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Dear Japan: My Piece of Appreciation To The Land of The Rising Sun by Paul Angel Perdomo

Updated: Apr 3

I’d like to dedicate this piece to Satoshi Kon, Hana Kimura, Kentaro Miura, Kazuhiko “Monkey Punch” Kato, Kazuki Takahashi, Akira Toriyama, Isao Takahata, Hidekazu Yukawa, and Satoru Iwata


For centuries, Japan showed the world what a fascinating and interesting country it is, from its unique history and culture to innovations that are still being used to this day. This little piece is to show my appreciation and the impact the country made in the world.  

One of the creative forms that Japan creates is Noh and Kabuki theaters. Noh is a form of drama where actors wear masks and costumes. The plays have five categories: A God, A Warrior, A Woman, A Deranged Character, and A Demon to tell a story that captivates through profound narratives and subtle movements that are rooted in spiritual themes. Kabuki is a vivid blend of dance, drama, and music with the use of elaborate costumes, thick makeup, and dynamic storytelling. Both Noh and Kabuki are creative uses of theaters to tell stories and make the audiences emotionally invested.  

Another creative form is music. Music in Japan has a wide variety of genres and styles. From the rhythmic beats of taiko or a soothing shamisen playing to a wide variety of genres like Babymetal, Bradio, Asian Kung Fu Generation, Masayuki Suzuki, World Order, etc. If you understand the native tongue or not, you can't help but enjoy the groove or rock out.

Each city in Japan has its own identity; the otaku landscape in Tokyo, the rich heritages of Kyoto & Osaka, the winter wonderland of Sapporo, and fun experiences in Yokohama and Kobe.

The Edo Period was a very interesting time for Japan with economic growth, popular arts and culture, a stable population within the country, isolationist foreign policies, and a strict social order from the shogunate Tokugawa Ieyasu. The period was a time of internal peace. Edo became one of the largest cities of its time in Japan and was the site of a thriving urban culture that would later be renamed Tokyo. Granted, Edo wasn’t perfect due to the uprisings that were happening, but it was one of the periods that had an interesting history that had samurais working for the shoguns and daimyos and famous painters like Katsushika Hokusai.  

Speaking of samurai, there are two sword fighters who both made an impact in Japan and are still remembered to this day; Miyamoto Musashi and Tomoe Gozen. Musashi was a master strategist, ronin, and philosopher who became well-known for using a double-bladed sword style which led to him winning 61 duels and unwavering commitment to self-improvement philosophy. Tomoe Gozen made a name for herself by fighting in the Genpei War and was renowned for her beauty, martial skills, and physical strength– since then, becoming a strong figure in popular culture to this day. Miyamoto and Tomoe were both legendary fighters in their own right whose stories made them popular all over the world.  

Ninjas were the ultimate espionage agents of the night who were assassinated and sabotaged in the 14th and 15th centuries and were hired by daimyos or any Japanese warlords to get intelligence and counterintelligence information. But unlike samurais, who follow the bushido code, ninjas use guerrilla warfare to complete their missions. However, back in those days; ninjas were originally called shinobis. Shinobi played important roles in the Nanbokucho Wars and the Warring States Period. As time changes, ninjas are now pop culture icons, highlighted from the 1967 film; You Only Live Twice and in the 1980s with a franchise called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  

In gaming, it’s wild to consider how Nintendo started out producing Hanafuda in 1889 and Sega was producing slot machines, jukeboxes, and coin-operated amusement machines. It wasn’t till the 1980s, they were competing for gaming dominance with both 8-bit products; the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System while creating iconic mascots, Mario and Sonic The Hedgehog. They did this again in the early to mid-90s with the Super NES and Sega Genesis. In 1995, Sony released the first PlayStation, thus resulting in Sega and Nintendo trying to stay afloat with the Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64. Years later, Sega stopped making consoles after the low sales of the Dreamcast, and PlayStation 2 would take the crown of top sales while Xbox was in 2nd and Gamecube was in 3rd place. Japan has created the best video game franchises that video gamers know and love; Street Fighter, Sonic, Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Resident Evil, Metal Gear, Shinobi, Devil May Cry, Metroid, Soul Calibur, Final Fantasy, Yakuza, Tekken, Bayonetta, and the list goes on.  

Speaking of technology, Japanese tech has always been way ahead of its time, with its bullet train infrastructure, robots, and even toilets.

In entertainment and pop culture; a man named Osamu Tezuka became the “Father of Manga” when he created the most notable works; Astro Boy, Princess Knight, Kimba, The White Lion, Black Jack, Phoenix, and Buddha. Akira Kurosawa became one of the most influential filmmakers by making cinematic masterpieces of Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo. Toei Animation was the first anime studio that helped kickstart the careers of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata which led them to co-found Studio Ghibli and adapt many well-known series. These consist of Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, One Piece, and Digimon. Anime started a second wave of fandom to a global audience with Akira, Pokemon, Dragon Ball, and Naruto. The Super Sentai series helped inspire their North American counterpart franchise; The Power Rangers (shout out to Thuy Trang and Jason David Frank). Godzilla became a pop culture icon and created the Kaiju genre. He often collaborated with another cinematic icon; King Kong. Referencing the samurai from earlier, samurai have become a part of the entertainment industry too, with series like Seven Samurai, Samurai Pizza Cats, Samurai Champloo, Samurai Jack, Afro Samurai, Kill Bill, and Blue Eye Samurai.

In the world of sports, Sumo wrestling is rooted back to Kojiki and Nihonshoki in a strength contest and is still entertaining to watch to this day. But, professional wrestling in Japan is what’s really interesting. It all started with Mitsuhiro Momota aka Rikidozan; a Korean-born Japanese wrestler who competed in both sumo and pro wrestling and later became “The Father of Puroresu”. He trained two other future notable figures, Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, and met his unfortunate end after encountering a Yakuza member. Giant Baba founded All Japan Pro Wrestling which was known for its hard-hitting action, realism, and intricate storytelling called King’s Road. Alongside “The Four Pillars of Heaven,” Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue, and Toshiaki Kawada put on five-star matches. Antonio Inoki founded New Japan Pro Wrestling which was known for its realistic strikes, submission holds, and intense maneuvers named Strong Style and was the home of “The Three Musketeers”; Keiji Muto (also known as The Great Muta), Masahiro Chono, and Shinya Hashimoto. Legendary names such as Riki Choshu, Minoru Suzuki, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Tatsumi Fujinami, Genichiro Tenryu, and Jumbo Tsuruta. Many gaijin wrestlers reached legendary status in both the West and the East; Dick Beyer aka The Destroyer, Abdullah The Butcher, Bruiser Brody, Dynamite Kid, Freddie Blassie, Big Van Vader, Stan Hansen, Terry Funk, Terry Gordy, “Dr. Death” Steve Willaims, Scott Norton, Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Karl Gotch, and Zack Sabre Jr.

Professional wrestling in Japan shows the world what it has to offer; Joshi (All Japan Women’s Wrestling and Stardom), Junior Wrestling(Michinoku Pro), Hardcore (Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling), High-Flying (Dragon Gate), Comedy (DDT Pro Wrestling), and modern-day King’s Road (Pro Wrestling Noah). We see modern Japanese stars who made their names in pro wrestling; Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Katsuyori Shibata, Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito, Asuka, Kairi Sane, Iyo Sky, Hana Kimura, Giullia, and Konosuke Takeshita. Modern gaijin wrestlers also made a name for themselves during their time in New Japan; Prince Devitt(Finn Balor), Kenny Omega, Jay White, Will Ospreay, Aja Kong, Bull Nakano, Manami Toyota, Akira Hokuto, Jun Akiyama, Tatsumi Fujinami, Atsushi Onita, Hayabusa, The Great Sasuke, Jushin "Thunder" Liger, Ultimo Dragon, Tajiri, Megumi Kudo, Combat Toyoda, Kenta Kobayashi, Naomichi Marufuji, Shingo Takagi, Masato Tanaka, Takashi Sugiura, Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi, and Taiji Ishimori.

But being mindful, Japan can be its own worst enemy; the outdated and stressful work culture, the yakuza, animators not getting paid enough, the health toll of being a mangaka, high school girls getting harassed on trains, and the rapid decrease in population. Sometimes I wish I could try to help Japan; a decent place to live for its people while also keeping things unchanged. I wish high school girls had protections so they won't get scarred for life, to change the work hours and salary, and to have its citizens and the next generations choose occupations they can enjoy.  

To summarize, Japan has a rich history and is a fascinating land filled with arts, innovations, pop culture, and entertainment. I just want to say thank you for everything never changing and remind tourists that Japan is not Disneyland. If I had to nick-pick a few things, here they are; make more Darkstalkers, Princess Peach, Viewtiful Joe, Wario World, and Donkey Kong games, have Sega make consoles again, and make a few sociable changes the Japanese citizens can agree to to increase the populations, have martial art scholarships in schools and colleges, find ways to go green instead of dumping waste, and never change your standards.

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