What Anime Can Teach You About Japan

June 10, 2014
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Anime – cultural window into the reality of life in Japan? Well, no, not usually. People don’t carry massive swords, sweet little children aren’t the smartest people in the country and people can’t produce balls of energy in their open palms. But here are some things that really are true about Japan that I learnt from anime…

Young Japanese people can be LOUD

We have this cultural perception of the serious Japanese businessman in a pressed suit looking stern (George Takei in Heroes, anyone?). But younger generations – perhaps not coincidentally, the generations raised on anime – aren’t so reserved. Say something shocking or surprising and you may be greeted by an ear-piercing shout of “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHH?!?!?” In the anime, they usually pan away to show how far away that shout can be heard. If this happens to you, you can’t help but wish you were that far away, instead of right next to the incredulous youth.

Male and Female Onsens (Hot Springs) are always right next to each other…

And I swear this is deliberate design, so that the men can hear the women laughing and playing, totally naked, on the other side of a huge wooden fence. And then concoct increasingly elaborate ways to try and see them. It happens in practically every anime – but it also happens in reality!

What Anime Can Teach You About Japan

Girls’ school uniforms really are those ribbon-centered sailor outfits

At the classy, posh schools, anyway. Well, they’re never as elaborate as they are in the shows, but they do exist. And, something I did NOT from the anime, but young prostitutes will buy the uniform from the snootiest school in the area and hang around looking lost, bored or lonely in train stations to be picked up by dirty old men. Gross.

The Statute of Limitations on murder in Japan (is) was 15 years

What Anime Can Teach You About Japan

I learnt this one from the very, very long-running “kid-friendly” murder mystery show that is Detective Conan. Despite the incredibly low crime and murder rates in Japan, somehow Conan manages to visit the famous hot springs or the famous ski resort just when someone’s about to get bludgeoned to death or stabbed mysteriously in a locked room.

Anyway, in a couple of episodes with very cold cases, they reveal that if you kill someone and don’t get caught for a full 15 years, it’s no longer possible to be tried for the crime. You could even confess it and they couldn’t do anything…

Which is bizarre and interesting and apparently no longer true – since 2010, the Statute of Limitations on murder has been removed. Oh well, I guess you can’t expect old anime to have up-to-date factual info. So don’t go committing murder and hiding in a cave for 15 years any more, OK?

There are little tiny peaceful temples everywhere

Often conveniently located for a romantic encounter or revelation in anime, there really are little temples all over the place in Japan. And they usually have enough trees around them to make them genuinely peaceful, tranquil places for lovers to confess their true feelings.

When train tracks cross roads and a train is coming, they really do make that ding-ding-ding noises from “Spirited Away”.

I swear, every time I heard it I looked up in excitement, looked one way, saw no train, thought “Invisible train!”… then looked the other way and saw the train coming. Maybe next time…

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  1. What have I missed? What else have you learnt from anime?

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