Does watching anime make you want to know more about Japan?

I will probably end up embarrassing myself in this post. But there is no place so open and free like in my own anime blog. So I’ll just lay my question on the table for you; does watching anime make you want to know more about Japan? Am I the only one who knows so much about anime but have no clue about the country they come from?

I was quite ignorant

The other day, while I was with my colleagues during lunch (yes, I did have certain degree of social life though I was always sitting quietly when everyone was talking), the conversation turned towards Japan. Fortunately, no one knew I was an anime addict so they didn’t ask me anything about Japan. I realized that I hardly knew anything about it. I didn’t recognize any of the famous tourist attractions everyone was talking about. I didn’t even know the prime minister’s name. Then I looked back to myself. Despite all the accessibility and availability of information, I hardly ever searched on anything related to Japan besides anime. My goodness, I actually never thought of going there even once! What’s happening to me? I was so content with my anime and never looked beyond that.

Anime as a single, isolated entity

After giving this matter some thoughts, it occurred to me that I had been regarding anime as its own isolated existence. I didn’t connect it with anything else. I knew anime came from Japan but I didn’t recognize the connection. I dove into various fictional worlds of various anime. I learned about those worlds, I memorized them, I enjoyed them and I discussed about them. I knew for a fact that what I saw in anime was not what I would see in the actual Japan if I had ever wanted to care. I used anime as an escape and I ran away from the real world. I refused to see. That wasn’t really constructive, was it?

In the end, I don’t think it’s about anime or Japan at all. I don’t live in Japan like 2DT so I may not have to know about it. But it’s about the passion for learning, the curiosity. Sometimes I wondered where my curiosity had gone. I was quite certain that if I had been more curious about what I saw, I would have been much more knowledgeable than I am today. Take Kurage Hime as an example. I was so impressed about many fun facts about Jellyfish provided in the show. I was going to read more about those Jellyfish but somehow I did not. Did I let it go to waste? I could have been smarter if I had been more curious.

I am sure that watching anime is fun. But is it enough? What do you think about this matter? Maybe I was just depressed and letting my thoughts wander (the weather and the work is killing me!).

Ps. New Year is coming and everyone is doing ‘twelve days’ posts. I suppose I should come up with something as well. So look forward to New Year post soon. Thanks  :)

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42 responses to “Does watching anime make you want to know more about Japan?

  1. I personally don’t care about Japan as much as one might think. I watch the cartoons sure, it would be a nice place to visit sure, but I have different priorities in my life than obsessing over wanting to move to a different country or know everything about it just because I watch their cartoons.

    I actually find is VERY weird that someone who does watch anime to be so obsessed with Japan and say that they wanna go move there and all that jazz. That just seems really out of place and weird to go that far for the love of one hobby.

    I think if you are truly curious about something you’ll take that extra step to look into it more. Otherwise I don’t think it’s a bad thing to not know everything about something that you care about a little.

    • You are so encouraging! I agree that obsessing about somewhere so far away can be dangerous, socially and psychologically. Though I wished I had more knowledge about it than I currently do anyway :)

  2. Well, it does help, all the Japanese events and customs shown on anime, not to mention it tends to make people more intrigued in looking up Japan on their own— but it also gives a lot of misconceptions, like thinking Japanese society would be open-minded to all the yuri/BL that’s so predominant in anime xD

    I think it mostly depends on whether you’re those who watch entertainment as isolated entity (obviously your case x3) or those who tries to connect it with reality after watching… I do a lot of the latter and, it does prevent me from enjoying a lot of anime =\

    Two sides of the same coin, really.

    • I don’t remember exactly when but I used to believe that anime/manga along with all of their sub-genres were something everyone saw in Japan. I am not sure if that was the purpose of exporting anime and manga. The truth is, like any other places, Japan is very diverse and we are seeing only one aspect of it through anime. ^^

  3. On the question your title has posted: indeed, it does. But it’s not necessary.

    Please don’t be so depressed. Being less curious about things doesn’t make you sinful. But if it troubles you that much, there’s nothing wrong with learning about Japan now. Here’s what I do:

    Grab some books on Japanese tourism and culture
    Look for some Japanese news articles
    Watch some NHK programs that I get from d-addicts (e.g. I do this with Tokyo Express, Begin Japanology and imagine-nation)

    just trying to help :)

  4. Yes, it IS enough. I wrote an post about it. Needless to say, it is brilliant, and anyone who doesn’t read it may suffer from leprosy:

    http://www.baka-raptor.com/2010/06/30/japan-who-cares/

  5. I’m only in it for the cartoons and if that’s all you want out of anime you don’t really owe it to yourself to do more, but the larger point about lazing away and not following up on curiosity, well yeah, I often wonder where it went out of school for a number of years. Back in school I could waste an afternoon following a trail of investigation in the library spawned by a random thought…and then realize I’d spent six hours and not even done the research for the paper I was supposed to write. I do feel the loss of drive to learn new things. It’s complacency. Try not to fall into it.

  6. It absolutely makes me wwant to know more about Japan. But I don’t think it’s a requirement to enjoy anime. Many anime series take place in an alternate universe. As for the prime minister of Japan, I have no idea who he is either. I think I know most of the tourist spots though from my series. The first tourist spot I really learned about was the Tokyo Tower, a lot of series CLAMP does have moments where they feature it.

    But there is A LOT I don’t know about Japan, anime/manga still teach me bit by bit.

    As a side note my knowledge of the history of Japan isn’t accurate. I know certain people/groups/battles existed, but I think everything I watch has a lot of historical fiction to it so…if people talked about Japanese history I’d probably clam up.

    • CLAMP’s works, especially X/1999, indeed provided lots of snapshots of landmark places in Tokyo.
      You are right about fantasy anime. Very often, I found myself doing an in-depth research on fictional worlds and later realized that doing so was not very practical in real life :)

  7. Anime has indeed led me to a fascination with Japan over the years, but no more than anything else has led me to take an interest in another place. I love Harry Potter and Doctor Who, thus I have a fascination with England. I love some of the older myths about faeries, thus I have a fascination with Scotland. The Greek myths are my favourites, thus my love of Greece. You can get the picture.

    I like to learn about foreign countries, Japan very much included, because to be perfectly honest, the US is down very low on my list of best places to be. There are aspects of Japan that I love, that make me determined to visit someday and drink it all in for myself. There are specific locations I want to visit, like Ikebukuro.

    There are certain bits of history that I’ve learned through anime, but I’m not about to sit and study Japan laboriously because I love anime and manga. I can’t name their prime minister–it’s a miracle if I can name off a quarter of the US presidents, and I’ve grown up here!

    So the answer is, watching anime is indeed enough.

    After all, just because a kid loves Scooby Doo, it doesn’t mean they’re about to go out and learn everything there is to know about Great Danes.

    • We tend to get swayed by whatever we see and like. Sometimes, it’s what they want us to see. Another possibility about me not wanting to visit Japan all that much is because I was afraid the real thing would ruin what I had imagined it would be. Wait…that sounds kind of pathetic. Oh, well, I think I’ll go there one day just to see Ikebukuro and probably Ghibli museum :)

  8. 2DT lives in Japan?! no way.. that is so cool! 8)
    I notice that everyone is doing the whole 12 days Christmas post too~ I’m not really sure how the whole process works which is why I’m not doing any xD Haha everyone in the comment section sounds so smart, and I’m the only one going off topic. I’m no good with these discussion-type of questions… okay time to answer your question:

    Hmm watching anime doesn’t exactly make me want to know more, if you talking about prime ministers and tourist attractions then no… I couldn’t care less. I would however want to go to Japan just to experience the culture/scenery and to buy stuff too but I’m pretty clueless about Japan so your not alone. Nothing is wrong with just being happy with watching anime, it’s enough for me.. I never got curious about wanting to know more~ err..I’m not even sure if I answered your question correctly xD

    • It’s quite amazing how few people there is in our aniblogging circle actually come from Japan. I guess we are more or less clueless ourselves (which makes me feels much better when putting it that way). ^^

  9. Yes, definitely. I like knowledge.

    Particularly about their culture, lifestyle….and politics in Tokyo.

  10. It’s not really about wanting to know more about Japan, it’s more about NEEDING to know more about Japan. Having knowledge of Japanese cultures and traditions is a prerequisite in understanding most of the shows out there. Why do girls love BL? Why is loliconism rampant? Why is guro a form of sexual entertainment for some people? If you don’t know how Japan works, you can never answer these questions. That’s the key element.

  11. I wouldn’t say so unless you really want to get some of the more obtuse jokes in the referential comedies that pop up once in awhile.

    I’ve never really gotten into the mold of being obsessed all that much about Japan because it never stood out as a kind of mecca or anything of the sort. Each country is almost like every other, each with its own quirks and oddities that only an outsider could really see. The only way I think that one could grow the point of obsession is if they revere the culture in unrealistic ways. Granted, you’re not talking about obsession here, but the two are close. I think…

    • ‘Each country is almost like every other, each with its own quirks and oddities that only an outsider could really see.’ That’s true! If I consumed other kind of media I would be talking about other country right now :)

  12. I think it only matters if you think it matters – in other words, there’s no requirement to be fascinated with Japan just because you are an anime fan. I think the Japan that we see in anime is a strange and wonderfully intriguing place, so just watching anime wasn’t enough for me – I started studying Japanese and took a trip to Japan because I simply had to – I was, and still am, that curious about the country, the culture and the people; and yes, that curiosity for me came primarily from being an anime fan. But to each her/his own. ;)

  13. I first liked (understatement) Japan. And Japanese women. Then, I liked anime. Now, I really like them both, but realize that Japan is also fucking wacked out.

  14. well, It does make you know japan a bit…(I tried SZS, and I learned many things.)

    And I somehow learned about their culture and such…

  15. A lot of anime doesn’t actually have much to do with Japan directly, especially stuff in fantastical settings. I don’t think it’s weird to not want to go to Japan or not know the place in depth.

    An analogy I could think of is that those in love with Hollywood productions and movies wouldn’t necessarily want to know that much about the US. It’s not exactly the same, but yea…

    • I also watch lots of Hollywood movies and they never inspire me to visit the US because they usually portray the dark side of the US. Or it’s just me who likes watching depressing movies +_+

  16. my love of anime definitely increased my interest in Japan. Over the years I have become fascinated by Japanese culture and it has increased my enjoyment of anime. I think because it’s so different from my way of life, it has that exotica, orientalism, to it. I find many Ghibli films interesting on cultural representation alone (and of course everything else about them). My interest has also led me to starting my own blog where i try to increase my understanding of technology in Japanese culture through anime: http://technoorient.wordpress.com/. Culture permeates into all forms of texts and texts with a Japanese flavour or locale increase my interest. It’s one of those places I personally find very interesting (New York is another one).

    • I admire you passion and inspiration and welcome to my blog!
      I see you’ve just started your blog which is very interesting. I’ll be around to read it for sure :)

  17. I have always been fascinated by Japan but you already knew this. Probably because we have a history with them. It is because of my fascination that I am so into anime/manga and Japanese drama. Back in the days, when people asked me the country that I want to migrate to, I used to say Japan. That’s when I dunno anything about the economy and the cost of living. I still want to visit the country though. Hopefully before I turn 35.

    Watching anime has helped me a lot in learning more about Japan so the answer to your question is YES, I guess. So don’t feel bad about it XD

    • Economy is probably the biggest obstacle for me to visit Japan. It is so expensive and I fear I may go bankrupt after shopping for anime goods :P

      Anyway, why 35?

  18. Not really. I mean I want to go visit Japan, but that’s mostly because I love to travel and one of my goals is to travel to as many new places as possible. Instead of wanting to make me learn more about Japan, anime has motivated me to learn things I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise (e.g. Go, Tennis, etc.). *shrug*

    I’m surprised you never thought of going there since a lot of anime watchers I know want to go visit Japan at least once, if not more. :)

    • The thought crossed my mind a few times but the needed budget always turned me off +_+

      Speaking of Go, I read Hikaru no go when I was in high school and I actually bought a book to learn how to play Go. I guess anime did make me want to learn even though it was not directly about Japan.

  19. In my younger days, I would have replied in the affirmative to the post’s title. But standing on the knowledge I have acquired till now, I would pass on Japan, especially during a time when the economy is not doing so well! I would just stay home and watch anime online

  20. Anime got me into wanting to learn about Japan and eventually learn the language but then that turned into equally loving the country and its ancient history.

    But anime never makes me want to learn more about Japan. I always want to learn more about Japan because well it’s Japan, and I like the country. To me it is like a second home.

    • So anime was not the primary source of your interest in Japan and you were already learning about Japan regardless of anime. That’s sounds nice and genuine, really :)

      • Did it sound that way? No, I heard and got interested in Japan through anime but I don’t love Japan because of anime. I have found other things for loving Japan and wanting to learn more about it because it IS Japan and not just the place you can get anime.

  21. Actually, yes. But not all sorts of anime. The anime that got me curious about japanese culture was Love Hina when i was a wee lad, then i started getting myself into romance/slice of life/ more anime titles and before i knew it I was hooked.

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