A Tour of Japanese Pop Culture, Part 1

It’s been a while since my last post, but there’s a very good reason for it. I’ve been on vacation. For me, that means no writing and going entirely offline. And by vacation, I don’t mean an extended weekend. My husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage with a 16-day trip to Japan.

We’d been planning this trip for years. Though in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake/tsunami we weren’t sure if we would go. Regarding our decision to travel there, it hinged mainly on a pair of friends who work for the US Embassy in Tokyo. At the time of the quake, they’d just had a baby, and the wife did leave the country with the child within a few days of the disaster. But after several weeks, they returned to Tokyo. We figured that if they felt Tokyo was safe enough for their child, it should be safe enough for us adults to visit.

Having made that decision, shopping for a tour was initially a bit of a challenge. Many agencies curtailed travel to Japan after the disaster, and the boutique anime/manga/otaku packages that we were interested in were particularly difficult to find. Fortunately, tourism to Japan picked up about a year after the quake, and we were able to cobble together the less-than-conventional trip we wanted.

While the areas hardest hit by the tsunami are still recovering, the places we visited – Tokyo, Chiba Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture, and Atami – were fine. You would never have guessed they’d had a quake. So if you’re considering Japan as a travel destination, I’d recommend going. We had a grand time, and I’ll be posting later about maid and butler cafés, Hello Kitty’s theme park, hot springs, and a visit to a genuine school festival in the Japanese suburbs.

For now, I’ll leave you with photos of Japanese signage. Japanese is a very different language from English, but fortunately, the Japanese have a very visual culture. Plus, they translate a lot of their signs into English/Roman letters, which means English-speaking travelers can generally get around and receive vital information without too much difficulty. Their sense of style, however, is definitely different, which can lead to finding humor in the oddest places.

The warning’s almost poetic…

A flood warning sign (AIEEEE!!!!)


2 responses to “A Tour of Japanese Pop Culture, Part 1

  1. As a Japanese language student, my daughter went to Japan for 16 days over the summer. My son gets his turn next summer. I heard about the maid cafe from her and saw some pictures of the costumes. She enjoyed her trip very much, especially the food.

    • That’s wonderful that your daughter got to go to Japan as a student! And yes, the Japanese do love cosplaying in their costumes. Halloween isn’t a Japanese holiday, but it’s crept into their culture the last couple years so when we went, there were Halloween ads and pumpkin decorations EVERYWHERE! I’m guessing it has a special appeal since dressing up is a big part of it.

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