Monday, August 17, 2009

Is Japan really that weird?

As I layed out when I started this operation, a lot of people have some crazy images of Japan. And yeah, there is some crazy $#*@ here. But is Japan really all that weird? Ok, it is - but just hear me out here.

A while ago I was helping run a summer international seminar at another high school, and durning our lunch break some students came in to talk to me and the other teachers. One of them had some kind of Anpanman paraphernalia (in retrospect I can't remember if it was a pencil case or doll or what), and somehow we drifted onto the topic. For those unfamiliar with him, Anpanman is the titular protagonist of a children's TV show here in Japan (incidentally, the show recently achieved a Guinness World Record). So we began to talk to the students about Anpanman, who explained to us the details of his existence. Here's what you need to know:

"Anpan" is a kind of pastry here. It's a sweetish bun filled with red bean paste. It's meant to be kind of desserty, I believe, but I'm not a fan - Japanese desserts aren't sweet enough for my Western tastebuds.

So Anpanman in English is roughly "Red Bean Paste Pastry Man." Apparently he was created by a kindly old baker to fight evil, or hunger - I'm not quite sure. As far as I can tell, he and his friends fight against the forces of Germ Man, and Anpanman frequently lets people eat his head, which is then replaced by the Baker. Weird, huh?

Then we started thinking of TV shows from our childhood, and Smurfs came up. The students looked at us in bewilderment and we tried to explain about the little blue people who lived in mushrooms, perpetually tormented by a wizard who wanted to capture them and either eat them or turn them into a potion of some kind. Oh, and there was only one girl smurf.

Suddenly, Anpanman didn't seem so ridiculous anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Solid question. Watching commercials in Japan, I thought, "man, how bizzare!" But then I got home, and saw some of ours -- talking M&M's, lizards selling car insurance, unfaithful mannequins -- and realized, to outsiders, it probably looks just as bizzare. And as anyone who's seen just one episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force knows, when it comes to bizzare, Americans are very capable of holding their own.