Japanese culture is one of the most prevalent today. Most people discover it through books, food or art. But a lot of other people discover it through anime series, such as Naruto or Bleach. Without a doubt, these anime series are laden with religious symbolism and references to Japanese culture, but most of the time, these aren’t obvious to people who don’t know about them. If you want to understand Japanese culture better, I recommend you the series below.
Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū: friendship and art through the ages
This anime is a masterpiece through and through. I believe it’s a must-watch for everyone that wants to dive deep into Japanese culture, especially if they are passionate about history. The story begins with Yotarō, an ex-yakuza who wants to get into rakugo, a traditional Japanese form of comedic storytelling. He wants to train under Yakumo Yūrakutei, one of the best rakugo performers.
The first season of the anime is about Yakumo’s youth, and how big of a role his friend played in his development as a person and an artist. The second season focuses more on Yotarō and his career. This anime not only presents rakugo in an appealing way, but also makes a commentary on the importance of art in Japanese culture and even the role of women in art. It presents a small portion of Japanese culture encased in a thrilling tale of love, friendship and self-sacrifice for the sake of art.
Mashiro no Oto: finding your own sound
Mashiro no Oto is yet again an amazing series about Japanese culture, and art, most specifically. While Rakugo Shinjū was about performing arts, Mashiro no Oto is about shamisen, a Japanese traditional instrument resembling a guitar. The story focuses on Setsu Sawamura, a young man who leaves his home village following the death of his grandfather. While he’s out in a new city, he tries to find his own sound and escape the pressure of being like his grandfather.
Mashiro no Oto not only is a great gateway to shamisen music, but also presents how important the external world is to an artist. Throughout the anime, we see how Setsu is influenced by the friends he makes and the adversaries he has to face. The anime puts Japanese culture at the center of a great story about art, adolescence and the creative process.
Kageki Shōjo: a look at gender and theater
I have already talked about Kageki Shōjo in a previous article, where I presented the plot succinctly. In terms of Japanese culture, Kageki Shōjo gives the watcher an insight into Japan’s women’s theater, takarazuka.
A very important aspect in this anime is gender, and how it can dictate your way in life. We not only get a thorough look into the world of theater, but we see bits and pieces about womanhood in Japan.
It is presented and explored how much misogyny and victim blaming have affected Narata Ai, a young woman who has been subjected to men being disgusting to her from a young age. A very important plot point in the Sarasa’s development is that she wasn’t allowed to be a kabuki actress since she is a woman. Not only that, but the anime tackles issues related to the expectations that are put onto Japanese women, which are a less pleasant part about Japanese culture.
Takunomi: drinking and Japanese culture
Unlike the other three anime, Takunomi isn’t about art in Japanese culture. It’s about alcohol and drinking!
Takunomi is a very chill and wholesome anime about the daily life of four women who are living together in Tokyo. The main focus of this little series is to present Japanese drinks and the proper way to drink them. Moreover, throughout the episodes, side dishes or occasions for special drinks in Japan are presented.
This anime is a great watch if you just want to relax and just watch some cute girls going about their daily lives and enjoying a drink once in a while. Drinking is a very interesting facet of the Japanese culture, and I think that Takunomi tackled it in a fun and cute way.
I hope you enjoyed these recommendations. We have more articles about Japanese culture and anime, so don’t hesitate to check them out!