I've tried to work up the nerve to write this blog so many times. I've thought how I should go about it, whether if I should recount every single thing of Japanese origin that's caught my interest over time. But I realized that I've essentially done that with a lot of my other blog entries having to do with gaming, movies, and anime. Plus, this blog entry would be ridiculously long and that's not what I want to accomplish here. So instead, I've resolved just to hit on the main points of interest and hopefully articulate my thoughts in the most concise manner that I can express.
So let's start at the beginning!
When I was young, probably about 3 or 4 years old, I had my first recollected memory of coming into contact with Japanese culture. And what was it particularly, you ask? In a word, Godzilla. I often credit the first Godzilla movie that I ever watched being Godzilla vs The Sea Monster, or Ebirah: Horror of the Deep as it's known elsewhere. I don't recall showing any fear or trepidation at seeing this movie, only a sense of warm familiarity, like you'd feel when seeing an old family photo. For whatever reason, my young mind must have been absolutely fascinated by what I saw in that film. Most notably the monsters. Sure I had probably seen things like that in cartoons beforehand, but at that point it looked all fantastically real to me.
And so a lifelong love and appreciation for giant monster films began. It wasn't until I was about 10 years old however that I began to consider deeper questions about those giant monster films. Who made them? How many of them were there? And were there other things out there like them that I could enjoy?
Yes, I knew about Japan at that time. Various news articles and other reports had reached me by then, such as the tragic earthquake that took place in 1995, and as I've mentioned before I had already been exposed to other forms of Japanese media such as anime and video games. But it was at this juncture in life that I wanted to learn more about why these things existed and who was responsible for making the things that I had come to enjoy and which had been an integral part of my upbringing.
Growing up is hard for pretty much everybody. You're trying to make sense of your world in a continuously changing environment. So these things like Godzilla, anime, and gaming helped me to have a point of reference for how I processed information. Whenever there was a monster-like character in a video game, for instance Blanka in Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior, I immediately set my sights on that character not only because they were visually interesting but also because it just felt right to gravitate towards that character. So when times became particularly tough in my upbringing, my thoughts would often drift back to those characters. They were strong, powerful, and could seemingly take anything that came at them. Whether they be missile fire, or Hadokens.
So that tangent aside, I wanted to learn more about where these games and films came from. As the internet became more available for me to use in those days, this is late 1996 and onward, it became easier to learn more about these things. And that is when my interest in world history began to emerge. I made my way to Japanese history and of course began to read up on the history of the world wars, Japan's past imperialism, it's modernization, and going back to the feudal times with its various warlords. It all fascinated me greatly. Some details I need to study up on again since other responsibilities and pressures in my day to day life have come to the forefront, but I'll never forget those times on what was the beginning of my wanting to understand other nations and peoples of the world.
In the years since, I've had other opportunities to be immersed in Japanese culture besides entertainment and history. I've had various friends over the years who helped deepened my appreciation further. Their day to day contact and friendship have often reminded me, even in my most depressing moments, that I was never alone and that there are other people out there who understand and share my interests in life.
Not that long ago, I jokingly posed the question to BitLanders if they would be interested in helping me get to Japan one of these days, perhaps in time for the Tokyo Game Show, which takes place in September. I never seriously thought that they would, and it will probably never come to pass, but I did think it was interesting that BitLanders wanted to invite me to a Judo event that they were co-sponsoring in New York. I couldn't make it for various reasons, but still the idea that they wanted to invite me was a great honor.
No matter what happens, I still endeavor to visit Japan one of these days. Though I've never been there, it's a place that has given me so much and has helped shaped my identity as an artist and a person. And I hope to share the details of that journey with you all someday so that you who are reading this can take some part in experiencing what would be a dream come true.
And where would I go first? Tokyo of course!
Now if you'll excuse me, I really should make use of the Rosetta Stone Japanese language program that I bought...:D