Unseen Japan

The Japan You Don't Learn About in Anime.

Three brands of sake at a restaurant in Meguro, Tokyo.
Cashless financial transaction.
Inoue Junk as Princess Banana

Return of the Banana Princess: How a Fruit-Clad Cosplayer Came to Represent a Southern Japanese City

By Jay Andrew Allen  ·  October 09, 2018 • Tagged with culture, society, cosplay, kyushu

A popular city mascot resumes her vaunted role. Learn about Japan's history of "discount banana hawking", and how it gave birth to Princess Banana, the tourist symbol of Kitakyushu City.

Stage / performance

What Makes Japan's Idol Culture Unique?

By Emma Ford  ·  October 08, 2018 • Tagged with idols, people, culture, AKB48, Morning Musume, Hello! Project

How did Japan become the birthplace of a plethora of manufactured girl groups? Emma Ford looks into how "idol" came to mean something very different in Japan than it does in the West.

A woman putting on makeup in a garbage pile.

Are The Japanese Really THAT Clean?

By Emma Ford  ·  October 04, 2018 • Tagged with cleaning, souji, household, society

The stereotype holds that Japan is a meticulously clean country. Emma Ford looks at the difference between public and private behavior, and separates fact from fiction.

Mariko Kai and Sally Field.

How Netflix's MANIAC Makes (Some) Strides Melding Cultures

By Jay Andrew Allen  ·  October 02, 2018 • Tagged with news, entertainment, movies, tv

Netflix's Maniac, directed by Japanese-American auteur Cary Joji Fukunaga, melds Japanese and American cultures convincingly. But in other ways, the series still shows how far Hollywood has to go.

A diagram of the different cuts of the horse from Rocky, a horse specialty restaurant a short walk from Shibuya Station in Tokyo.

Looks Like Chicken: My First Time (Accidentally) Eating Horse in Japan

By Jay Andrew Allen  ·  October 01, 2018 • Tagged with essay, food, drink, japanese

The first time I ate raw horse in Tokyo, it was all a big linguistic misunderstanding.

Book being tossed in garbage

Japanese Magazine That Published Anti-LGBT Screed Did It for the Money, Says Writers

By Jay Andrew Allen  ·  September 28, 2018 • Tagged with news, LGBT, politics, government

The magazine that published a politician's piece calling LGBT people "unproductive" halts publication as some Japanese experts decry the publishing industry's drift to the far right.

A woman holding her well-gained money.

A Tansu Full of Dollars: Why Japan Has Such a Hardcore Savings Culture

By Emma Ford  ·  September 25, 2018 • Tagged with essay, culture, money

Why do people in Japan save more compared to people in other countries? Emma Ford discusses how a saving ethic became built into the culture.

A man praying at a home before cleaning it.

Dying Alone in Japan: Why "Kodokushi" (孤独死) Is On The Rise

By Jay Andrew Allen  ·  September 24, 2018 • Tagged with news, society

"A congealed, black pool of blood spread out from the body in the bathtub." As Japan's population ages, more people are dying alone. Can anything be done?