Do you know what Japanese subculture is? It mainly implies anime and manga. So some of you may think that it is mainly popular among younger generations and it seems like rather a niche and nerdy culture. However, looking at the recent worldwide Japanese anime and manga boom, it is obvious that it actually has tremendous potential for the Japanese economy. Today, I’d like to shed light on the one of a kind Japanese subculture: anime and manga. However, this theme is so huge that I cannot narrow down where to start.
So this time, I will try to approach it from a different angle. That is a unique activity of fans who are nuts about their favorite stars, characters, or something. That’s Oshikatsu (推し活)!!
The reason why I chose this topic is because I happened to know that Japanese subculture is one of the biggest attractions and reasons that made foreign people interested in Japan… Please take a look at the chart below.
As you can see, Japanese anime, manga and games are playing an important role to attract tons of people from overseas.
Other than that, these cultural factors, Japanese culture, history, food, music, are gravitating towards people beyond borders. This result wowed me since I’m a mom of two girls who are actually obsessed with Japanese subculture.
Reflecting the recent surge in the number of tourists from abroad since the pandemic was over. The chart above signifies Japanese anime and manga could be an important factor of its attractiveness.
Now, let’s dive deep the Japanese Subculture from the way of exposing yourself to its culture, so-called Oshikatsu (推し活）
What is Oshikatsu?
Literally, it’s an activity of supporting famous characters, people, and things. This activity holds the key to support Cool Japan that encourages tourists from abroad to expose themselves to Japanese culture. It is ending up boosting the Japanese inbound economy now. It is said that inbound tourism will increase to 5.9 trillion yen in 2023. The Japanese government is getting down to business on it.
Oshi (推し) means Recommendation, Katsu means Activity. Oshi is expressed in English as well, such as “faves” or ”stans.”
Many Japanese fans, beyond generations, support their faves by joining the specific activities as below.
The targets of Oshikatsu (推し活）are…
- 2 dimensional characters (anime characters)
- 3 dimensional stars (real stars, etc.)
- Others (Trains, architecture, and other things)
What do they do?
Let me introduce the useful expressions to know more about the activities of Oshikatsu (推し活）
- 推しに会う – Oshi-ni-au (meeting faves)
- 推しに触れる – Oshi-ni-fureru (buying goods and feel/use them daily)
- 推しに染まる – Oshi-ni-somaru (obsessed with faves)
- 推しを広める – Oshi-o-hiromeru (spreading faves)
- 推しを感じる – Ohi-o-kanjiru (feeling faves)
Definition – explanation
Here are some explanations of the Japanese expressions above.
1. 推しに会う – Oshi-ni-au (meeting faves)
– Meeting Faves –
- Meeting favorite stars, celebrities, and people.
- Watching DVD, watching live streaming
- Going on anime pilgrimages
- Writing letters to faves
- Giving gifts to faves
2. 推しに触れる – Oshi-ni-fureru (buying goods and feeling/using them daily)
– Touching Faves –
- Buying their faves’ merchandise.
- Collecting faves’ merchandise
- Going to collaboration cafe
- Going to collaboration events
3. 推しに染まる – Oshi-ni-somaru (obsessed with faves)
– Obsessed with Faves –
- Having the same items that their faves have.
- Collecting clothes and cosmetics reflecting the image colors of their faves
4. 推しを広める Oshi-o-hiromeru (spreading faves)
– Spreading Their Faves’ Information –
- Talking about the attractiveness of their faves on social media.
- Giving the information about their faves by telling the other people who are not.
5. 推しを感じる – Ohi-o-kanjiru (feeling faves)
– Feeling their Faves –
- Thinking about the faves by myself.
- Appreciating that faves are doing well and live lively (imaginarily and actually).
Did you find something you can try to do? It might sound weird. But if you could know the current trend activities among people in Japan. I’m sure you can experience Japanese culture from different angles.
Hotspots for Oshikatsu
Where should you visit…?
Here are some Oshikatsu hot spots to visit if you want to take part in the events or Oshikatsu in Tokyo.
- Akihabara (city guide)
- Ikebukuro (city guide)
- Nakano BroadwayNakano (ufotable cafe)
- Ariake (Comic market)
- Shinjuku (city guide)
- Mitaka (Ghibli museum)
- Suginami (animation museum)
- Shibuya (city guide)
- Tachikawa (Tokyo Revengers)
- Sweets Paradise (collaboration events) (Japanese site)
- Animate international
Various age ranges…why?
It might sound off that Japanese manga fans’ age ranges are really wide, and those fans are not only children but adults. There are some taste differences, but Japanese manga culture has a profound background to support its popularity. Let me share some of the ideas as one of the adults who naturally understand its uniqueness growing up in Japan.
Japanese manga’s history is very long; it started in the Heian-era, and its popularity was hiked after the world wars to entertain the commoners. Ironically, animation’s technology was developed to be used for propaganda of wars during wartime, and the appearance of works of Osamu Tezuka made the greatest progress in animation out of manga. His various works, such as Astro Boy/鉄腕アトム had a big impact on the manga and anime industry since it was the world’s first animation which was broadcasted every week. So many kids around that time were glued to manga and TV and got a lot of encouragement and hope for the future and trying to get over the dire situation after the war. In my opinion, this historical background makes our society really lenient on manga and anime and explains why its popularity is not confined to kids. And now, the recent advanced animation technology and the internet have accelerated many manga and animations spread globally.
In all seriousness, some Japanese perspectives and cultural backgrounds are reflected in Japanese manga.
It is particularly noteworthy. From now on, let me take a deep dive on it using some actual manga. Attack on Titan, Slam Dunk, Jujitsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, and other manga and anime.
Notice: Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Demon Slayer are dark fantasy, so if you don’t like horror stories, or if you are with small kids, please pass on them. However, it is true that these three are so popular all over the world, so if you get a chance, take a look at the reasons for their high popularity this time.
1. Strong messages
Profound and various storylines can impress adults. For example, Attack on Titan. It is said that the author of this manga is influenced by Norse mythology. It is literally about the fight between human beings and titans. It contains a bunch of mysteries in terms of the original reason for the creation of titans and the purpose of their creation as well. Throughout the story, various internal people’s conflicts and social issues are featured as if it implies and criticizes our current social issues and tendency, such as discrimination, the fight for self-justice, egoism, people’s weakness, solidarity for freedom, the repercussions of an exclusive society, etc. Once you give thoughts to them, you’ll find it really thought provoking. It is a long series that has been serialized in Shonen Jump since 2009 and completed in 2021. It was also made into anime and movies and has been taking off globally. There are deep and profound messages and sayings that each character tries to convey to us.
2. Inspiring quotes
Slum Dunk. As you may know, it is one of the most famous youth sports stories. Some of you may also know the famous phrase “あきらめたらゲームオーバーですよ, if you give up, the game is over” from Anzai-sensei. This message still has a powerful message cheering up people, not only students but adults. Whole storyline is full of the beauty of youth and the excitement of sports. Each character’s attitude towards difficulties depicts the importance of hard work as well.
3. Historical factors
Classical literature and mythology are frequently referenced to stories. Japanese mythology is really popular among current Japanese people. The current popular cartoonists and authors frequently get some hints and epiphanies from those traditional stories. One of the hit manga Jujitsu Kaisen has various Japanese mythological factors. It is the story of the fight between Jujitsu sorcerers and sorcery created by human’s negative feelings. The background of this theme is based on the sorcery which was believed predominantly in the Heian era. The deep storyline is reflecting people’s internal weakness and conflicts, especially the dark side of people and society.
4. Cultural factors
The ordinary Japanese cultural factors are depicted (food, school club activity, the way of taking bath, shogi, the seniority system, the combination of Japanese and western-style characters and expressions in Japanese, polytheistic religion, etc.)
5. Many-sided standpoints of Villain
In many Japanese manga, the villains are depicted as thought-provoking characters as well. There’s absolutely no empathy for being brutal and violent, but in some manga, there’s some sympathetic storyline and past tragic reasons for the villain, and they frequently leave some room for considering and listening to the reasons and background of them being a villain at the end. Demon Slayer is a good example. Demon Slayer is the story of the fight between slayers and demons around the time of the Taisho era. In this story, It features the tragic background of each demon as well. Of course, there are cruel demons that cannot get any sympathy at all, in turn, you can see the people’s weakness since such cruel demons are originally human who desire to be strong and control everything by their power. One of the highlights is people’s conflicts between good and evil, the real meaning of strength and weakness throughout the series of fights. Actually, good protagonists beat the villains in the end, but it is not easy for them to beat villains; it shows the difficulties and complex processes to beat them. In my book, it is not a simple “right and wrong” 勧善懲悪 story.
6. The beauty of nature
The actual Japanese environment which is rich in nature works in a good way to give the special sensitivity in pictures and storylines. Looking at the Ghibli movies, the beauty of nature is fully written and portrayed, and the touches are exquisite. Weathering with You, and Your Name, directed by Makoto Shinkai, are also full of expressions and pictures of sacred mother nature. Each drawing is delicate and the beauty of the scenery of each scene is beyond description.
7. Cultural independence and understanding
Our cultural independence and understanding towards other countries’ cultures help various kinds of anime and movies be developed and create dramatic stories. We Japanese are good at adopting other countries’ content and recreating new attractive storylines. We Japanese value and respect other countries’ cultures. We are actually open-minded in terms of the origin of the story. Kingdom is a good example.
8. High literacy rate in Japan. It is almost 100%
9. Artistic pictures and soundtracks (anime, animated movies)
Here are some noticeable music or promotion videos where you can feel the beauty of authentic and impressive sounds and high quality images of each scene in the videos.
Sparkle -君の名は。- Your name
- スパークル [original ver.] -Your name. Music Video edition- 予告編 from new album「人間開花」初回盤DVD
- Your Name – Trailer [English Subtitled]
燈（Akari) – Jujitsu Kaisen
- 崎山蒼志 Soushi Sakiyama / 燈 Akari [Official Music Video]
青のすみか（Where our blue is) – Jujitsu Kaisen
10. The unique Japanese characters.
Japanese characters are really unique. We have kanji, hiragana, and katakana. These characters are used visually in various scenes, such as promotional videos of songs, manga, anime, and commercial activities.
Because of its uniqueness, It works very effectively to attract a lot of people not only in Japan but in other countries. Letter figures and sounds create the interesting vibes and nuances to convey the complex scene. These days, surprising news came in. One of the Japanese songs used in an anime (“IDOL” by Yoasobi) got first place in the Billboard Global Excluding US Chart. The English version was also released in May. It got more than 200 millions views on YouTube so far. Especially, the English version splendidly adopts wordplay between Japanese lyrics and English lyrics. This trick and idea, taking advantage of the sounds of the Japanese characters, actually wowed us!!
This news was surprising and I realized again that Japanese are widely accepted in other countries.
Is it only for geeks and nerds?
I’d say “No!” In Japan, many animations have been viewed by a lot of Japanese people for generations.
Looking at the popularity of Japanese manga and anime, the activities, and Oshikatsu are creating new trends now. It also turns out to be effective to boost Japanese culture and economy. The ripple effect business, such as collaboration events with various shops, visiting pilgrim places of manga or anime scenes, and other Oshikatsu-related business are increasing the profits in various industries and boosting the economy tremendously these days. Please take a look at the chart below. Oshikatsu business is valued as amounting to more than 430 billion yen now.
(Reference: 2021/ Yano Economy lab)
From this result, it is obvious that Japanese Oshikatsu will lead the Japanese economy considering its scale.
I believe Japanese Oshikatsu has had a tremendous influence on Japanese culture and economy. The COVID pandemic was also the reason that people could find a new way of using their time at home more comfortably. That was the background of supporting the recent worldwide anime and manga popularity. And now, the COVID pandemic has ended, it’s time for people around the world to step out of their comfort zone and start to explore their new real experiences and places as Oshikatsu – not virtually but in reality. Why don’t you get on the bandwagon and experience the new Oshikatsu world? I’m positive Japanese Oshikatsu will color your life!!
Thank you for reading my article!
See you next time!!
I live in Tokyo with my husband and two daughters. I am an English teacher for kids. I love taking pictures, drawing, and learning languages. Strolling various spots and exploring the hidden cafes or restaurants are my favorite.