日本! *clap clap clap* 日本! *clap clap clap*
Anyone who knows me, knows that I adore Japan and Japanese culture. There is something mysterious and moving about Japan that sweeps you off your feet, and pretty soon you find yourself being caught up in this dynamic culture. From the timeless beauty of olden traditions to the upbeat modern life, there’s just so much to experience with Japan and its culture.
My love for Japanese culture really began with music. About 15 years ago when I was in secondary school, the 哈日风 (Japanese craze) hit Singapore’s shores. Japanese TV and music were the first things that seeped in quickly. I will always remember watching Music Station, a famous Japanese music programme where artistes would sing their latest singles. It was a great music programme as I got introduced to Japanese music and got to know about new artistes. And of course, Singaporeans were very much into SPEED and “White Love”, while my sister and I fell in love with MAX. Yup, MAX became the first Japanese music group that I liked.
If you’re female, it would be quite accurate to say that you have fangirled a Johnny’s boy/group some time in your life. Oh yes, the mysterious marketing powers of (the) Johnny’s
Entertainment empire that makes every teenage girl (and some Japanese ah mas…I really kid you not) weak in her knees. I started out as a great Arashi fan…so much that I carved the members’ names on my secondary 3 school desk. Then, NewS came along. 🙂
Over the years, I got introduced to more and more Japanese artistes. If you take a look at my music play list now, you’ll see that Japanese music dominates it. When I go to KTV, I look for Japanese songs to sing. Yes, that’s how much I love Japanese music.
If you ask me why the love for Japanese music, it’s not something that I can quite explain in words why. It’s just different…plus there’s lots of eye candy.
Dramas and Movies
Back then, local TV was showing Japanese dramas…just like how Korean dramas proliferate it now. Being closely linked to music, I of course, had to watch dramas starring my favourite artistes. If TV wasn’t enough, the video shops were selling (pirated) vcds so you could easily keep up with the J-dorama marathon. Sad to say, all that came to an end when Japan started to clamp down on piracy. Soon, the Japanese craze in Singapore died down. BUT, my love for Japanese stuff did not die along with the exit of the Japanese craze.
School work got heavier for me as the years went by and I found it hard to keep up with Japanese dramas, so I turned to Japanese movies. The storyline and theatrics for some movies are just so good. Simple, yet thought-provoking.
Manga and Anime
When we talk about Japanese stuff, who can forget about manga and anime? Japanese manga and anime has been a part of my life since primary school. Oh yes, Sailor Moon. That laid the foundation for my liking of the shoujo genre in manga and anime.
Thanks to a poly friend, I was introduced to Ai Yazawa and NANA. Two of her best works — NANA and Paradise Kiss — are now my favourites. I love how she portrays the difficulties and complexities of life in a way that is so brutally honest and real.
How can you truly love Japanese music, film and animation, without loving the language. You can rely on translations all your life, but soon you will realise that it is hard to get the exact feel and description without understanding the work in its original language.
But of course, learning a new language isn’t easy. Yet, I took the plunge. After going through intensive Japanese classes in college, I completed the intermediate level. Sadly, it is still not enough to understand music lyrics and conversations in its entirety…not to even mention how tough it is for me to actually hold a conversation in Japanese. Haha, I can probably only manage anime that’s meant for elementary school kids if I were to watch something with subtitles. But at least, I get the gist of some sentences in lyrics and films.
If you thought that my love for Japanese culture is only skin deep, you’re wrong. As I grew up and entered college, something made me want to learn more about Japanese culture. I took a minor in East Asian Languages and Culture, with a focus on Japan. I took classes on Japanese history and literature. As I dug deeper, I began to see things in a whole new light and started to appreciate Japanese culture in all its glory and simplistic beauty. Before college, my family had made Japan an annual holiday location. Back then, when I walked the grounds of castles, temples and old streets, they never left a strong impact on me. After college, armed with a better understanding of Japanese history, I revisited some of the places so I could soak in the atmosphere and feel the true meaning of how the past has changed and influenced the future. The dynamic nature of trends can transform Japan and make it attractive to the modern world, but the beauty of olden traditions will always get passed down and leave a lasting impression (like the finishing touches to an art piece).
Japanese culture is also experienced through the arts. Although I do not have a firm grasp of the language, I’ve been to traditional theatre performances such as Noh and Bunraku. There’s something intriguing about these performances as it mixes storytelling, folklore and religious practices.
Back in Singapore, I try to immerse myself in Japanese tradition by taking part in Japanese-related activities such as the annual Natsu Matsuri (Japanese summer festival). Wearing a yukata is a must for me and my sister!
After talking about the tradition, one must talk about trends. If you love Japan and its culture, then you gotta love its fashion. The Japanese fashion trend is pretty fast paced. If you remember the loose Japanese school girl socks, those are now passe. How about the 109 辣妹 look (probably referring to the yamanba phase in gyaru fashion)? That is long gone too.
For me, I fell in love with lolita fashion when I was in college. Lolita fashion itself has gone through a lot of changes since the beginning of it (with Mana and the gothic look). I’m not going to delve to much into what is lolita fashion and which styles I love as you can know more through my other blog entries specifically on lolita fashion. Just know that I love the aesthetics of the fashion — the grace and elegance that it stands for. I love it so much that I had to wear a lolita dress and dress my helpers in lolita outfits for my wedding.
I have covered almost every conceivable topic on Japan and Japanese culture, but wait…there’s one more. Food! There’s just so many dishes in Japanese cuisine that you have to try, other than sushi and sashimi. There’s tempura, udon, soba, somen, okonomiyaki, curry rice, onigiri, tako yaki, etc. Just listing all of this is making my mouth water. You can find all the tastes in Japanese cuisine…sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy…and not forgetting, umami. There are different foods for the different seasons too — think sakura mochi and ice-cream in spring, yaki soba (fried soba) and mitarashi dango (soy sauce dango) in summer, kuri (chestnuts) in autumn and nabe (hot pot) in winter…mmmm…. So many different tastes and choices, what’s there not to love about Japanese food? You’ll never get bored with Japanese food!
If you’re still not convinced that you’ll never be bored with Japanese food, just look at Japanese Kit Kat as an example. Have you seen the variety of flavours for it? Even with ice-cream, there’s flavours like miso and squid ink. The Japanese are rather creative with their food. Haha. XD
But, my one true love in Japanese food is…RAMEN! Sorry, but as I told a friend before, my love for Japanese ramen is not just about how popular the stall is. It’s not just simply downing a bowl of ramen and rating is good or bad. It’s about how every ingredient tastes in the bowl of ramen and how it contributes to the overall enjoyment of eating. Generally speaking, I like the fresh noodles that’s not too thick or thin; stick ramen does not sit well with me. For the broth, I prefer tonkotsu or miso as they have a more full and robust flavour. For toppings, I especially love ajitama (soy sauce flavoured soft-boiled egg).
PS: I’m still looking for a good tsukemen in Singapore.
So after all this talk about my love for Japan and Japanese culture, what exactly am I getting at? Well, you see…KFC has some new wings on their menu and it’s a tough choice between the Umadare wings or Yang Yeum wings.
BATTLE OF THE KFC WINGS
Freshly breaded in-store with a special batter, these juicy wings are cooked to crispy perfection and coated in your choice of two bold flavours – choose between the Japanese-inspired tangy yet savoury Umadare and the Korean-inspired sweet and spicy Yang Yeum. Who will be crowned king of the wings? You decide.
Pick a side and be part of KFC’s greatest wing-off. Hashtag #kfcoishii to support Umadare or #kfcmashisoyo to support Yang Yeum on Instagram!
I vote for #kfcoishii. What about you?