I was not able to appreciate last year due to work and other general circumstances. This includes Japan Day at Central Park, JapanFes events (ramen contests, Okinawa Music Festival) and the upcoming Sakura Matsuri at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in April. I will also be sharing photos and stories of the events with all of you, so essentially we will all be going! =)

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More info about the anniversary festival here: http://animenyc.com/cowboybebopbingesessions/

There seems to be a cosplay contest as well where you can win cool prizes. There is a fee to get in, but you seem to get a lot for your money’s worth. If you go to the event, be sure to come back and tell me about it! Have you seen any of the anime I mentioned? Leave your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us and tell your friends about the community we are creating!

Are You Living a Rose Colored Life? | Anime Episode Review

The Springtime of Youth. A Rose Colored life. These are phrases that are meant to encourage and inspire at their core. Usually found in high school anime, characters wish to write their own stories – create memories before their lives shotgun into the unknown. The Springtime of Youth also reminds me of Rock Lee’s ridiculous Naruto Spin-off show, but today we’ll discuss something different. Another show that takes this philosophy to the next level. Read on, and be inspired.

Oh, it really has been too long. Taking a break from anime for over a year makes you somewhat forget exactly why you watched in the first place. It all blends together, a huge amalgamation of jumbles in your mind. Then you see something, cliché or cheesy as it is – and deep down you feel it. “This is why I watch” you say out loud, suddenly self-conscious sitting in your room; in the library at school; on public transit.

The Springtime of Youth is something always covered in anime. Or to live a “rose coloured life” is the goal of an apathetic high school student who you know is the main character because they have a window seat in the classroom. That feeling when you’re young that anything is possible and that you only have a certain amount of time to achieve it before it all slips away. Before jobs, college and other things where suddenly it’s no longer acceptable to have fun. To be curious, to laugh, to do something crazy. It’s a common fear of working years towards a goal, only much later in life to realize it was all for naught. Regret, not taking the chances you wished you had because of fear. I felt all of this with a cliché shot of two characters who do not know one another sharing the same space. One character is preoccupied with their current task, and the other character stops to look at them. This is where I got hooked.

A Place Further Than The Universe [ 宇宙よりも遠い場所], Uchuu yori mo Tooi Basho is aptly named. The episode begins with our main character, Tamaki Mari, having a dream that illustrates her fears. In the dream she is a child, playing with a boat in a basin of water.  She’s in an empty plane of what looks like an endless, colorless beach; alone and engaged in her activities. Later on in the episode she explains that she wants to live a fulfilling life, but she is utterly afraid. Tamaki finds an old notebook of things she planned on doing once reaching high school and cries that she hasn’t completed them yet. The next day she tries to go on an unplanned adventure by ditching school and “walking opposite the usual way”, but she chickens out and goes to school. Her close friend supported her, but it just wasn’t enough.

After she chickened out, she happens to run into the girl who is about to change it all for her. The girl with the long black hair and 1 million 円. Some circumstances work out under what I’d like to think of as fate, and Tamaki is able to return the money to the mystery girl because they attend the same school. We never get the mystery girl’s name or a proper introduction, but we learn her life story. Her reputation proceeds her.  Kobuchizawa Shirase’s mother was some sort of Arctic researcher and went missing when she was younger. Kobuchizawa saved up money working part-time jobs to go to Antarctica to find her, and even tried to start a club to find support. In most school anime we find that you need at least four club members for it to be official (Free! Iwatobi Swim Team, Hyouka, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Charlotte, Doki Doki Literature Club….etc.)

 

No one supports this girl. She is a second-year student who doesn’t seem to be interested in preparing for entrance exams, has no friends, and seems too eager about going off to the end of the known world. Everyone thinks she’s crazy. She is almost bullied into giving some of her money away, but Tamaki comes along at the right time with a distraction. Kobuchizawa thought that the teachers really did find out she’s walking around with a million yen and got scared.

In Japan, many high schools see their students as a reflection of their reputation. Some schools even enforce the uniform dress code outside of the classroom. If a student, say does something unsavory like get into an argument with a jerk from another school – a person of authority (let’s say a restaurant manager) could step in and reprimand them by reporting it to their school. The school would discipline the students as would the parents most likely. I’m not sure if Kobuchizawa lives alone (we haven’t heard anything about her dad yet) or with relatives, but in a Japanese societal context you can begin to understand why she is such an outcast. Her (parentless) situation could also explain why she has the freedom to do this. This is not to say that all Japanese parents are stuffy and care about what others think, but it seems to be a dominant cultural trait to not “cause trouble” for yourself or your high school. (College I believe is much different.)

To Tamaki however, Kobuchizawa is a dream. A chance to change her life. A chance to support a fantasy that involves everything in her vague sense of adventurism. Kobuchizawa mentions that she is used to people disappointing her and letting her down, but still hands Tamaki a flyer for a boat show. It’s in Hiroshima and they live in (I’m assuming) rural Gunma prefecture.

When it’s shown that although scared, Tamaki decides to take the step forward and runs into Kobuchizawa while she’s entering a train car to look for a seat…her smile was everything. I literally felt like jumping up and cheering. They tried taking pictures of Mount Fuji and ate onigiri on the ride to Hiroshima. I’ve heard that bento are best on long train rides (they couldn’t afford the expensive ones on board), and that you should buy one before boarding.

Many bigger stations in Japan also have vending machines and sometimes small food stalls where you can purchase sustenance before your ride. I imagine that when I finally do get to Japan, I’d like to do as they did. I’d buy my bento beforehand however, with a drink from a vending machine and I’d ask a conductor which side fuji-san would appear on our ride.

The episode ends with the two girls in Hiroshima, looking at the Shirase. I wonder if Kobuchizawa was named after the ship, or vice versa. Either way, I will continue watching this show and give a review of my final thoughts in a post at a later date. It seems that the girl working in the konbini, Miyake, will join the group next episode. There was a No Game No Life poster in the store and it seems Ishizuka Atsuko directed that show as well as this one.

I feel very hopeful and inspired after watching this episode, so I wanted to share my first impressions. Too many times in my life I’ve gotten scared to try something new and later came to regret it. Or I tried something and it didn’t work out because I didn’t try hard enough. I once had a YouTube channel I loved that didn’t work out. For a very long time I thought I just wasn’t good at it, and I stopped making videos about things I loved. Now I started this blog, and sometimes I doubt myself but I want to make this work and create a fun place where people can talk about their passions and build a community. It’s going to be a lot of work, but sometimes even the smallest things can keep you going. Small things like A Place Further Than The Universe.

Have you seen this anime yet? Did you watch No Game No Life? One more question – If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? Tell us about it in the comments, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to share the article & follow us for more inspiring anime!

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(I would go to Iceland btw. I’ve always wanted to see The Northern Lights. Maybe I’ll go soon…)

Understanding Japanese Paying Etiquette | Anime Culture in America

During my time working at a Japanese Cultural Center, I frequented any and all Japanese grocers nearby. It was the “Japanese” part of town and fresh, authentic places were readily available. Through watching anime, I learned a lot about paying etiquette and social rules that one should follow. Of course, gaijin are held to a lesser standard than a Japanese, but if you’d like to impress someone with your cultural sensitivity skills – read on.

During my time working at a Japanese Cultural Center, I frequented any and all Japanese grocers nearby. It was the “Japanese” part of town and fresh, authentic places were readily available. Through watching anime, I learned a lot about paying etiquette and social rules that one should follow. Of course, gaijin are held to a lesser standard than a Japanese, but if you’d like to impress someone with your cultural sensitivity skills – read on.

Welcome to our first article on the Anime Culture series – where we cover Japanese culture topics and how the average anime viewer is probably privy to more culture than they consciously knew!

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There are a lot of social nuances in Japan. Luckily if you’ve watched anime during any time in your life (which I am sure you have – consciously or not) you may have been introduced to a few. Taking your shoes off indoors, bowing, slurping loudly when eating noodles are just a few.  Did you know that there are unspoken rules that you should follow once you are in a restaurant or shop? Let’s focus on what to do after you’ve grabbed a bunch of cheap snacks and are standing in line to pay.

Most publications or websites talk about Japan’s queue culture. Standing in line is important, but it’s also important where I live, New York, so I’m not sure I could add anything to that argument that would be prudent. I’ve read that when using escalators or stairs in Japan, one should stand on the left side idly or shift to the right if they would like to move quickly. (Other prefectures tend to differentiate this, so be sure to check up on local prefectural norms before your visit). This is essentially reversed in New York. A good way to remember this is to think of traffic rules – Japan uses the left side of the street and America uses the right. People take this seriously, and they will yell at you or politely call you out if you do not follow this unspoken rule.  In the land of the rising sun they will not yell of course, but the culture relies heavily on non-verbal cues; so if someone is staring at you and it’s not just because you are a foreigner….please take notice. You will find out what is taboo in Japanese culture simply by being very aware of your own space.

When in line in both Japan and any Japanese store in America, try your best to assemble your money beforehand. In both contexts (especially if you are in a long line) you will slow everyone down and waste their time – even if you do not mean to. Give others the same respect that would most likely be given to you. In Nihon there will sometimes be little plastic trays where you are meant to place your money. You are to place your yen in this dish, do not hand the money to the cashier. Pertaining to yen, usually anything under 1,000円 (Equivalent to around $10.00) will most likely be coins. It is acceptable to use a 5,000円 note (equivalent to around $50.00) when paying for meals in restaurants. In America, generally big bills are frowned upon due to high volumes of fraud. With this in mind, I have never used anything over $20 in stores.

After you have placed your money and/or coins in the plastic container, the cashier will count the money in front of you before handing it to you. Don’t recount it, it was counted in front of you for this reason. Simply slip it in your wallet and move away for the next person to have their turn. In local stores there is no plastic tray, but there is a way to be polite when handing the money to the cashier. If you have time, you can order the bills from largest to smallest, if not its fine. When it’s time to pay, hold the money with both of your hands stretched outward, with the bills facing the cashier. Usually you will be met with a look of surprise or a smile, and a bow. If you are bowed to, bow back (deeper if they are a bit older or slightly higher ((a noticeable nod)) if they are younger) and if you don’t it is okay! You will then usually receive the money as you handed it with a smile. It’s not a mandatory thing to do, but it is a nice gesture of respect that will be appreciated and remembered if you start frequenting the establishment.

Same rules apply to leaving, the money will not be counted for you but please step away and discretely count it. Then leave the store as you normally would. If you’d like to speak some phrases of Japanese (such as おはようございます) do so during the interaction – but make sure the person is actually Japanese and not from a different Asian ethnic group. It will embarrass both of you and it’s just not cool.

So that’s it, for now. If you are in Japan, read up on local customs and look out for the money trays. In America, remember to be respectful and if you’d like to add a bit of pizazz to your interactions with Japanese people – show some respect and use both hands. Little gestures go a long way, and it will definitely give you more confidence if you are studying Japanese or planning a visit soon.

Do you have any tips for paying in Japan or an experience you would like to share? Leave it in the comments below, I would love to hear about it! Also be sure to follow the blog for more updates on our Anime Culture series.

Do We Take Anime Culture in America Seriously?

Do you actually take Anime Culture seriously? Anime Culture as in watching anime, reading manga, studying Japanese language, going to cons, buying figures, etc. Do you see it as something cool and foreign or as actual stories told by Japanese people using the medium of animation?

Just some background on why I am asking this. I’d been into anime since middle school, staying up late watching Adult Swim because I was bullied and could never sleep. I gradually started watching fansubs online when my mom brought us a computer. Switched from dubs to subs, I started buying books on Japanese culture and studying the language. A few years later I created a YouTube channel doing reviews of niche anime and manga, but it wasn’t popular. Due to the fact that the standard channels were talking about whose waifu is trash, fmk, who had the best teet-hair color combo. I refused to do that, plus in hindsight I didn’t promote the channel well enough. I was in film school at the time (I finished btw) but I would actually talk about character growth and development, plot events context in Japanese society and customs, etc. and it was dirt compared to people who squealed about mainstream show episodes by saying “the pacing was good, the animation was on point, the music – OMG – I was so hyped” to the crowd they catered to.

After college, I got a job at a Japanese cultural center for a year where I continued to take language lessons (I’m currently intermediate level and I will be trying for the JLPT N4 in December) and I had a good time there. I didn’t watch any shows, mainly because I didn’t have time but also because I felt like I was living in a Slice of Life. I knew a lot of customs (meishi koukan, correct amount of times to bow and the degree, how to accept or give items, how to be conscious of my body language i.e. not a lot of hand gestures, even nuances like how to refer to myself by pointing to my nose) and I knew literally all of that shit from watching anime and glazing older cultural books. My colleges were always impressed and I received a lot of respect. I had no problem surviving in the thick Japanese atmosphere where I heard Japanese spoken each day and dealt with businessmen and workers from well-known international brands. I had friendly convos with the older ladies in Japanese at local grocers by my job, could find my own non-English manga at book stores; I never felt out of place going to summer Matsuri or other ceremonial things. I didn’t feel like a total gaijin, even though we were still here in America.

When we had events for anime and those in the community showed up, they were looked down upon. It wasn’t fair, but it’s not a secret that Japanese don’t put a lot of stock into any sort of subcultures. The fans showed up in their Black Butler T-shirts and Shingeki no Kyoujin backpacks (which was fine) but didn’t even try talking to some of the Japanese people who were also there. There was such a clear divide between people with similar interests, where the Japanese were probably “too foreign” despite Americans consuming their media that does have a lot of traditional aspects in it. The Japanese were probably intimidated by the language barrier and thought it was a pain to try to speak to them.

Do you watch anime consciously knowing these stories are told by actual Japanese people, or do you just enjoy the aesthetic and don’t really care about the culture behind it? There are so many reasons why anime has educational value and why it is so popular. The bridge can definitely be crossed I think. I just don’t know if each side is ready.