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Posts Tagged ‘hikonyan’

At the end of my long-awaited return to civilization, a.k.a., Kansai, I decided to visit Exciting Shiga, Land of Hikonyan(!). Although I had lived near Osaka while studying abroad, I had never been to nearby Shiga 滋賀県, in part due to lack of knowledge, and in part due to lack of funds. But now that my life as a poor student is over, I want to really explore Japan during the time I’m living here.

Ducks in Biwako

Most expats and tourists to Japan have one thing they really love about “old Japan” and try to get their fill of while here: Japanese theater, temples and shrines, festivals, castles, etc. I’m more of a festival and shrine person, myself, but I’m trying to expand my horizons and learn more about Japanese castles and periods in which they were built and thrived, and Hikone Castle seemed like a good place to start while in the area.

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Several older Japanese people have asked me if Americans’ image of Japan is of a “traditional” culture of samurai and geisha. While that may be true for older generations, I think that young Americans’ view of Japan more prominently features Kyoto-exclusive Hello Kitty charms in maiko gear and scantily clad female samurai anime-character figurines being sold on the streets of Akihabara.

A phone strap featuring Hello Kitty as a daruma

The stereotypes of Japanese culture have, of course, changed quite a bit since the war. Of course there’s still “‘traditional’ Japan,” but among young people, there’s also “cute Japan,” championed by Hello Kitty, and “weird Japan”: the Japan of otaku, Akihabara-style, wacky game shows, and Engrish goods. (Frankly, the view of “weird Japan” and the problems therein deserve their own post.) The industry of cute is booming in Japan, and you can’t turn a corner without seeing anthropomorphized or cartoonized EVERYTHING from anpan (Anpanman!) to Buddhist monks (a temple in my region). More on this in a bit.

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