I can’t tell you the exact balance between the amount of traditional and mass culture in Japan, but I can tell you that there is a unique way in which the two weave together. Just like when I visited the Meiji Jingu in Harajuku, my Thursday through Sunday contained a whirlwind of both mass and traditional culture that, oddly enough, blended together in a complementary way.
Tradition on the Gifu Overnight Trip
Thursday and Friday, Temple University Japan students received a small holiday and while most had the chance to sleep in or catch up with schoolwork, those who registered for the Gifu Overnight Trip woke up early to catch the 7:10 bus. A major pull of the Gifu Overnight Trip was the opportunity to experience the hot springs at the Hirayu-no-mori inn. The trip also included four additional stops: Matsumoto Castle, considered to be one of Japan’s national treasures; Hida Great Limestone Cave, said to be the only place to see helicite cave formations; Shirakawa-go, where students were able to walk around Gassho-zukuri Village; and Takayama Town, where an English tour was given at the Takayama Jinya Historical Government House.
Mass Culture: Anime Japan 2015
The overnight trip allowed for me to receive a sampling of many aspects of traditional Japanese culture and I was more than happy to experience them. When our bus returned to Shinjuku Station late Friday night and I hopped onto the JR Yamanote Line, however, I left that all behind and began preparing for Saturday and Sunday: Anime Japan 2015. The convention took place over the span of three days, but only two of them were open to the public as the first was used for businesses to strike deals with one another. Unfortunately, conventions in Japan have been known to pale in comparison to those in America. Looking back, I was able to completely soak up all that the convention had to offer within one day. I only returned on the second to attend a panel. Panels are also handled far differently in Japan than in America. For one thing, you have to win your way in via lottery ticket and, on top of that, I don’t believe attendees usually learn any ground breaking information about a serialization or film. When I had first purchased my ticket, I bought one for Saturday, completely unaware of the panel on Sunday morning that NHK set up for their upcoming anime adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi’s Kyōkai no Rin-ne. This anime is an adaptation of a manga serialization I have been following since before it was even published. It won’t come as a surprise then to know that I went back and purchased a ticket for Sunday, I also signed up to try and win the panel. Needless to say, I was lucky enough to win.
The panel format was an interview featuring three of the series’ main seiyū: Ishikawa Kaitou (voicing Rokudo Rin-ne), Inoue Marina (voicing Mamiya Sakura), and Kimura Ryōhei(voicing Jumonji Tsubasa). I have never been more grateful for my Japanese Elements I course than when I was in the audience using a combination of context clues and what I had learned during class to keep up with the conversation on stage. The Kyōkai no Rin-nepanel made the entire convention absolutely unforgettable and unique to me. Content wise, the panel didn’t feature any new footage, but there were still no words except for maybe “stellar” to describe my excitement while it was all taking place.
Rumiko Takahashi’s manga provided my first introduction to Japanese culture years ago. I can still remember spending hours behind my computer piecing together the countless Japan-specific jokes she drew up. I was able to expand from the manga platform to cultivate an interest in Japanese literature which eventually transformed into an interest in Japanese culture more broadly. My Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday combined both mass and traditional culture, giving me a hectic taste of some of my initial interests and definitely made some of my favorite moments so far a treasured reality.