Japan Invades Pop-World

The Global Contemporary Popular Culture (Part 1)

Some of the iconic cultural elements of Japanese pop-culture.

People who live in modern urban societies regardless of race, nationality, and culture have always been entertained, fascinated, and captivated by popular culture.

Before we proceed any further, let us ask the question “what is popular culture?” Dustin Kidd, an expert in pop-culture and a professor of sociology at Temple University writes, “Popular culture is the set of practices, beliefs, and objects that embody the most broadly shared meanings of a social system. It includes media objects, entertainment and leisure, fashion and trends, and linguistic conventions, among other things.”

Pop-culture invades and infiltrates small and large communities mainly through music, theatre, film, radio, television, and most of all through the social media. It plays an essential and influential role in shaping the social life of a particular individual and then spreads through-out his or her own circle of influence. Since our objective is to promote the good and great things our cultures offer, we will feature some of the world’s most popular culture. Let us first look into the tsunami-size waves of Japan’s contemporary popular culture.


Japanese pop-culture mainly refers to the urban cultural elements of modern day Japan which are extremely popular worldwide. Some of its major exports which have become main stream are as follow:

Animé (also Japanimation) is the Japanese term for “animation.” The term itself actually refers to any form of animation. A number of animé films and TV shows are outgrowths from Japanese manga. (Examples: Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Studio Ghibli, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, and Samurai X.)

Manga is the term for Japanese comics or graphic novels. It has become globally popular and it is becoming a multi-billion dollar industry. Manga is the largest comic industry in the world with a number of weekly and monthly publications in Japan alone.

Cosplay is simply a short term for ‘costume play.’ The activity involves imitating popular characters from film, TV, and comics by dressing and posing like them. Cosplay too has become a worldwide phenomenon being enjoyed by both participants and fans. They usually gather at large spaces through conventions which are purposely designed for such activities.

Japanese movies have already gained a global popularity since it started in the 1930s. It was the Japanese film industry that helped popularise film genres such as horror and Kaijū films. Kaijū is an original Japanese film genré which features overly developed giant monsters with the intent to destroy the world. Some movies were derived from manga and anime. (Examples of popular film characters: Godzilla and Sadako.)

Japanese superheroes are also popularly and fashionably embraced by both young and old. Their superheroes range from humans to aliens, from androids to giant robots. (Examples: Ultraman, Kamen Riders, Super Sentai (Power Rangers), Astroboy, Voltes V, and Mazinger Z.)

Game consoles are imaginably widespread. Though Arcade games may have significantly declined worldwide but it is still big in Japan. And here in Manila, there are still sections within the malls for arcade games. Companies like Namco,  Nintendo, and Sony produced some of the most popular digital games. (Examples: Pacman, Super Mario, and Pokemon Go!)

Karaoke bars and parlours can still be experienced up to this day. These places have become popular hang outs for individuals and for friends who want to celebrate and socialise.

Japanese fashion refers to the fashion and clothing from Japan. Their clothing brands are classy, trendy, and yet affordable. (Examples: UNIQLO, BEAMS, and MUJI.)

JPop (also J-Pop) refers to certain brand and trends of Japanese music. Even before K-Pop became global J-Pop has already grown to become one of the largest music industries in the world.


Certainly, there are more elements to Japan’s contemporary popular culture than what is mentioned here. The ones listed here are the elements that have become massively influential in global scale. The domestic scene is of course far far more colourful, diverse, and dynamic.

The Japanese pop-culture movement traces its roots back to the early manga and films of the 1950s. And from the 1980s onwards, it spread boldly and wildly to invade the modern world. It is now one of the most (and seemingly) unstoppable influencers and shapers of the global urban landscape.

More about Japanese popular culture in the coming days.

A J-Pop Star

One of Japan’s J-Pop sensation is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Watch her official music video entitled “PONPONPON” below, produced by Yasutaka Nakata (capsule). Debut mini album “Moshi Moshi Harajuku” (means “Hello Harajuku“) 17th Aug.


Kidd, Dustin, Popular Culture. 28 February 2017.

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