Japan. This country has been apart of my life since I was a child without me even knowing it. I grew up with watching Pokemon and sitting in front of the television before school in middle school watching Digimon, after school watching Beyblade, playing with Yu-Gi-Oh cards with the other children in my neighborhood and more. I was also fascinated with Spirited Away, the English title for the Mizayaki Hayto`s famous movie Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi that was dubbed in English by Disney. I remember seeing nothing like it at the time and being a bit scared, but fascinated by it, even just by watching the commercials for it. At that time though, I had no idea that these works were from Japan, it was just different from the typical cartoons in America at the time and I enjoyed it.
It wasn’t until a middle school classmate handed me the manga Fruits Basket in 6th grade that I finally realized that these works were from Japan. I read it and immediately became hooked, receiving more recommendations like Fushigi Yuugi and Jump manga like Naruto. I remember when I couldn’t sleep at night and I turned on the TV in my room to late night cartoons to find Inuyasha on. It continued to be come one of my all-time favorite Animes and what gave me my first real insight into what life in Japan was like. Through Anime, and Japanese dramas later on, I learned about Japanese culture, as they showed things like house life, Japanese school life, and more. I fell in love with the land of the rising sun through this and wanted to learn more.
As I changed schools in 8th grade, I began to immerse myself in all things Anime and Manga, finding many friends at my new school with the same interest as well. There was even an Anime and Manga club that was founded when I was a junior in high school that I joined and went to when I didn’t have cheerleading practice. I had two loves in High School: Cheerleading and Anime/ Manga. When I wasn’t at school or doing schoolwork, I was either practicing with one of my 2 cheerleading squads or watching Anime/reading manga.
By the last year of high school, I began to plateau with the material I was consuming, in other words I was getting bored. I wanted something more, something “real”. Anime and Manga had given me a taste of what Japan was like, but I wanted to know more, I wanted to understand japan better. So, I started to research and I found musicals based off of my favorite animes, Bleach and Prince of Tennis and I was instantly hooked. Around that same time, I also found Japanese dramas, that were based off of Animes or Manga as well.
With these two, it gave me pathway to learning more about Japanese culture by introducing me to the world of Japanese actors and actresses. I began to learn more about the famous people in Japan and support them not as their characters, but as the actors and actresses themselves. It also began to introduce me to how the Japanese entertainment industry was structured as an agency system, which is far different than in America, as well as how many of these “Talents” cross between many different forms of entertainment, such as music, acting, modeling and more. High school graduation was approaching and my love for Japan just kept on growing and growing.
(to be continued…)