Cool Japan – What makes Japanese Culture a Global Phenomenon? Japanese culture has for many centuries been thought of as enigmatic and mysterious. The Japanese people had their own way of thinking and a unique culture that was vastly different to western societies. All that changed with the advent of the internet with Japanese youngsters in particular embracing all that technology has to offer while at the same time keeping hold of their national identity and traditions. It is this respectful but open minded approach to progress that makes certain aspects of Japanese culture very cool indeed and here we can look at some of these. Anime and Manga Comic books (manga) and animation (anime) have been popular in Japan for decades. In fact the first known animation, which featured a cartoon samurai testing a sword, was released in 1917. During the 1960s this style was developed and modernised by an animator called Osamu Tezuka who studied the Disney movies and then simplified and refined them to suit Japanese audiences. Unlike many Disney and Pixar themes involving anthropomorphised animals and beautiful princesses the Japanese prefer science fiction and technology themed stories, as befitting the country’s great advances in the world of technology. Miss Kitty / Hello Kitty The Japanese love cuteness and Miss Kitty, or Hello Kitty, a very cute cat figure, is recognised around the world with a vast merchandising empire. There is even a theme park called Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo which is said to be the home of Hello Kitty. The character is a white cat which has no mouth, the reason being that she “speaks from the heart” according to makers Sanrio and is a symbol of friendship around the world to reflect the open nature of the modern Japanese people. Amigurumi / Nuigurumi Traditional crafts of all genres have become cool in recent years as people embrace environmental concerns, and knitting and crochet are going through a massive resurgence. Amigurumi is the art of knitting or crocheting tiny stuffed creatures. Often these creatures are imaginary but they are always cute and very distinctive. Sushi Who would have thought that raw fish would become so popular around the world? Perhaps because the world saw how healthy many of the Japanese are in relation to those in western societies. It’s not easy to define exactly what makes Japan cool but one thing is for sure; Japan has been able to put its own unique stamp on the world while at the same time retaining the character which defines their culture – something no other country has been able to emulate so well!