Popular Culture

Japan Table of Contents

Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present, but it provides a link to the past. Popular films, television programs, comics, and music all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms. Contemporary forms of popular culture, like the traditional forms, provide not only entertainment but also an escape for the contemporary Japanese from the problems of an industrial world. When asked how they spent their leisure time, 80 percent of a sample of men and women surveyed by the government in 1986 saiid they averaged about two and one-half hours per weekday watching television, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers or magazines. Some 16 percent spent an average of two and one-quarter hours a day engaged in hobbies or amusements. Others spent leisure time participating in sports, socializing, and personal study. Teenagers and retired people reported more time spent on all of these activities than did other groups.

In the late 1980s, the family was the focus of leisure activities, such as excursions to parks or shopping districts. Although Japan is often thought of as a hard-working society with little time for pleasure, the Japanese seek entertainment wherever they can. It is common to see Japanese commuters riding the train to work, enjoying their favorite comic book or listening through earphones to the latest in popular music on cassette players.

Japan has about 100 million television sets in use, and television is the main source of home entertainment and information for most of the population. The Japanese has a wide variety of programs to choose from, including the various dramas (police, crime, home, and samurai), cartoons, news, and game, quiz, and sports shows provide by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK) general station, the NHK educational station, and numerous commercial and independent stations. The violence of the samurai and police dramas and the scatological humor of the cartoons draws criticism from mothers and commentators. Characters in dramas and cartoons often reflect racial and gender stereotypes. Women news anchors are not given equal exposure in news broadcasts, and few women are portrayed on television in high career positions.

Individuals also choose from a variety of types of popular entertainment. There is a large selection of musical tapes, films, television programs, and the products of a huge comic book industry, among other forms of entertainment, from which to choose.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress