Coming to America: J-Horror

by Mary Grob

Film critics and fans alike agree that the American horror genre entered into a slump during the 1990’s that it has yet to recover from. Gone are the days of psychological thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and even the slasher film, an American horror stable since the 1970’s, has lost its appeal. Horror fans have been left wanting something new to chill their blood [1]. In the late 1990’s, a new wave of films known as J-Horror began to develop a cult following in the US. Soon after, Hollywood began to take notice of these foreign films, and the answer to America’s horror slump appeared to have been found within Japan. [Read more…]

Kaitenzushi: Sushi makes the rounds from Japan to America to Japan again

by Arielle Kahn

sushi earrings

Sushi earrings, just one manifestation of the food

In the past forty years, sushi has taken America by storm. Beginning as an obscure immigrant import thought to be unpalatable due to its tradition of using raw fish, sushi has since exploded in popularity, becoming an American symbol of sophistication, health-consciousness, and trendiness. It has been estimated that between 1988 and 1998, the number of sushi bars in the U.S. quintupled (Isle, 2005). Sushi is now a ubiquitous commodity, available not only in high-end restaurants or sushi bars, but also as fast food, prepackaged at the grocery store or on college campuses. Even non-edible representations are popping up everywhere, in the form of accessories, clothes, and knick knacks, from earrings to purses to refrigerator magnets to shower curtains. In America, sushi has firmly established itself as “cool.” Why did this happen? [Read more…]

Standing Out and Fitting In: Street Fashion and the Search for Identity and Power in Post Bubble Japan

by Tori Szczesniak

Fashion is the means of expressing identity. Dressing is a ritualistic, symbolic, everyday practice that we use to situate ourselves in the chaotic, judgmental world around us.  The simple act of putting on a piece of clothing immediately conveys one’s position of cultural power, class distinction, gender, and subculture, all while participating in the global economy. Deciding what we wear matters, especially in an urban, capitalist society where fashion is a tool to distinguish ourselves from one another. On an international scale, the fashion industry represents an interesting view of understanding national power and identity [3].

Professional Designers Dare to be Different

The early 1980s marked an explosion of Japanese fashion in the global industry. The fashion world reacted strongly to the avant-garde, radically different ideas of the country’s designers. The new garments articulated different ideas of what fashion was and the relationship of clothes and body. Japan gradually became a genuine force of change, challenging tradition and introducing new artistic contradictions [3]. [Read more…]

Game Over? The End of Japanese Dominance in the American Console Gaming Market

by Lauren Klaasse

Almost every gamer who was around in the 1990’s and 2000’s nostalgically remembers their first time playing what is critically regarded as some of the greatest games of all time. Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time, and Pokémon, among others, that went into forging these childhood memories all hail from the Land of the Rising Sun. For years the Japanese have dominated the gaming industry since it took off in the 1980’s cementing their creations in the childhood of so many Americans. Talk to American gamers now however and you hear talk of much different popular franchises (Halo, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto to name a few) originating from across the Pacific Ocean in none other than the west itself. [Read more…]

When the Characteristicless Becomes Real: The Western Response to Visual Kei

by Miriam Loebman

In 2010, the Japanese Visual Kei band X Japan came to America.  The group had been invited to perform in Chicago’s music festival, Lollapalooza, and were greeted by both their screaming fans and the incredibly confused representatives of the American media.  A core cluster of questions seemed to plague the minds of all the uninitiated Americans who came into contact with them: “What is ‘visual kei’? How can it be understood in the context of American music? Why is it in America at all?” Studying not only the correct reply to these questions but also understanding why the questions arose at all reveals a lot about the barrier that still exists between Japan’s “gross national cool” and mainstream America. [Read more…]